How to Use Color in Your Home

Make your home a colorful, tasteful sanctuary with wall painting tips and editor-recommended products for the palette of your dreams.

blue living area

Devine Color in Devine Current, $60/gallon.

Photo courtesy Devine Color

Content Tools

Big Accents

Used on: Furnishings, bedding, curtains, trim

Best for: Although bold colors can work for furnishings, keep in mind their permanence when making selections. You can transform a room by repainting a bookshelf or bureau, whereas upholstered couches may be more of a challenge to change, so you might want to choose a color that can act as a neutral (many colors can act as neutrals in this limited usage). If you want a bold color to stand out without becoming overwhelming, consider using it in this way. Using a bold color on large accents in an otherwise neutral room will allow that color to dominate the space.

Stockholm Swivel Easy Chair, $400 from IKEA
Devine Color Devine Current, $60 a gallon
✽ IKEA Kallax Workstation in White/Green, $103 from IKEA

Pops of Color

Used on: Throw pillows, décor

Best for: If you love a certain color but don’t want to commit to it, use it sparingly in décor and accents. Often these pops of color still stand out but they don’t require the commitment of bigger color blocks. Especially if you love a bold color such as red, hot pink or orange, consider using it as a burst of color in several rooms of your house to provide design continuity without becoming overwhelming.

Adorablewares Merlot Chunky Knit Pillow Cover, $38
Chelsea Vase Red Medium, $51 from Bambeco
Surefit Lattice Sofa Slipcover in Pacific Blue, $65
Coyuchi 220 Percale organic cotton sheets in Palest Aubergine, Queen set, $198
Otomi Organic Tea Towels by Rincon Road, $20
RV Sunset Print by Jazzberry Blue, $26

All-Over Color

Used on: All four walls, plus rugs or ceilings

Best for: Calming, light-toned color (usually), as dark colors used heavily can make spaces feel smaller. Try dark colors on all four walls if you’re hoping to create a very dramatic feeling, or to make a space cozy and intimate. Dark colors can also work well in small rooms, such as entries and powder rooms, where their depth feels rich but not overwhelming.

Ribbon Cutting Fringe Rug, $69 from Land of Nod
Farrow & Ball Pink Ground, $97 a gallon
Bioshield Sugar Almond, $57 a gallon
Benjamin Moore Aura Pernod, $70 a gallon
Benjamin Moore Aura Piano Concerto, $70 a gallon
Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paints Dried Lavender,  $22 a quart
Benjamin Moore Coventry Gray, $70 a gallon
Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint Marzipan, $22 a quart

Big Color Blocks

Used on: One accent wall in a room, an area rug, large features such as cabinetry in the kitchen

Best for: Reducing color use to a single wall lets you use darker, bolder colors without their overly harsh, room-shrinking qualities. You can also quell the strength of bold colors by using them in a pattern: Think a white room with a wall of thick white-and-teal stripes, or a modern entryway with orange-and-white chevron.

Old-Fashioned Milk Paint Co. SafePaint Barn Red, $49 a gallon
Unearthed Paints Smooth Lime Plaster with Umber Deer Brown pigment, $29 for 2.5 kg
The Real Milk Paint Company Caribbean Blue, $60 a gallon
Colorhouse Paints Leaf .05, $36 a gallon
Green Planet Paints Sorrel, $53 a gallon
The Real Milk Paint Company Goldenrod, $60 a gallon
Colorhouse Nourish. 04, $40 a gallon
Farrow & Ball Tanner’s Brown, $97 a gallon

Learn more about the ties between color, mood and home decor in The Psychology of Color.