Decorating With Jewel Tones
Jewel Tones 101
Saturated and intense, colors based on gems (think rubies, emeralds, sapphires, topaz) are unquestionably daring and dramatic. In decorating, their richness can make milder colors in a room seem dull and drab, so they work best matched with equally vibrant tones or set against neutrals, such as gray and black (consider keeping them away from pastels). Jewel tones can help play up a room’s best qualities and minimize its flaws. For instance, a large, bright room that seems grand and imposing can become intimate with luscious emerald green on the walls. Jewel tones also help emphasize the coziness of a small space. “Concentrated shades, like teal and ruby red, with reflective accents—mercury glass, gilded frames—make you feel enveloped by the color rather than imprisoned by a tiny room,” says Jessica Becker, an interior designer in Providence. To keep a room feeling unified rather than hectic, choose pieces with similar color values (or intensities).
Expert Color Pairings
Exotic. “I love shades of deep blue with a touch of green—like a Crayola teal color—beside chartreuse, gold, and amethyst,” says Jessica Becker. “It makes me think of peacocks.”
Regal. Amethyst and amber are stately together, especially when they’re paired with gold accessories and dark wood furnishings, floors, and moldings.
Warm with a twist. “My favorite combination is bright emerald, chocolate brown, and off-white,” says New York City designer Timothy Whealon. “ Also great is a shocking peacock blue with white painted furniture.”
Next to painting a room black, there’s nothing more arresting than covering walls in a jewel tone—it electrifies a space. But remember: The sheen dramatically affects the color. “A matte finish will take the edge out of a jewel tone and make it look dark and dry,” says Washington, D.C., interior decorator Annie Elliott. On the other end of the spectrum, semigloss can look too “nightclub.” To preserve the vibrancy without going overboard, stay in the middle with an eggshell finish.
No-Fail Paint Picks
With jewel-tone walls, white ceiling paint will give you a stark contrast. A warm neutral, like light gray or beige, will feel softer and more luxurious. Here, a few gems courtesy of Annie Elliott.
“A wonderful library color that’s less expected than dark green.”
To buy: Rectory Red 217, from $80 a gallon, farrow-ball.com.
“Beautiful in a guest room paired with oatmeal-colored linens.”
To buy: Behr Wild Grapes S-G-660, from $20 a gallon, homedepot.com for stores.
“For a cool kid’s room, try it with a black-and-white-striped rug and light citron ceiling paint.”
To buy: Babouche 223, from $80 a gallon, farrow-ball.com.
“It has a tinge of midcentury nostalgia. Don Draper’s sofa could be this color.”
To buy: Filoli Garden Pool 5003-10C, from $31 a gallon, valspar.com for stores.
“Use it in a dining room. It will look friendly during the day and mysterious at night.”
To buy: Ming Jade 2043-20, from $60 a gallon, benjaminmoore.com for stores.
With large jewel-tone pieces, think texture. Rich colors have even more impact in reflective fabrics, such as velvet and silk. Dark jewel tones are also fantastic in leather—and a playful departure from traditional brown. Here, a turquoise sofa pops against chocolate-brown walls.
Try two in an entryway, on either side of a modern console.
To buy: Varenne side chair, $650, casamidy.com for stores.
A bedroom piece for lounging à la Mae West.
To buy: Edie velvet chaise, $558, urbanoutfitters.com.
Use it in the home office to stash supplies or in a playroom to hide toys.
To buy: Classic cabinet, $450, conranusa.com.
For a corner in the bathroom. Roll hand towels and tuck them inside.
To buy: Ghost Buster side table by Philippe Starck for Kartell, $413, kartell.com for stores.
Small jewel-tone accents are like a shot of B12 for a room. Since they’re so vibrant, stick to solid colors rather than patterns, which can look garish. Group variations of one color, or experiment with combinations, treating the room “like a crown with many jewels rather than a solitaire ring,” advises Elliott. The topaz and ruby accents sparkle in this neutral living room.
Pretty in a sunny bathroom window—or on a holiday buffet, near votives.
To buy: Apothecary bottles, $41 each, lazysusanusa.com.
The topiary-inspired star of your dresser
To buy: Venus table lamp, $358, laylagrayce.com.
Surprising and rich tossed on a navy sofa.
To buy: Solid silk-dupioni pillow, $198 (22 by 22 inches), michelevarian.com.
Picture it with Moroccan tea glasses filled with red wine.
To buy: Colorful wooden tray, $39, wisteria.com.
Just the right size for necklaces, rings, and bracelets—jewels for your jewels.
To buy: Vitriini glass boxes, from $50 each, iittala.com for stores.
Layer this tone-on-tone animal print over a chocolate sisal.
To buy: Bernadini Damson rug, $1,260 (63 by 102 inches), designersguild.com.