Designers share tips for bringing more color into your home

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If you’re tired of having a house full of neutral furniture and paint, in the style of the prevailing design trends of the last few years, but feel a little scared about completely changing course, you’re certainly not alone.

“A lot of homeowners tend to stay away from color. Some may even be afraid of it,” says Robin Gannon, whose firm, Robin Gannon Interiors, is based in Lexington, Massachusetts. She attributes this to a few things. “They may not have been exposed to colors or patterns in their formative years, and the homes we grew up in really influence our aesthetics and design preferences. Others like the color but are afraid of what the final space will look like, for fear of spending time and money to end up with a room they hate.”

Take heart, though: Even the most color-shy people don’t have to be banished to a house filled with various shades of beige forever. Gannon and other designers say there are many ways to become more receptive to using bold colors without going overboard. Whether you’re working with a professional or renovating your space on your own, here are a few tips to keep in mind before you commit to that fuchsia vanity.

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Make a list of your favorite colors. Before taking on a new project, Denver-based designer Nadia Watts asks her clients what shades resonate with them. “With this information, I will stretch [clients’] comfort zones by suggesting colors just outside the familiar area,” she says. She highlights the nuances within colors, “so [clients] they are able to digest and support the movement in this direction”. Don’t you work with a professional? Just head to your local paint store where you can see a variety of colors. “Say you’re done with gray and you’re ready for a change,” says Watts. “Gray usually has a cool undertone, so start looking for blues that have a bit of green in them. You can always go lighter or darker on the spectrum, depending on how dramatic you want your room to be.”

If you’re having trouble determining your favorite shades, take a look inside your closet. “If there’s a color or family of colors that you like to use a lot, this gives you a good indication of what colors you’ll enjoy having in your home,” says designer Emma Kemper, owner of New York-based Emma Beryl. Interiors.

Start small. Designers agree that phasing in small, non-permanent pieces is a good way to dip your toes into a more colorful design. Try incorporating cushions, accessories, and art in vibrant hues. “Adding these items helps a person get used to seeing color,” says Los Angeles-based designer Linda Hayslett of LH.Designs. “Then after a while, start adding more to the mix.”

Try a bedding update. Kemper particularly enjoys bringing color into a space with bedding. “A bed takes up much of the surface of your bedroom and is a perfect canvas for layering colors, textures, and patterns,” she says. “A blank white bed often feels like a hole in the middle of a space to me and is a missed opportunity.”

Take a balanced approach. If you’re considering incorporating a vibrant upholstered piece into your space, remember that balancing bolder colors with more subdued hues is key, says Gannon. “Think of a movie: there are some stars of the show and supporting cast members. Everyone is important for the room to be successful,” he says. Gannon suggests choosing a forest green sofa, for example, and pairing it with softer tones, as well as some patterned pillows, to keep it from being overwhelming.

Be careful with the paint. If you want to cover the walls with color, consider taking a more subtle approach first. “Introducing vibrant paint colors can be done on a smaller scale, with half-painted walls and brightly painted doors,” says Molly Torres Portnof of Brooklyn-based Date Interiors.

Plus, designers frequently recommend going bold in smaller or less frequently used spaces. The powder room is a great place to introduce vibrant colors into the home, says Sydney Markus, designer at Anthony Wilder Design/Build in Cabin John, Maryland. “Because a powder room is a small space, it’s easier to take risks and add color and pattern for dramatic impact,” she says. “Also consider wallpaper, which is affordable in such a small space.”

Also, while Markus likes to design neutral and serene master bedrooms, he will take more color risks in guest rooms. “You want to incorporate a color that will last for many years, one that has longevity, as opposed to a guest room, where you can take more of a risk with color and change it up like a hotel room,” she says.

What if you change your mind later? Don’t worry, paint is easily fixed. “Go ahead, take the plunge,” Watts says. “It’s just paint, and you can always get a second chance.”

Sarah Lyon is a freelance writer and stylist in New York. Find her on Instagram: @sarahlyon9.