How to Infuse Your Home with Color | Midwest Living

How to Infuse Your Home with Color

A Chicago woman creates a lively, inviting home using splashes of bright color.
  • Bold strokes

    Faced with hundreds of paint chips at a home-improvement store, many people lust after the richest colors at the bottom of the sample cards, then wimp out and head for the safety of beige. That's never been Bonnie Connors. She infused her 1920s Chicago-area home with paint, fabric and wallpaper in sunny yellows, apple greens and revved-up oranges paired with deep neutrals. Here's how she achieved color theatrics without chaos.

    Pictured: In the living room, a subtle Oushak rug complements the reupholstered, flame-red velvet chair that once belonged to the homeowner's grandmother.

    Benjamin Moore (paint, Whitall Brown, No. HC-69)

    McGuire Furniture Company (gourd lamp)

  • Hot-hued patterns

    Bonnie Connors, who shares her Colonial-style home with her husband, Jim, and their two children, wanted to give her rooms a mix of bold patterns and bright colors. She enlisted interior designer Denise Macey to help pick motifs and colors that meld.

    Denise and Bonnie chose fabrics that strictly adhere to the home's orange, green and yellow palette. Every room contains those colors in varying amounts and shades. To avoid sensory overload, Denise used patterns on either the furnishings or the walls, but never both. Rich neutrals (browns and grays) on the walls complement rather than compete with the eye-catching patterns.

    The sunroom sports layered spicy orange and gold patterns. The mix works because it's set against a quiet background of charcoal gray. Exotic ochre chairs and a vintage, reddish-orange Moroccan rug turn the sunroom into a cozy gathering space.

    Architect Healy M. Rice, AIA (847/853-0824)

    Denise Macey Design LLC (interior designer)

    Marvin (windows and doors)

    C2 Paint (wall paint, Barnacle)

  • Creating pattern surprises

    Unexpected pairings create design surprises. No fabrics show up twice in this home, unless it's on a set of chairs. In the dining area, turtle-theme chairs sidle up alongside brown-and-white cowhide stools. The look is a little daring — but large-scale patterns are child- and pet-friendly because they help hide dirt and stains.

  • Start small

    To test colors, paint large poster boards (at least 2 feet wide) with the colors. Move the boards around a room, or even into another room, to see how the hue changes during the day.

    Start small, if you're wary of bright colors. Paint a small space, such as a powder room. Frame wallpaper to hang, rather than covering a whole wall. But don't be afraid of color — if you go with things you love, the room will turn out fine. 

    In the family room, monarch butterflies painted by the homeowner's children inspired the colors.

  • Secret to balancing color

    What about these bold walls makes visitors say, "Wow!" and not, "What were you thinking?" The secret is matching the color intensity of the furnishings to the walls' intensity. Strong color personalities in a room need strong neutral personalities on the wall. Here, solid-color upholstery on the chairs doesn't compete with the patterned wallpaper.

    Nina Campbell through Osborne and Little (wallpaper, Perroquet/Balustrade)

  • Cabinetry colors that work together

    A box of crayons inspired Bonnie's "aha" moment when choosing her cabinet look. She made copies of her kitchen plan elevations, then colored the cabinets with crayons to try out different color combinations.

    Bright cabinets initially had been part of the kitchen plans. But when her colorful "artwork" veered more toward kindergarten kitsch than a sophisticated design, she realized what was missing: neutral shades. "Someone has to be the stagehand," says Bonnie, who added black base cabinets to balance the apple-green uppers and marigold-yellow hutch. "Not everyone can be the diva."

    Fitted with black wood accents, the stainless-steel island coordinates with the black cabinetry. A yellow-painted hutch connects the kitchen to the pantry/office.

    Kitchen designer Kathy Walder, KRW Design Associates (847/549-7597)

    Plain and Fancy Custom Cabinetry

  • Keeping some things neutral

    Neutral hard surfaces helped the green and yellow cabinets remain focal points. The homeowner decided against a tile backsplash and granite countertops early in the design process because their busy lines would fight for attention. Instead, calm counterpoints come from stainless-steel sinks, appliances and island cabinets; white marble countertops; and grasscloth wallpaper.

    Mix bright furniture pieces into your kitchen design if you can't commit to bold cabinets. Red cookware echoes the range's red handles.

    Wolf (gas range)

    Viking (range hood)

    Franke Kitchen Systems (sinks)

    Perrin and Rowe through Rohl (main faucet)

    Newport Brass (island faucet)

  • Multipurpose nook

    Built-ins create a computer station/pantry off the kitchen—great for both storing cookbooks and searching online.

    Benjamin Moore (paint on cabinets, Yellow Rain Coat, No. 2020-40)

  • Soothing purple in the master bedroom

    A purple-verging-on-black paint brings richness to the master bedroom walls, while the room's white trim and accessories keep the scheme soothing and fresh.

    Benjamin Moore (paint, Amazon Soil, No. 2115-30)

    Designer's Guild through Osborne and Little (curtain fabric, Artemisia/Laelia)

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