5 Color Dilemmas Solved!

Color experts share how to solve palette problems for a bedroom, living room and more.

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beautiful amenities for traditional dining Richly hued walls and a flickering fireplace bring warmth and personality to a dining room, living room or bedroom. Here designer Darla Blake uses a deep faux finish in a dramatic dining room. (Photo by Dan Steinberg.)

Dear HGTV.com,
Help me! I am moving into a new house in Audubon, Penn., and am bad at picking colors. In the family room there is a fireplace. I would love this room to feel cozy. I was thinking dark brown leather furniture and maybe painting one wall a deep orange/ brown color, but what wall? I also have a small dining room that I want to feel rich would a dark green be too much?
—Trouble With Colors

Dear Trouble With Colors,
You are on the right track for someone who says they have trouble picking colors! The colors you have mentioned, along with the pictures I have seen, would blend quite well and, create the cozy atmosphere you desire.

You are speaking of an analogous color scheme. Analogous color schemes, colors right next to each other on the color wheel, are informal and restful. Also, the darker color values you mention go a long way towards creating a sense of warmth.

But wait, brown is not on the color wheel! What an oversight! Brown is actually a combination of all the colors on the color wheel, but works very well with orange and other earth tones.

Brown with orange (say bark brown with saddle orange) creates a Fall tone in terms of seasonality. This reflects feelings of warmth and closeness.

As to which wall to paint with the saddle orange, I would suggest the wall above the stone fireplace using the color as accent. You may also want to trade out the grayish carpeting in this scheme as it won’t help much.

I would also suggest that you use a deep yellow (such as mustard, or other, deeper fall yellow) for the white wood panel walls. This will remove some of the antiseptic nature in white, stripped of paint as you mention, from what I see in the photos.

Your concept of the darker green tones in the dining room is excellent, also. The green relates to the natural colorations of many edible foods and is often found in dining areas. However, put a chair rail in the dining room with either wood molding or wallpaper border and don't use the dark green all over.

Marry the dark green to perhaps a lighter beige/white below. By moving the darker color up the walls, it encompasses the diners when they are seated at eye height for greater impact during mealtime and has the advantage of not overwhelming the space with heavy coloration.

Be sure the beige/white is deep enough to carry the visual weight of the dark green. For greater formality the contrast in tone should be greater, for more casual colorations the tones should be closer together, more mid-range beige/white with the deep forest.
—color expert/designer Mark McCauley, ASID

Get expert advice for more color dilemmas>

Barbara Jacobs, Integral Color and Design, is a color expert and rug designer, (www.integralcolor.com). Designer Mark McCauley, ASID, can be reached at ColorTherapy@aol.com.

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