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Tired of beige? Designers share their go-to bold paint colors

Dramatic hues are a way to make your home feel special.

Fan of color samples. Catalog of rainbow color samples for design. Design concept
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Part of Florida designer Lisa Gilmore’s job is suggesting paint colors that can deliver a big wow factor. For one St. Petersburg client whose home was filled with lots of creams and taupes, Gilmore envisioned a cozy family room enveloped in a shade of raspberry from Sherwin-Williams. “We will paint this space ‘Juneberry,’ and it will wrap you in this scrumptious hug of color,” she told them.

Though hesitant at first, the client was blown away by how great it looked once the paint was on the walls. “She had tears in her eyes when she saw it,” Gilmore recalled. Often, the client would take friends on a tour of the house “and save this room for the grand finale.”


Dramatic colors are a way to make your home feel special and to “create a presence of who you are and what your personality is,” said Jamie Drake of Drake/Anderson in New York. Drake recently finished a book with the firm’s cofounder, Caleb Anderson, titled “Bold: The Interiors of Drake/Anderson,” which is due out in September from Rizzoli.

We asked Gilmore and Drake, as well as Los Angeles designer Kathryn M. Ireland and Silver Spring, Md., designer Iantha Carley, to share their favorite shades of blue, yellow, green, pink and purple. Here are their suggestions.


Softened Violet” by Benjamin Moore. Using a deep-violet paint takes guts, but Gilmore said this spirited color can create a dramatic Zoom backdrop that will make meetings memorable. “This is such an appealing color, because this is kind of an underdog of purples and rarely used in such a large format. But it radiates a bit of happiness,” Gilmore said. She used “Softened Violet,” along with red and cobalt blue, in the St. Petersburg, Fla., condo of art collectors who love modern design. The room is a combination guest room and Zoom room/home office.

Charleston Gray” by Farrow & Ball. Don’t be deceived by the name of this paint color, Carley said. It’s really more of a lavender than a gray. This “taupey gray-purple” is one of her go-to shades. She used it in her own bedroom, as well as the bedroom of a client in Bethesda, Md. “It’s great for bedrooms of any size. It just always works. And I find it soothing,” she said. And men, including her husband, tend to love the color. “He likes it because it’s a bold color without being dark,” she said.



Delightful Yellow” by Benjamin Moore. “This yellow is such a joyous color and reminds me of the sunflowers in the south of France and Monet’s kitchen at Giverny,” Ireland said. It brings a sunny glow to any space. She has used it for splashes of color in hallways, on floorboards, and on kitchen cabinetry. “It gives an uplifting moment without being too much,” she said.

Yellow Tone” by Benjamin Moore. Drake said the multifaceted “Yellow Tone” is not a typical yellow. “It appears especially delicious, because it has that dollop of green and reminds you of a gemstone: the citrine,” he said. His firm’s cofounder, Anderson, chose that color for his own New York home’s second bedroom, which doubles as an office. “The citrine and chartreuse in it highlight the strong architectural elements in the room,” Drake said. They found the perfect fabric, in “cocktail olive green” velvet, to pair with it for the tufted mattress on the guest bed.


Wasabi” by Benjamin Moore. Carley loves the sassy yellow-green of “Wasabi.” She used it in a small Maryland condo kitchen that has little light to give the place some punch when the client’s budget didn’t allow for new cabinets. “Just painting the walls ‘Wasabi’ will make any room special,” Carley said. “It has just enough yellow in it, which makes it perfect for rooms that don’t receive a lot of any natural sunlight. It’s great for a kitchen, dining room, entry, or powder room.”


Derbyshire” by Sherwin-Williams. There’s no question that “Derbyshire” is a bold, lively green, Gilmore said. If someone is leery of committing to it for a full wall, she suggested using it on a vanity or a piece of furniture to add interest. But it’s also a stunner when used in the entire room. “I can see this used in a home office or a formal living room, using built-ins and carpentry details,” Gilmore said, “creating a very bold and sophisticated look.” Her pro tip: “Do this shade in a glossy finish to really pump up the volume and luxe feel.”


Old Navy” by Benjamin Moore. Drake said navy can work in any room, and a dark navy, such as this one, can actually make a room feel more spacious. He likes this particular shade because it has a bit of warmth to it. He used it in a small library that doubles as a guest room in New York’s West Village, painting the space in a semi-gloss finish, “so it has a bit of reflectivity to it,” Drake said. “Some people think you should avoid color in a small room, but we disagree, and we think you should go the boldest there.”

Caribbean Teal” by Benjamin Moore. Ireland chose this bluish-green tone for a cozy room in California that is used as both a library and a place to have dinner. “Everything in the room, from ceilings to bookshelves, is painted the same color,” Ireland said. The shade is sophisticated and lends itself well to a small space. Painting the shelves and woodwork one color gives a room a look that can be either 18th-century classic or 21st-century modern, she said. “It’s particularly good for nighttime with low lights to create a moody space,” Ireland added.



Juneberry” by Sherwin-Williams. “‘Juneberry’ is a color that claims the room,” Gilmore said, “so if you are looking for a paint color that pops and adds a level of luxury and romance, then this is it.” If you do commit to a color with serious drama, Gilmore said, consider also bringing it into the furniture and window treatments for a cohesive look. And reference your bold color in other rooms. “Do a continuous thread throughout your other spaces, so it all makes sense,” Gilmore said. That can be achieved with a pillow or a lamp or with the same color in a piece of art.

Salmon Peach” by Benjamin Moore. How do you use pink on the walls and not make it look too pretty? Drake likes Salmon Peach, because it has some depth. “It’s not really a feminine pink,” he said. According to Drake, bringing in black and charcoal gray furnishings to the pink space made it “a little earthier and grittier.”


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