Time to Banish White Walls

DEAR GAIL: I’m tired of my white walls and ready to take the plunge and add some color in my house. This is a big step for me so I’d like to do it in small doses. Where can I be adventurous with paint and not scare myself? — Laurie-Ann S.

DEAR LAURIE-ANN: I’m glad that you’re ready to take a color step. It’s OK to do it one step at a time; there’s no need to leap.

You’ve probably heard me say many times, “Paint is the least expensive way to make the most dramatic change,” and so I’ll say it again and add, “It’s also the least expensive decorating mistake you can make,” so be bold and daring.

To help select your accent colors, keep in mind that they should coordinate with the colors already in your room. You want the colors to stand out, but not be out of place. The unexpected is good, but don’t paint a niche red if you’re only decorating with gold and green. If you want to bring in a new color, just add a few accessories in that color into your room.

If you’re using bolder colors, remember to take into consideration what you’ll be putting back in the room or on the wall. How much of the color will you even see? I recently painted my girlfriend’s office a very bold yellow. With the room empty it was pretty overwhelming. But when we moved the furniture back in, including her four bookcases, credenza, hutch and lateral files, you only saw a small area and it looked great.

Remember to give yourself a chance to adjust to the color change. Don’t panic and run out and get white paint. Whenever you move from white to any color it will be a change and you might need a couple of days to live with it. Don’t forget, it’s only paint and can be changed.

Start by looking around each room for architectural features you have, such as a fireplace or art niche. If you have a fireplace, paint the area above your mantel. It’s already one of your architectural features in the room so bring it out with color. For art niches, select a color that works with and enhances your art and doesn’t fight or overwhelm it. The accent color is to do just that, accent the piece that you’re displaying.


Do you have any pot shelves or alcoves that could be painted a different color? How about open back bookcases or a TV niche? These are great places to be bold. Again, consider how much you will see once you place everything back.

One of my favorite places to add color is above and below kitchen cabinets. A kitchen is a wonderful place to liven up with color and this area many times is just forgotten. Select your color with your kitchen theme and accessories in mind to make them stand out. In one of my favorite kitchens we selected a bright pumpkin orange. Now orange is not my personal favorite color, but, boy, did her herb and fruit jars, Italian clay pottery and black wire accessories look absolutely fabulous.

You also can do this anywhere you have lower and upper cabinets. Maybe you have linen cabinets or a butler’s pantry that could use a boost of unexpected color.

If you want to be a bit more daring, paint one focal wall. In the bedroom, paint your headboard wall and pull a color from your bedding. Or be different and paint any wall that you turn and face when you’re coming down a hallway. It’s one of my favorite unexpected places for an accent color.

Rooms that are good for accent colors are powder rooms, guest baths and the toilet room. Even though these rooms may be small, we are only in them for a short time, so go all out with color and make a statement.

Is there a color that you love but you’re not bold enough to put it in a main room? Paint your walk-in closet or laundry room instead. Why not?

Since this will be a big change for you, Laurie-Ann, I want you to do some testing first. For each color you’re looking to use, purchase two pieces of white poster board, paint them the colors you’re considering and tack them up. Do not paint directly on the wall. You need to be able to move the color around in your room and you’ll just be creating extra work for yourself with having to prime over the colors.

Life is too short to live with white walls. So grab some paint samples and get painting.

By Gail Mayhugh of GMJ Interiors



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