Making Your House Work: Adding Color


I want my house to reflect who I am. And I am, well, colorful.

I love bright happy colors and splashing them around where I live.

I grew up in a Victorian neighborhood in Bon Air where every house is painted brightly like an Easter Egg. My dad let me pick the color of my room which changed every few years. Bon Air Hardware had a file of all my “unique” color choices.

Needless to say, when we first moved into our house (from years of all-white college dorms and budget apartments) I was so excited to pick all my paint colors.

Just between you and me, I made some pretty awful color choices the first go around.

If you promise not to openly ridicule me I’ll share…

This room glowed green at night. Some colors just weren’t meant for entire rooms.

This room actually glowed green from the street at Christmas from the light of the window candles. It was such a bad choice. [It’s now my son’s room]

This was supposed to be a soft robins egg blue. Instead, it resembled a neon nursery.

To my defense, this room was never supposed to be this bright. I did it as a 72-hour makeover when my husband was out of town. I taught all day and painted all night (all that trim from dark stain too!). By the time I realized that it was eleventy shades brighter than I wanted, there was no time to get different paint. No excuse for why it stayed that color for the next 6 years, however.

Interior paint colors almost always read more intense on the wall than they do on the swatch.

If you are not trying to be electrically bold, choose a version of the color you are looking for that has some gray mixed in. It won’t look like your grandmother’s mauve kitchen, it will end up looking like the color you want.

To my husband’s disappointment, most of the rooms in our house are now painted various shades of gray. It is calming and serene. It keeps from adding to the visual clutter of all my kid clutter. But carefully selected color keeps it from being boring.

My number one piece of advice when choosing your colors for your house is to pick a color palette for the house – a general scheme that all the rooms will fall into.

You don’t want your house to look like a Vegas theme motel going from room to room or a bad Tommy Bahama shirt (are there any ‘good’ Tommy Bahama shirts?). Keep it simple and cohesive. For my house, it is all about the blues and greens. Teal, lime, indigo, and navy all recur in multiple rooms of the house.

Secondly, get creative about where you add color.

I love the soft, relaxing feel of a cool neutral wall but I don’t want the house to be sterile. Splashes of color reflect the joy of our family.

Here are eight clever places I have added color to my house.

1. Cabinets

I don’t have the funds to rip out all our old knotty pine vanities from the 1980s. However, a few coats of paint transform them from dated to dazzling. 

The kids’ bathroom has a bright rubber duck theme with the yellow vanity leading the way.

The powder room boasts a robins egg blue vanity against silver gray walls accented with silver polka dots. 

2. Bookcases

Painting the back of bookcases not only introduces colors but also adds depth and interest.

The color fail from above is much more balanced with a custom wall color (Sherwin Williams Lazy Gray mixed at 50%). Inky blue bookcases flanking the fireplace tie in the panel curtains.

Adding wallpaper, or even heavy-duty wrapping paper, can dress-up a simple bookcase.

3. Doors

I have a little bit of a colored door obsession right now. I love the unexpected color it adds.

Sure, there is the obvious entry door color but other interior doors can get a pop of color too. 


The door leading to the playroom in Larchmere (SW 6752) gives a hint of whimsy against soft neutral gray Olympus White (SW 6253).


The door to my son’s room (that only he can see) in his favorite color, Obstinate Orange (SW 6884). The bold but neutral wall in Peppercorn (SW 7674) anchors the room.

4. Backsplash

My kitchen is mostly white and gray with accents of lime green in the curtains, accessories (I’m looking at you stand mixer), and the backsplash behind the stove.

Doing the whole backsplash in green glass tiles would have been overwhelming, not to mention blown our budget. Choosing to do the area directly behind the stove in green while keeping the rest in classic white subway keeps the color choice tasteful and cost-effective. It also makes a focal point in a sea of white. Also, if tastes change, just that section can be demoed and retiled…but 9 years in I’m still loving it!

The glass tiles are from Susan Jablon Mosaics.

5. Furniture

My dad makes beautiful handcrafted furniture from rich mahogany, dark walnut, curly oak, and other beautiful woods. I spent my childhood and teenage years begging for him to let me paint it. If you just physically winced, don’t worry, he never gave in.

While now I appreciate all the beautiful wood he crafts, I’m quick to paint common and damage woods. It gives life back to a forgotten or discarded piece.

Take for example this table I found on Craigslist for $35. A few coats of paint perked it up into a happy centerpiece for the room and one that I’m not afraid to let the kids color and craft on.

6. Curtains

I’m a fabric person so this is a no-brainer. Sometimes I’ll even find the fabric first and let the rest of the room be inspired by it. Curtains are a quick way to add color, pattern, and texture to your room. 

7. Selected rooms

My favorite room for a bold wall choice is the dining room. It can be formal or fun and breaks up a sea of neutral wall colors. Especially for dining rooms that have wainscotting, it is a needed punch of color that accentuates the details of the woodwork.

The bold color Bosporous (SW 6503) pops off the white wainscotting.

Powder rooms are also a great place for a bold color. They are often tucked away and don’t need to flow with the rest of the house. Being a small room, even a lot of color is only in a small dose.

8. Accessories

Pictures, candles, and accessories can all add color. The mantle and bookcase accents tie in all the colors of downstairs.

Here in the dining room, classic silhouettes in the unexpected color of lime green to tie into the neighboring kitchen.

I even plan our wardrobes for family pictures to be in the blue and green family – partially because as a family of redheads, that’s all our clothes anyway – but also because they look good hanging in our house.

These wood blocks with clips reflect the color scheme of the house and give an easy place to clip current snapshots.


Don’t be afraid of color. Dream up your color palette and be tastefully wild.

Stayed tuned to the series for my recommendation of what type of paint to use. Yes it matters, it really really matters.