Home Design

Photo courtesy of West Elm

Shifting Out of Neutral

Home Design

A few years ago, I wrote a paint color story for Real Simple that had me psychoanalyzing all of my friends. “People who use warm tones tend to be friendly and nurturing — they love having others over,” Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, told me for the piece, which certainly applies to my friend with the deep-red dining room and the one with the golden-yellow entryway. On the other hand, those who gravitate to cool hues are often introverted types who view their homes as oases of calm in a hectic world, a sentiment that rings true for me and other soft-spoken types I know. But, like many people, I am most enamored of neutrals, meaning “you are probably even-keeled and practical, and not interested in repainting your rooms every few years because you’ve tired of the shades,” says Eiseman. Here is one area where I find pop psychology goes astray — I may be practical, but my emotional state tilts decidedly toward turbulent.

Still, pale grays and beiges have a soothing effect on me and while I used to worry that our home’s paint palette was a snooze, designers like Portland’s James Light have convinced me otherwise. Light advocates using a range of muted sand and stone shades on the walls throughout a house — punctuated with pops of color on furnishings — creating a look that’s cohesive but not one-note. Here’s where we ended up in our downstairs (all colors are by Benjamin Moore):

Now I’m contemplating taking another cue from Light, who makes an exception to his neutral paint policy for powder rooms. Ours sorely needs an update, and while I’d love to cover it in one of the vibrant, modern wallpapers Light favors, we plan to turn the space into a full bath someday and need a more temporary wall treatment. Currently I’m considering these peacock blues by Benjamin Moore:

Even crazier, I’m thinking of using a semi-gloss version of the same shade on the doors and trim, à la the opening photo, above. This is something designers frequently recommend to give rooms that lack architectural character some oomph. With its drab linoleum floor and run-of-the-mill woodwork, our powder room, part of an addition put on in the 80s, certainly falls into this category. But I’ve never done anything this dramatic.

What do you think — should I take the plunge? Share your thoughts on this, and your own color personality, below. And upload photos of your favorite rooms here — I could use the inspiration!

Cover photo courtesy of West Elm


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