Color Combinations for Your Home (In Intriguing Sets of 3)

Plus, pretty accents that make your new color schemes pop.

Berry, putty and burgundy decorated room
Photo: Gentl & Hyers

The fastest way to jump-start a home makeover? Introduce colors that suit your rooms, your style, and your life. Here are exciting, foolproof paint picks (plus gorgeous accessories) to get you going.

01 of 09

One Word: Color

Paint swatches in various palettes
Gentl & Hyers

If you're longing for color on your walls but are stymied by the rainbow of options, we're here to help. Paint pro Eve Ashcraft, author of the book The Right Color (Artisan, due out in October 2011), suggests approaching a room with a complete paint palette, rather than slapping up a single shade.

"You don't listen to music one note at a time, and you don't see colors one at a time," Ashcraft explains. "It's all about relationships, combinations, and context." Need examples? Here are four—in blue, yellow, green, and red—devised especially for Real Simple readers. Copy these palettes for walls, ceilings, and trim, or get inspired to create your own.

02 of 09

Pale Blue, Dark Gray, Light Gray

Blue and gray decorated living room
Gentl & Hyers

A stormy ceiling and light gray woodwork take the sweetness out of baby blue. "The darker tones keep the walls from seeming juvenile," says Ashcraft. She describes this palette as "three shades of the sky." The effect, in both the room (shown) and the collection (next page) of inspiration items above, is "elegant and a bit Scandinavian." Light blue "lowers the temperature" of a space, imbuing it with a cool, sedate feeling. In this palette, blue makes an artful backdrop for neutrals, bringing sophistication to gray, taupe, or brown furniture. Paint: walls, Crystal Blue; ceiling, Amherst Gray; trim, Horizon Gray: each from $36 a gallon, for stores.

To buy: Christine low round side table, for stores. Brompton sofa, for info. Velvet II platinum pillow (large), Canvas linen pillow (small), for info. Nineteenth-century Italian mirror (small, above sofa), for info. Handmade Tibetan rug, for info.

03 of 09

Inspiration Accessories

Blue and gray color inspiration accessories
Gentl & Hyers

Sophie Conran teapot, $47.50, SQ gray bowl, $250, for info. Heath Ceramics square platter, $32, Till and Sons light blue 19th-century English saucers; and stoneware candlestick: for info. Hand-carved soapstone bamboo box, $110, for info. Nine-inch tapers, $10.50 for two, All other items, stylist's own.

04 of 09

Gold, Butter, Cream

Gold, butter and cream decorated room
Gentl & Hyers

A not-too-scary step up from beige, this bathed-in-sunshine palette is cheerful, warm, and comforting. We're drawn to yellow because it's a happy color. But, says Ashcraft, "golden tones are easier to work with than lemony tones, which can be too intense and have a 'highlighter' effect." With a "suite" of closely related shades—from the ceiling to the rich wood floor—you create an enveloping atmosphere. "Entering this room, you walk into yellow," says Ashcraft. Paint: walls, Marblehead Gold; ceiling, Weston Flax; trim, White Chocolate: each from $36 a gallon, for stores.

To buy: German porcelain pieces from the 1960s (on mantel), The End of History, 212-647-7598. Drawing by Corey Daniels, Paula Rubenstein, 212-966-8954 for info. Color Reform rug,

05 of 09

Inspiration Accessories

Gold, butter and cream inspiration accessories
Gentl & Hyers

Glass vase, The End of History, 212-647-7598. Basket-weave charger, $75, for store info. Butterfly, $39, Small round tapas bowl in 1815 pattern, $40 for eight, Champion Quince postcard, $1.50, for info. Versailles E24302 fabric (top right), All other items, stylist's own.

06 of 09

Moss Green, Petal Pink, Olive

Moss green, petal pink and olive decorated room
Gentl & Hyers

We're accustomed to the colors of nature, says Ashcraft, so using them on walls is less chancy than you might think—even when they're strong. "This palette is a bit English and old-fashioned—and swiped right out of a garden," she says.

"Rich greens, with a big pink bloom on top." The soft ceiling color is also used on the upper trim to lighten up saturated moss walls, creating a cheerful canopy. An earthy dark gray-green on windows and baseboards complements the moss. "You can't go wrong mixing most greens—just look outside." Paint: walls, Oregano; ceiling, Pink Innocence; trim, Mohegan Sage: each from $36 a gallon, for stores.

To buy: Vintage glass bottle, Paula Rubenstein, 212-966-8954 for info. Lidded laundry basket, for stores. Snooze chair, for info. Skowhegan Quarry painting, by Robert Eaton; and side table designed by James Mont: Lobel Modern, 212-242-9075. Aldo Londi for Bitossi lamp, Cosmo, 718-302-4662. Color Reform rug,

07 of 09

Inspiration Accessories

Moss green, petal pink and olive inspiration accessories
Gentl & Hyers

Mud Australia pink salad plate, $36, Marble pears, $41 each, for info. Small brown ceramic bowl, $79, for stores. Vintage painted Fern paper, $40, for info. Porcelain mini vase, $20, for info. Japanese chopsticks, $3.50 a pair, Apple green rustic stripe linen towel, $34, for info. Somerset 910038-19 fabric (pink) in Petal, Rogers & Goffigon Ltd., 203-532-8068. Versailles E26500 fabric (background), Kravet, 800-645-9068. All other items, stylist's own.

08 of 09

Berry, Putty, Burgundy

Berry, putty and burgundy decorated room
Gentl & Hyers

Deep colors offer enormous payback, but because they're so powerful, they should be handled with care. "Red has strong associations," says Ashcraft, so placing it with the right companions is especially important. "It can cause trouble with white (stop signs, candy canes) or yellow (ketchup and mustard). But temper it with an even deeper red, plus a dark ceiling, and it calms down."

The effect is dramatic but—because it's low-contrast—not shocking to the senses. When it comes to furniture, spare, clean-lined pieces keep red's bordello risk at bay.

Paint: walls, Cherry Wine; ceiling, Dry Sage; trim, Raisin Torte: each from $36 a gallon, for stores.

To buy: Danish tall oxblood ceramic vase from the 1950s, The End of History, 212-647-7598. Leger Tube stool, for info. Gueridon side table, for info. Georgian sofa, for info. Color Reform rug,

09 of 09

Inspiration Accessories

Berry, putty and burgundy inspiration accessories
Gentl & Hyers

Coupe cereal bowl (similar to shown), $28, Simply Pink wine goblet (similar to shown), $149 for two, Murano-glass apple, The End of History, 212-647-7598. Green Graham goblet, $84, Serge De Nimes 870004-10 fabric (under green goblet) in Floradade, Rogers & Goffigon Ltd., 203-532-8068. All other items, stylist's own.

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