15 favorite color palettes
The tamer: A complementary wall of greige (a mix of gray and beige resulting in a warm, muddy tone) grounds the red and acts as a neutral without being recessive.
The accent: Cushions in shaded seaglass green are a cool complement to the red and share tonal value with the greige.
The pop: Bright yellow is like a vitamin C shot for a room. It makes plain white look modern and crisp. Use it in at least three places so it doesn’t look random.
The accent: Black makes the yellow-and-white combo sexy.
The glitz: Choose silver rather than gold for a contemporary pairing with warm yellow.
The mixer: The rug ties the key colors together (and adds kicky orange).
The coordinating pair: Hot yellow and dark teal are complementary colors, meaning they’re guaranteed to work together.
The glitz: Metallics, like the gold leaf on the fireplace, make almost any palette more dynamic.
The coordinating pair: Bright red and saturated green could go “holidays” fast. Keep them separate and sparing to avoid that.
The unifier: Small hits of black temper the bold colors and makes the combo sophisticated.
The surprise: Yellow, in shades varying from squash to lemon, takes this palette out of color-block land.
The coordinating pair: The shape and gloss of the glass pendant give the orange lamp even more impact—perfect for a room with a minimal color. The blue and white rug adds dimension with both color (it’s complementary to orange) and pattern.
The show-stopper: Two shades of gray relate the tile to the wall color. The blues add shock value.
The warming element: Butcher block’s natural tones complement the modern tile.
The wildcards: Small doses of orange and lush green shake up the blue-gray palette.
The counterpoint: Large-scale gray floor tiles are the cool answer to the pressed wood. With the white cabinets, the room has roughly a 50-50 warm/cool mix, which feels serene.
The glitz: Orange chairs take the hue of the wood and turn it up a notch. The intensity makes the palette modern.
The key: Choose shades different enough to not look like a poor attempt at matching. Look for colors that share undertones. In this case, they all share yellow undertones.
The accent: The pale blue sofa brings lightness to the stark beginnings.
The warming element: Linen slipper chairs play against the cool blue to bring a bit of warmth to the room.
The mixer: A pattern containing all the jewel tones in the room, like the fabric on the back of the white sofa, makes the palette more sophisticated.
The hit: Ruby red is an attention drawer, so use it on a small-scale piece of furniture to avoid overwhelming the palette.
Swatch-test colors before committing. Really. We mean it. Printed pages (even ours) and paint chips can vary from the actual paint color. Happily, you’ll now find many paints in inexpensive sample sizes.
Choose low- or no-VOC paints. In addition to the formulas available from eco-friendly brands, almost all paint makers now offer one or both of those options in all colors.
Use a tinted primer for dark and bright colors. Testing for this article turned us into believers; it greatly improves coverage. Ask the paint retailer for a custom mix compatible with your surfaces and paint.
Main: Claret Rose 2008-20 (benjaminmoore.com for stores)
Trim: Morocco Sand 515-3 (pittsburghpaints.com for stores)
Accent: Nourish .04 (yolocolorhouse.com)
The site allows you to preview paint colors in its sample rooms (lots of style choices) or in photos of rooms that you’ve uploaded. It’s great for trying out color combinations before paying for paint. (But you’ll still need to swatch-test!)