For some, taking a risk with color ranks up there with public speaking, singing karaoke, or stripping in public.
Sounds extreme, but consider the words of journalist and new homeowner Taffy Brodesser-Akner, who recounted what can only be described as a harrowing color selection process for Curbed in My Color Story. She says her interior design journey (she calls it was an existential crisis) was “a story about chaos and tears and drugs that all centers around what color to paint some walls”.
Readers, that was over some gray and white paint shades. Imagine the stress a strong red hue could induce for the color shy.
This, the final installment in our series about painting and color selection, looks at designers who aren’t afraid to use bold color. (As interior designer Steven Favreau said, “I don’t think color is ever a risk, but more like a fun day at the office.)
As the following examples show, high risks can yield high rewards.
Designer Ann Lowengart’s client loves this color, and wanted to be totally enveloped in it. Lowengart fulfilled the wish by painting every wall surface—including the bookshelves and the moulding—in the hue. “I think the biggest risk I took with this project was using such a saturated color all over the room,” the designer says. “It feels vibrant and alive and is a perfect backdrop for this active young family. I guess the biggest reward is both the ‘wow’ factor as well as the calming effect in one space.”
Not many people consider navy much of a risk, but this blue color from Fine Paints of Europe is more rich than drab, and Lowengart turned up the volume by applying it in a brilliant finish to kitchen cabinets and the paneled wall and backsplash behind them. “The high-gloss finish gives the room a bright, clean feel,” she says.
Calling this color a mix of orange popsicle and orange sherbet, designer Julie Rootes says, “It screams delicious!”
That’s why she selected it for a bathroom vanity cabinet in a recent project. “I love the boldness of this color,” she says. “In a small powder bath it ends up having a lot of impact.”
This strong yellow really does recall sunshine, and Lowengart plans on letting it shine in some of her upcoming work. “It's a chrome yellow and I can't wait to use it to add serious punch in my next project,” she says.
Given that the majority of this home was done in neutral tones, painting the dining room a rich crimson tone seemed risky to designer Alden Miller at the time. But she describes the resulting payoff as achieving a space that has a casual formality. “It’s special and rich enough to differentiate the room as a formal space, while still feeling warm, inviting, and relevant to the house,” she says.
This deep wine color, clearly inspired by the raspberry liquor of the same name, makes a statement. For that reason, Miller chose it as the color for the front door of a recent project.
When it comes to courageous color choices, designer Noz Nozawa’s policy is “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
In this living room, she selected a bright pink she considers a “chic take on Barbie pink” for a total transformation. “It makes the very petite room feel larger, and there's a vibrancy when you're in the room that a ‘safer’ color choice would not have achieved,” she says.
In the same home, Miller’s clients decided to let their children pick the color for their individual rooms. The designer says that leaving design decisions to the smaller set is always a risk, but in this case the offspring rose to the occasion. One of the daughters selected this bright blue-sky hue, and it’s a perfect fit. “The color she chose reflects her personality and gives her a more personal connection to her room.”
Another Nozawa favorite is this orange hue, which she describes as “a rad, incredibly saturated, and vibrant shade of orange.”
Using an interior hue based on purple basil would be considered a fraught decision in almost any scenario. In this case, the hue is even more daring as it’s paired with a light blue wall color (Palladian Blue by Benjamin Moore) and bold upholstery. “The deep aubergine cabinets play off the pale walls, echo the sofa color, and make a great foil to showcase the client's colorful dishware,” says designer Fannie Allen.
Crushed Cherries + Barista, Benjamin Moore
When used alone, the hot-pink shade (Crushed Cherries) or the deep, chocolate brown color (Barista) could each be considered high risk. But when paired together in a wide, horizontal stripe along with white (Bavarian Cream) you are treading into dangerous design territory. But when it comes to color, Favreau is fearless.
He had selected a wallpaper like this for this entry, but when it came time to order, he found it was discontinued. “Secretly I love it when things I have specified have been discontinued because I feel like it has not been over used or even discovered,” he says. He decided to recreate the look with paint.
There was precedence for the idea: Originally, the entry had creme, tan, and pale pink vertical stripes in the foyer. “While no one would ever know this, it was the spark of an idea that I ran with,” he says. “Besides, I love Neapolitan ice cream!”
Some might get brain freeze over the idea, but it has paid off for the designer. “I get more online inquiries about this property than any of my others,” Favreau says. “I tell my clients they hire me to show them what they don’t already know or to push them out of their comfort zone. Paint is the cheapest way to do that because we can always repaint. I have yet to have a client ask me to do so.”
Favreau says that yellow is hot, and in fact, it’s “screaming back” into trend. “This yellow is tricky because it tends toward a green hue, but in the right room with excellent light, it soars,” he says.
“This is a great mossy green (especially in high gloss or lacquer) but it can be tricky in a room with lots of natural woods in lighter or reddish tones,” says Favreau. “Hardwood floor color always needs to be considered.”
Although Favreau considers the color red “tough in general since it has so many under tones that go pink, purple or orange,” when he wants to use the color he often chooses this Kelly Moore hue. “It’s a really great true red,” he says.