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 CaptionDesigner Stacy Lupak’s Asian-inspired room uses a more pinky versions of the popular clay color.
Not Afraid of Color

Hello! My name is Dana and I am sending you this message from Tennessee. My question is about choosing a color for my walls of my bedroom. My bedroom has an Asian theme to it. My bedroom furniture is a dark walnut/cherry color. My comforter is a light tan with brown circles all over it.

I want to paint my walls and was thinking of a color called orange clay. It is almost the color of a terra cotta plant holder. Do you think that would be a good color? I am not afraid of color, I love it! And I definitely need something other than brown. Help please!

—Asian-Themed Bedroom

Dear Asian-Themed Bedroom:
Yes, that orangey-clay color should work well if you are going for the oh-so-popular informal Asian look that we see on the market today. The color seems to work well with your preponderance of browns (a color not on the color wheel, but rather the combination of all colors).

What you will finally end up with is an analogous color scheme. Analogous color schemes are quite restful in nature and easy on the eyes. Not a lot of excitement going on in terms of contrast between objects.

Here's a tip: Try to incorporate at least three colors in the space. You mention the light tan comforter with the dark walnut furniture. An excellent corollary to these two colors would be the rust or terra cotta clay you mention. So, I would say that is a good choice. You have a yellow, brown and clay as your three colors in the space.

What I might suggest though, is that you will need to add interest to the space also. It could fall into the too sleepy category at the rate you are going. In other words, there may not be enough visual interest using the color scheme you mentioned.

Add some sparkle to your Asian Sweet Dreams motif. I might suggest copper for light fixture bases, some jade accent pieces, a touch of gold or brass. These will highlight your colors used sparingly. You may also want to dip your toe in some medium-valued greens for bed throw pillows also. This addition will spur you to add other colors to your design in the form of soft goods such as the green pillow mentioned above. Toss some eggplant colored drink coasters on to the end table, or add a weathered pine trunk to the foot of the bed to improve the materials mix, and add minor colors to the space.

Another quick tip: Bamboo shades are all the rage these days. They come in a plethora of combinations and can be obtained on the cheap, or as moderate window coverings. I have used them to great effect when decorating dressed down Asian rooms. Many come with black bamboo stripes (with burnt red and brown mixed) in them. With perhaps a raw silk over-treatment panel. As the old interior design wives' tale says, adding black to a space helps to enhance the other colors in the room.

Don't worry too much about sun rot with the Thai-inspired raw silk, they should be protected adequately by the bamboo blinds, or you may want them as stationary panels to save money on fabric and avoid the sun rot issue all together. Raw silk can be obtained rather inexpensively too.

—Designer Mark McCauley, ASID