Jane Lockhart Talks Color Tips

Interior designer Jane Lockhart tackles color-challenged rooms, one room at a time.

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Why are people so afraid of color?
A lot of people don't know what they want. As much as we live in color — it's everywhere around us — it's amazing how much of a mystery it still is to most of us. Lots of times people finally decide to use color and they start with a darker color and then they get scared. So they have it lightened up and it looks wimpy and doesn't have any impact. People come over and say, "Oh, I thought you were painting." Or a neighbor comes over and tries to talk them out of the darker color. But if it took you two years to pick the color, it's probably right. Trust your instincts. You have a 50-50 chance that it will look great.

Any tips to help folks gain more color confidence?
Well, it doesn't get easier if you wait. And the biggest mistake is not doing anything. The irony of that is people will invest in bathroom fixtures and hardware and ceramic tile that are expensive and not easily changed. They find the courage to go dramatic with that, but they're chicken with the paint color on the walls or the color of a pillow. There are ways to make a change without too much worry.

Lockhart brings blue into this fairly neutral room with pillows, a rug and an ottoman — all things that can easily be removed in case the homeowner wants to alter the color palette.

  1. Start small and get big. If you do change colors don't do everything at once, unless you're the kind of person who can handle that. Most people can't. Less than 15 percent of people have an ability to visualize what a space is going to look like in a certain paint color. It's so overwhelming because it's on all of the walls. Once they see the accessories, they're OK. But until that time we all go through a quiet panic. To avoid that, start a new color with throw pillows and candles. Buy a scarf in the color and see how it makes you feel. We live in a decade of high accessorization. You can have the Armani suit in gray, but you jazz it up with color in accessories. It's the same in your home. If you bought the beige or grey sofa you can express how you feel now with slipcovers or jazzier accessories. You don't have to do everything at once.

  2. Roll out a big swatch before doing walls. Sometimes what we do on the show is sometimes we've had pizza and we have the box left over. We roll the color on the back of the box and hold it up on the wall. Then you don't have to buy any special cardboard or big expensive swatches, you have your big pizza box sample.

  3. Check the lighting. People are surprised by how much color is affected by light. With the bigger swatch you can move it around to natural and artificial light and see how the light affects it.

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