15 Ways To Pump Up Your Pad With Color

Photo: Courtesy of Getty/Halfdark.
It’s easy to fall back on your go-to decorating hues: Soft gray has provided a neutral backdrop on your walls since 2010, and that cozy chartreuse duvet has seen you through at least three relationships. But, by sticking to your trusty shades, you miss out on the rest of the color spectrum, a condition we sympathetically call a “color rut.” The good news is we know how to break out of it. Next time you’re trolling your favorite decor blogs or drooling over your BFF’s Paris pics, pay attention to the photos that make you pause — their unique color combination could set the tone for your next home revamp.
To get you started, we've come up with 15 ways to step out of your color comfort zone — and for your perusing pleasure, we’ve added the Sherwin-Williams Chip It!® tool to every photo. It allows you to instantly pull an image's color palette, using more than 1,500 of the paint brand's gorgeous hues. All you have to do is click (or shall we say “chip”) the pics that make you swoon. Get ready to break free from the colors that bind you.
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Photographed by Sebastian Marin.
Wow with wallpaper.
Wallpaper in an eye-catching pattern is in right now. It can make a small room feel more expansive and a larger room more grounded. Paint the remaining walls with one of the colors in the paper for a polished look.
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Photographed by Maia Harms.
Use books as decor.
Stick to a limited color palette — here, a light wall looks so sophisticated with black and white and pops of pink — so it doesn’t feel jumbled. A few more tricks for bookshelf styling? Cluster collectibles, and break up stacks and rows with vases or decorative objects. Hide ugly stuff (cords) in bowls or baskets, and weed out those paperback self-help manuals — we’re talking pretty hard covers here — all while keeping everything perfectly imperfect (a few leaning books is a very good thing).
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Let your art make a statement against shades of gray.
There is no better paint color to make a wall of artwork pop, and this delicious charcoal especially kills it. The mix of the taupe, velvet Chesterfield sofa, and silvery rug complete the room’s modern canvas.
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Photo: Courtesy of Getty/Halfdark.
Take cues from nature.
Sometimes all you need to do is take a hike for decor inspiration. After all, when do Mother Nature’s colors ever clash? Here, moss-green walls, buttercup-yellow chairs, and gorgeous purple hydrangeas look fresh and fearless against the raw wood.
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Photo: Courtesy of Getty/Steven Taylor.
Set the tone for a space.
A punchy print can define a featureless room, but it can also make a quirky feature feel at home. Here, the retro fireplace may have felt out of place with a solid-colored backdrop, but the groovy wallpaper and starburst clock play up the style with a bang. For a cohesive look, paint baseboards and moldings the same color as the background of the paper.
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Photographed by Gunnar Larson.
Serve up some sass.
Move over, ubiquitous wooden coffee table. Enter ray of sunshine. Especially if the main pieces in your room — sofa, rug — are neutral, a bright, bold piece draws the eye and gives a basic space some much-needed personality.
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Photographed by Gunnar Larson.
Create a happy pillow family.
Just like you and your sister share similarities but couldn’t be more different, fun throw pillows can also live together while maintaining an individual identity. A few rules: Bring in one or two matching pairs to maintain a semblance of normalcy; keep some colors consistent (the solid chartreuse pillow in back shares a stripe with the one far right); and play with textures (nubby linen can look great against shiny silk — and keep it from sliding down). The pièce de résistance? A pretty oblong pillow in front.
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Photographed by Hailey Howard.
Make a workspace less work-y.
Brighten up your home-office area by organizing your decor and supplies by color — an instant way to turn basic objects into objets d’art (and make tackling that monthly report a little less dreary). Here, an all-white space feels anything but institutional, thanks to a rainbow wall of wares. Add homey touches like homemade art and ethnic baskets to tone down any lingering work vibes.
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Photographed by Maia Harms.
Play around with texture.
Nothing makes a space feel more inviting than luxurious fabrics in rich hues —and rough-hewn accents that make you want to cop a feel. Here, an amazing bed frame made of tree trunks is juxtaposed with a deep-red bedspread. And, the sheer canopy and effortlessly tossed throw pillows add to the folksy-meets-fairytale feel.
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Photographed by Maia Harms.
Use bursts of color for visual pop.
A white-painted room (hello, rental apartment) is the perfect backdrop for a color party. Stick to one or two tones for the most impact. Here, a sunny-yellow sofa, juicy-orange chair, and matching art instantly draw the eye, while the other furnishings — tables, rug — in bright white keep the space from feeling chaotic.
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Photographed by Maia Harms.
Go eclectic with collections.
Bundling favorite objects — glass vases, vintage teapots, those creepy figurines from Aunt Linda — can give your home an eclectic color palette and a feeling of curated cool. Display your prettiest pieces on shelves at eye level — it’s a great way to breathe some life into a plain white wall. Plus, those quirky trinkets will make for fun conversation starters at your next house party.
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Photographed by Nina Westervelt.
Kick neutrals up a notch.
Subtle, feminine, and classic — pale-peach walls are perfect for the color shy and feel as if you’re lounging in a breezy cabana. Pair with black, white, and taupe hues to keep the look understated, but go big on pattern so it doesn’t feel boring. Here a bold striped rug, ikat sofa, and crisscross chairs share similar brownish tones.
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Photographed by Sebastian Marin.
Don’t take yourself too seriously.
To create a truly unforgettable home, you have to go outside your comfort zone. Think of it this way: Each room should have one quirky element to give it the cool kick it needs to stand out. Top a Buddha sculpture with a bright-red feather headdress or plop a hot-pink Elvis bust on your mantel. In short, get weird, but not too weird — your snow-globe collection is probably best kept under wraps.
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Photographed by Sebastian Marin.
Paint a flea-market find.
A fresh coat of paint can turn a past-its-prime piece into the coolest thing in your space. Go bold — cobalt, fuchsia, kelly green — and bring in accessories with similar tones to perfect your “decorating moment.”
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Photographed by Shirley Yu.
Cozy up a bedroom with personal pieces.
Sure, it’s a sanctuary, but it doesn’t have to feel sleepy. Groupings of art, objects, and other personal touches can add just the right amount of charm and soul. Stick to a theme for a coherent look. Here, a lemon-yellow wall makes a sunny backdrop for seascape paintings, a smart book stack, and a few favorite things — that white bow tie and trophy sure have stories to tell. And, the trick to achieving the perfect grouping of items is actually imperfection: Note the small photos tucked into the bottom frame add just the right amount of personality.