10 Fun Ways to Decorate with Color

All that stands between you and a fabulous, freshened-up home is some paint or a roll of wallpaper and a little ingenuity.

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Shelf Help


For a smart-looking bookcase, paint everything white, then lacquer the back panels in an extravagant hue, like poppy red or mustard. "A backdrop in an outrageous color will emphasize the architecture and show off its contents," says Joe Nye, a West Hollywood interior designer. Satin-finish paint imparts a low-level gloss, adds a hint of glamour, and is more durable than a flat finish. If your bookcase doesn't have a back panel, paint the whole thing white and choose a bright color for the shelves.

Tip: Don't worry if the colors of your books and collectibles don't blend with the back panels. "You don't want everything matchy-matchy," says designer Nye.

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Get the Look


A jade-hued bud vase pops on a bookshelf.

Hitch bud vase, $28, jonathanadler.com

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Good Night


Wallpaper in an eye-catching print behind your bed perks up a room and says, "Look at me!" And what better way to attract attention than with a fearless pattern? "It's just one wall, so you need something that makes a splash," says color consultant Victoria Stuart Burke, owner of Stuart-Creal Studio in New Milford, Connecticut. Paint the walls a color that's in the wallpaper, but select a light, quiet shade that won't compete with your showpiece.

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Get the Look


Give an accent wall a serving of citrusy shades.

Amy Butler Collection wallpaper, $80/double roll, grahambrown.com

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Let It Shine


Even a tired old cabinet or table has star potential if it possesses a pleasing shape. Give it an instant facelift with an attention-grabbing color, like Chinese red or robin's egg blue, in a high-gloss finish for a glamorous lacquered look. "A large piece will dictate the room's color scheme, so choose carefully," says Nye. Check out flea markets, yard sales, and the attic for the right object, and think big—a painted coffee table has more presence than a side table.

Tip: Strip and sand old furniture, and apply three coats of primer before you paint. "The primer will help the piece accept the paint," says Nye.

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Get the Look


For the easiest ever room redo, roll out an exuberant rug. "Color on the floor adds instant energy and always warms up a room," says Los Angeles interior designer Sasha Emerson, who looks to Madeline Weinrib, the Rug Company, and Ikea for contemporary rugs in zesty shades. Shop for a busy, color-drenched pattern if you have kids or pets. "The more going on in the rug, the less mess you'll see," Emerson says.

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Get the Look


Perk up hardwood floors with a vibrant rug.

Concentric Squares 7-foot round rug, $935, companyc.com

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Make It Bright


Turn that tiny bathroom in the entryway into a jewel box with a high-spirited hue you love. Bathe walls, floor, and ceiling in the same shade, and add guest towels, flowers, and scented candles that match. "The room should envelop you in one outrageous color, like hot pink, acid green, citron yellow, Hermes orange, chocolate brown, or aqua," says Nye. Choose your paint finish carefully. "Bathroom walls are often imperfect, and high-gloss paint shows every blemish," Nye says.

Tip: A glossy paint is more durable in a bathroom than flat, but satin works better than high-gloss.

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The Hang of It


Talk about pop art. Choose a colorful piece of fabric, preferably a big, boisterous print, staple it tightly to a stretched canvas and hang prominently on a wall. "This is a great idea for fabric you like and aren't sure how to use," says New York interior designer Amy Lau. Bonus: Since you don't need more than a couple of yards, you can splurge on something fabulous. Scour flea markets, yard sales, or an online fabric shop for show-stopping textiles. "One piece looks great over a sofa or bed," Lau says. Or create a suite of small canvases cut from the same cloth, and group them together.

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High Drama


Nothing brings harmony to a room with disparate elements like black. Paint one statement piece of furniture, like your coffee table, then play off the color with accent items like picture frames or lamps. "If you have Victorian chairs from your grandmother, an Ikea table, and a modern coffee table, black can tie them all together," Nye says.

Tip: To promote unity and durability, paint each piece in a similar finish.

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Get the Look


A sculptural ebony lamp adds pizzazz.

Mariposa table lamp, $139, zgallerie.com

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Grand Opening


A lively tone, especially one that's different from the moldings and walls, turns a ho-hum hall or kitchen door into a cool showstopper. Consider something unexpected—a strong yellow, lime, or cinnabar. Pick a dark or neutral color, like black, espresso, or white, if your woodwork isn't pristine. And go diva with a zingy fuchsia, say, on the inside of a closet door. "You'll give yourself a little treat every time you get dressed," says Emerson.

Tip: Turn the inside of a kitchen closet into a message center with a coat of chalkboard paint, like Benjamin Moore Studio Finishes Chalkboard (307). A recessed panel makes an ideal spot for notes and lists, says Emerson.

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Get the Look


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Pattern Play


"Big bands of color on the walls really pump up a white room," says Lau. Instead of conventional, two-toned stripes, she wakes up a kid's room with wide swaths of orange and yellow and a narrow band of black. "The colors deliver a bold, graphic look," she says. Before you paint, use a tape measure and pencil to plot the pattern on the wall; mark the boundaries of the stripes with blue painter's tape, which won't remove existing paint when you peel it off.

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Mirror, Mirror


Reflect on this: A big color-drenched or white lacquer mirror can invigorate a space like a hallway or even a bathroom. "A thin frame makes no impact; choose one that's at least 4 to 8 inches wide," says Laura Casey, a Charlotte, North Carolina, interior designer. As for style, a showpiece can be elaborately carved, like this one, but modern and simple works, too.

Tip: If you can't find something you like, look for a great frame in wood or metal and have a mirror cut to fit at a hardware store or glass shop.

Originally published in the November 1, 2010, issue of Family Circle magazine.