(Living Color)

How To Dip Into Color, If It’s Just Not Your Thing

Check these expert tips.

Originally Published: 
House of Nomad
kitchen with pops of color
Living Color
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Minimalism and bright color are two interior design motifs that don’t necessarily go hand in hand. But even if you abide by a strict neutrals-only palette, design experts agree that dipping into color as a minimalist is well worth the effort. “Oftentimes, people are hesitant to veer off a path; it's very easy to decorate an entire home in shades of gray and leave it as such,” interior designer Merrill Lyons says. “However, adding a layer of color helps introduce an element of personality and texture to a space.” Once you’ve explored the nuanced ways to subtly incorporate colorful minimalism into your home, you’ll quickly realize there’s an abundance of options ranging from simple additions like a bold painting to finishing touches like pillows, plants, lamps, and beyond.

Leaning on a few top interior design gurus, the tips ahead illustrate the power of color in a minimalist environment, and how to nail the look without overwhelming your space. Ideas start small with non-permanent additions like accessories, and scale up to bigger commitments, like paint and furniture — all while prioritizing a well-balanced finish that will sustain a minimalist ethos. Also, if you spot any ideas that resonate with your personal taste, you can shop the picks below to get started on your next home design refresh.

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Utilize Color In Tandem With Texture


Incorporating color into your home through textural pieces can help create depth, which is something Colony founder and creative director Jean Lin points to as how minimalists can approach a more varied palette. “Window draperies, soft accessories, or rugs are all great ways to pop in color without going overboard,” she notes. “Painting the walls a color is also possible, but keep the color desaturated and light, to keep a lighter touch. These examples are all evident in our latest design for 1 Prospect Park West, where the melange of colors and textures are evenly balanced to create harmony and visual interest without going overboard."

Don’t Rule Out Your Ceiling

When you think of colorful paint, an accent wall often comes to mind — but that’s not the end all be all. “Interestingly, making a whole room one color has a neutralizing effect, and makes it feel serene — not colorful,” interior designer Nicole Cohen says. There’s also a lesser-utilized wall you can translate color to for a unique effect. “Painting a ceiling a paler shade of a [brighter hue] is also a great way to introduce color without it feeling like a ‘pop of color,’” Cohen adds. Beyond solid shades, you can also play with pattern. “Ceilings are also a fantastic way to add interest to a minimalist’s home,” Fine & Dandy Co. co-founder and chief operating officer Jill Steinberg says.

Pick An Approachable Hue

If you’re accustomed to an earthy, muted palette, the idea of tossing a fuchsia throw pillow on your sofa might sound jarring — and it probably would be. That’s why experts say to pick an approachable hue. “Start with a green color palette,” interior designer Bria Hammel says. “Choosing the right shade of green can feel like a neutral.” Utilizing color as a neutral can also help create balance in your home. “We love adding a punch of color without overpowering a space,” House of Nomad founders Berkeley Minkhorst and Kelley Lentini tell TZR. “We often choose approachable colors when clients are nervous about anything too wild and greens [can] act as neutrals.”

Commit To A Color

If you're not used to color, interior designer Olivia Stutz suggests easing into it. “Being a minimalist myself, the way I love to incorporate color is through bright-colored coffee table books, blue cushions with red piping on my brown wooden dining chairs, using colored marble, and using big, colorful floral arrangements,” she says. But before you begin picking out your colorful pieces, she has one helpful guideline. “Commit to a color and use it on the couch and corresponding side chairs,” she says. “This allows for the choice to be simple and consistent and everything else in the room can be white, cream, or another muted color.”

Pick Colorful Rugs & Floor Coverings

“My favorite way to add a bit of maximalist soul into a minimalist space is through rugs and floor coverings,” Prospect Refuge Studio founder Victoria Sass tells TZR. Her reasoning? It’s like artwork for your floor. “Because it's being viewed on a horizontal plane, it feels impactful without being overwhelming, like a vertical surface might be. Geometric shapes, grids, and linear arrangements are a great way to introduce patterns while maintaining a sense of order.”

Experiment With Items That Can Be Easily Swapped

Probably the easiest approach to color for die-hard minimalists is choosing pieces that aren’t permanent (aka a paint color) and that can be maneuvered around your house with ease. “Color does not have to be introduced in a major way; a homeowner can start small with accessories, window treatments, and art — all things that are easily swapped out if you tire of what you've selected,” Lyons says. “Start with some throw pillows and a colorful tray. Bring in some decorative coffee table books and perhaps a brightly colored piece of art.” Interior designer Nadia Watts also nods toward this non-permanent approach to color. “I suggest starting with pillows and accent lighting; pillows are a great way to add a pop of color in your room without having to commit to a fully upholstered piece of furniture and an accent lamp with color can feel like a big step,” she says. “Remember that you can always move the lamp to different rooms and change the lamp shade.”

Brighten A Corner With Upholstery

Even if you prefer a pared-down design, there are still plenty of ways to incorporate color, interior designer Liza Reyes notes. “Textiles, art, and pieces of furniture are a good way of living with color. Also, upholstered furniture pieces that are central to a room or a corner chair with a pop of color add depth to an otherwise minimal room,” she says. “Even a very neutral room with natural materials like wood and warm textiles is made better by interesting books, accessories, and artwork that don't try to match anything in the room but are there because they are cherished.”

Mix Tonal Colors Together

If your current living space is a sea of neutrals, it’s not a bad idea to integrate several tones of the same color. “Bringing color into a space where the aesthetic is minimalistic can be done — but carefully,” interior designer Kristina Phillips says. “Adding bright pieces like pillows into a monochromatic zone will seem jarring and disjointed. Instead, start layering in darker and lighter hues within the existing color palette.” Interior Define recently launched a custom fabric mixing program that would work well with this concept. “Try two tonal colors, like Bloom and Rust Performance Velvet on a modern sofa shape like Lennox to add a bold pop of color to more minimal-leaning interiors,” Interior Define creative director Benjamin Reynaert suggests.

Wall Murals & Wallcoverings Go Far

If the idea of seeking out works of art feels like too much of a lift, consider something like a wall mural or wall covering for a similar effect. “Wall murals, like artwork, are a wonderful way to add color to a minimalist’s home. They don’t take up any floor space, but visually can make a huge impact and work as a backdrop to add texture, depth, and a great deal of ambiance to any space,” Steinberg says. “Wall coverings can be used as a backsplash in a kitchen or powder room, framed within panel molding on the walls, or mounted as a panel on a headboard or feature wall to add a pop of color to an otherwise minimalist space.”

Paint Your Wall Trim In A Contrast Color

Andersen Corporation

“A popular trend we are seeing in 2022 is accenting rooms with colorful trim,” Andersen Corporation vice president of marketing Kristy Howe shares with TZR. “While it adds more color to the room, the look creates a modern and luxurious design. If you have typically shied away from the use of bold color, select something that has a cool undertone like gray, as the result will be less stark.”

Mix Up Your Finishings

Rather than going with one statement piece in a colorful hue, you can bring in small pops of color through finishing touches. “Mixing up the finishes will give dimension to a space,” Phillips explains. “Try incorporating a piece of furniture with some sheen, along with jewel-toned hardware. Subtle accents in trims, accessories, art, and even fresh flowers can further transition a neutral zone to one of more variegation and depth.”

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