Color Me Inspired

Sometimes color inspiration for your home can be found in unexpected places. Get Color! expert Jane Lockhart shows you where to look.


By: Jane Lockhart

If the thought of choosing colors for your home makes you flustered and frustrated, you’re not alone. Standing in front of the rainbow of colors at the local hardware, paint or DIY store can be a complicated and intimidating experience. The same goes for furniture, window treatments and accessories. If you don’t have a color in mind, the choices can be overwhelming. The solution to this predicament is to have colors in mind when you walk in the store. But what colors? That’s where the inspiration comes in.

Color inspiration can be drawn from many sources, such as personal memories and emotions, environmental influences and even everyday life. A positive experience, such as a summer vacation, a cherished childhood toy or even a favorite item of clothing can lead you in a great color direction.



Love blue skies and robins' eggs? Be brave and try the color on your walls. Room design by Stephanie Henley.

Here’s an example: A good friend recently approached me for advice on finding shag carpeting for her son’s bedroom. She was searching for the absolute perfect shade of navy blue. Why that blue? She explained that her much-adored older brother had a navy blue carpet in his bedroom, and she associated the color with stress-free Saturday mornings watching cartoons and just being a kid. It wasn’t so much that specific shade of blue that was important, it was the positive feeling that went with the memory of that blue. If you search your own memories and childhood, you may find some color inspiration, too.



The delicate shade of peachy-pink on the inside of a rose is a flattering color choice for a bathroom. Room design by Leslie Saul.

Sometimes looking to nature can provide a jolt of color ideas. Searching for that perfect yellow? What about the petal of a sunflower, a feather of a canary or the slice of lemon in your glass of iced tea? Or consider the cobalt of the Caribbean ocean or the rich depth of a sapphire for a different shade of blue. I find that even a visit to the grocery store can be a fantastic place to find forgotten shades of color: all those nicely hued fresh fruits and vegetables and the wall of vibrant spices, not to mention the millions of colors and color combinations used in product packaging. And don’t forget to take a second look at cosmetics, magazines, fabrics and automobiles. The list of man-made sources of inspiration is also endless.

And more good news: thanks to technology, most paint and decorating retailers can color match almost any source, whether it’s that canary feather, a piece of fabric you bought in India or your grandmother’s favorite plate. It’s even possible to match colors in the photos you’ve taken on vacation or in your own back yard. Images from today’s digital cameras can be printed on color-correct paper and taken to the store for matching—so take that camera with you and start taking pictures for future inspiration.

In the end, color inspiration is everywhere if you just open your eyes and look around you. Discovering what truly inspires you will guide you to color decisions that are as unique as your own individuality.

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