Perfect Palettes

Got the bedroom blues? In love with Asian contemporary? Mixed up about matchy-matchy? Our experts — designer and color expert Mark McCauley, ASID, and color consultant Barbara Jacobs — can help.

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Hide CaptionShow CaptionBlue walls in any shade can showcase the artwork or other accessories, as shown in this Linda Woodrum-designed 2006 HGTV Dream Home room.
Bedroom Blues

I recently purchased a one-bedroom condo in the unaffordable northern Virginia area of Clifton. An unbelievable feat considering I am a teacher. Boy, do I need your help! The condo is 16 years old and everything is original. This is the first time that I have had a bedroom of my own. Growing up I always had leftovers from my brothers. My dilemma is what color to paint "my" bedroom. I am on a tight budget and find myself buying quart after quart of paint and I am no further with a decision. The room is 11x14 with a long reach-in closet and one large window. The room does get light. I have white cut-out linens for my bed and a queen mattress and box spring and that is it. I have tried some shades of blues and periwinkles, but they all have been too dark, intense, icy or even chalky.

I want my linens and artwork to be more of the focal point. The focal point does not need to be the painted walls. But, currently, the walls are cream and just too bland. If I could dream for a moment and have any kind of bedroom I would like it to be a little rustic like the Sundance Catalog, but with some feminine undertones. I like the blues and periwinkles — I just cannot seem to find one that is soft enough. I am truly open to suggestions!

—My First Bedroom in Virginia

Dear My First Bedroom in Virginia,
Congratulations on your new home and your very own bedroom. I understand why you want to get it right.

Although you don’t say which colors you did test, based on your preference for blues, I’ve noted a few colors here that you might consider if you do want blue for your walls. Look at these colors, all from Benjamin Moore: #687 and #688, which are soft blue-greens; other lovely light blues are: #716, ‘Fantasy Blue;" or #1640 or #1641. Also consider: #827,"Lake Placid" or #1632, "Glass Slipper," a more grayed blue. Sherwin Williams #6534 is a blue with warmer undertones. If you decide to go with a warmer color all together, take a look at Benjamin Moore #2153-60, "Rich Cream." It’s a soft yellow. Whatever color you select, do it in a flat finish. Many companies now produce a "washable" flat paint, which is what I would recommend for the more rustic look. If that is not available, use the finish nearest to flat, which is usually eggshell.

For your ceiling, I recommend the warm off-white of Benjanmin Moore 967, in a flat finish. Alternative to trim being the same color as the ceiling: use a color 2 shades deeper than the wall. Using Aqua Pearl finish for the trim color will give you a softer, more rustic look on the trim, than using semi gloss, which is shinier.

Since you mentioned Sundance, if you like their colors why not just try their paint sampler and get the paint from them? I noticed on their web site ( they do sell paint. Have fun!

—Color consultant Barbara Jacobs, Integral Color and Design