Including how to pick a paint color you'll want to live with forever. 

By Katie Holdefehr
Updated September 19, 2019
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When I took a peek inside the beautiful studio of Brooklyn-based textile designer Rebecca Atwood last year, it slowly dawned on me how much color and pattern filled the room, yet how serene it felt. Colorful watercolor swatches graced the walls, the loft-style window frames were painted a pretty shade of green, and below them sat a small loveseat upholstered with one of Atwood's patterned fabrics. The mix of color could have felt overwhelming, but the effect was exactly the opposite—the soft, nature-inspired hues lull you into a relaxed state, just like the Cape Cod beaches from which Atwood draws much of her inspiration.

So what's the secret? How do you decorate with color and have it feel so fitting and effortless? Fortunately, Atwood has revealed her secrets in her new book Living with Color: Inspiration and How-Tos to Brighten Up Your Home. We chatted with the designer about everything from the easiest way to introduce color to your home, to the difficult task of choosing the perfect paint color. Here's what we learned.

How to Find Colors You Truly Love

For starters, look to your memories and the places that hold meaning for you. For Atwood, nature, particularly the beaches of Cape Cod, hold special meaning and translate to an ocean-inspired palette. "A classic palette for me: tomato red, peach, ocean blue, rose-taupe, gray-lilac, and navy. I love this mix of warm and cool," she says. "Lately I’ve also been very drawn to greens: Dune grass green, cloud blue, sand, taupe, a deeper green—I’m imagining the green of window shutters on a house on Cape Cod."

When the colors are pulled from nature, you know they'll work beautifully together. Then, try this tip from Atwood's book: Write down words that describe how a particular color makes you feel. Surround yourself with colors that not only look pretty, but also evoke the right emotions.

The Easiest Way to Introduce Color Into Your Home

"First, start with something you naturally change out often as it’s a lower commitment—think napkins, pillowcases, a throw blanket, a vase of flowers, a bowl of fruit," Atwood says. Then, take your time and live with the new item. "Notice how those small changes make you feel and embrace the joy of it."

How to Pick Paint Colors
Credit: Rebecca Atwood/Photography by Sharon Radisch

The Key to Picking the Right Paint Color

For starters, understand why picking a paint color can be so difficult. "If you think about nature, we rarely see a large flat color. The ocean is always moving and rippling," Atwood explains. And even once you paint a wall a solid color, that hue will continue to change throughout the day as the light shifts.

Atwood's advice: "Start with a small room like a bathroom. It’s a great place to use color where you won’t get as sick of it." To find the perfect color, the designer mixes up her own color on a large sheet of paper and pins it up to see how it changes with the light over the course of the day. "Color is light and it changes. I then take the one I’ve chosen to a paint store to have it matched (you can do this with Benjamin Moore and others)."

If you're not a painter? You can try the same process as above with paint samples from the store. "If you feel overwhelmed, opt for a line that has a more curated selection (think Farrow & Ball and Clare). They’ve done some of the work for you!"