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 CaptionA variety of colors can go well with wood paneling; the goal doesn’t have to be to "match," as shown in this dining room designed by Leslie Saul.
Mix & Match

My question is I have a very large living room and the top half of the walls are a beautiful light brown stained pine board and I can’t decided on what color to paint the bottom half of the walls. I have a navy blue couch and love seat that I have to try and match up! Any suggestions?

—Unmatched and Miserable

Dear Unmatched and Miserable,
I actually recommend not trying to actually "match" either the wall or the furniture. Rather, look for a complement that will allow the colors of the wall and furniture to find a common ground, a connection, so to speak. You could find that kind of color in the green or blue-green family. Think of it like this: The warm, light brown of the upper walls has a reddish or golden quality, probably both. The deep blue of the furniture is very cool, and a strong color. To create the connection and "ground" the furniture, so it does not appear to ‘jump out’ at you from the wall, you will want to use a color that is a little deeper than the walls, but not as dark as the furniture. So, in looking for a medium-depth color in the green/blue-green range, you can take a look at something like Benjamin Moore #703, "Catalina Blue." This combination of warm + cool in the room will create a very natural kind of palette and should be a lovely complement to the wood walls and the cool, deep color of the furniture. Bring in other colors with textural accessories like pillows, in colors like deep gold, rust, plum, if it suits your taste.

—Color consultant Barbara Jacobs, Integral Color and Design