The famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson said, "Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others." When it comes to the prospect of painting a very strong color on the walls of a small room, fear is understandable. Will you grow tired of it quickly? Will you date your decorating attempt by using a currently popular hue? A firm yes could be the answer to all those questions.
However, before you go running for the hills, let's talk about the idea of vibrant color with calmness. Much depends on exactly how and where you use rich colors. I would never tell you that you can't use a bold color in a small room. If asked, I would say that balance is one key thing to strive for in order to successfully do it. What do I mean specifically? Here are a few guidelines:
—If you are considering painting a powder room or a typical bathroom, know that it will be more pleasant if you paint all of the walls in the color you choose. Depending on the effect you desire, you might leave the ceiling white, in order to lift the room up; or you might paint it the same color as the walls, to create a more enclosed feeling.
—To make the room feel blended, try to avoid high contrast between the colors of the floor panels and the walls. In other words, keep the lightness and darkness of the different surfaces similar to each other.
—If your room is a bit more spacious, you might be able to balance the use of color in other ways. Take our example: The strong tangerine wall paint is used only in one area of the room, but the color also appears in the upholstery of the soft furniture pieces. The vibrancy is evened out within the space.
—Remember that large objects found in a room also count as part of the overall color scheme. For example, if you are considering your laundry room color scheme and you want to use a powerful wall color, the stark white appliances will jump out at you. Unless you have a lot of other white features in the room, such as built-in cabinets and woodwork, you'll likely wish to avoid a color that will cause a bright white color pop.
—Even if you use a softer color than this tangerine, putting a color up against white or another neutral can result in the color being perceived as bold. Again, it is the comparison that matters. Compare a sky blue wall to a light tan carpet or a maple floor, and suddenly the blue feels fairly intense.
Remember that because the specific qualities of the exact colors you want to use are so important, take your time with the selection. Always buy a pint or quart of the paint you want to test it on the walls first. Look at the dry paint at different times of the day and in different lighting conditions. If you are unsure, test another option. Similarly, if you are wondering about fabrics, instead of making the decision to invest in a costly fabric based off a tiny swatch, get a large sample, and tack it up or drape it over the furniture. You can send for decent-size samples for a minimal cost, or often no cost, if you return the fabric. Whether it's wall paint or textiles, be certain that the color is spot on before paying for it.
Any fear about using color can be mitigated by doing your homework. Remember that every piece that is used in a room needs to work in harmony with the others. The large elements of a room should flow. And accent items are successful in small quantities.
Photo Credit: Maine Cottage
Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at [email protected] To find out more about Christine Brun and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.