You are here
Update Rooms with Easy Color Accents
Revive your rooms fast with these easy ideas for adding pops of color
- « prev
- next »
- 1 of 23
Bored with a basically blah room? Afraid of committing to a strong color? Dying to update your decorating? Then you’ll love these easy ways of adding color to a room—in smaller doses. Keep clicking to learn more from some of our favorite designers.
Shown: Bright colors on pillows and end tables make brilliant bookends for a plain white sofa. “I love to use complementary colors, like oranges and blues, for a pleasing pop of brightness in a room,” says designer Tobi Fairley about the arrangement.
Designer: Tobi Fairley
Paint an Accent Wall
Not ready to commit to contrasting color in a big way? Compromise by painting a single accent wall. Limiting the square footage means you get quick results. And that means you’ll look forward to changing the color again when inspiration strikes.
Shown: A single sky blue section of wall turns this banquette into a fine-dining focal point.
Design: Eric Cohler
Stylize a Sliver of Space
You don’t have to wallpaper an entire room to change the mood it creates. Sometimes papering just a single accent wall makes all the difference, as shown in this otherwise all-white butler’s pantry. The wallpaper pattern is “Seaweed” by Katie Ridder.
Design: Kate Ridder
Wow ‘em With Window Treatments
Introduce color-drenched curtains, drapes, or Roman shades to enliven a space in an unexpected way. “While it can be a large statement, it’s also relatively easy to change should you tire of your choice,” says designer Taylor Borsari.
Shown: Bright pink and burgundy curtains add a dazzling dose of energy to an otherwise neutral beach house.
Design: Taylor Borsari
Boost the Color Quotient with Art
Show off your personal style by using a painting, print, or wall hanging to inject color into an otherwise lackluster room. You can use the artwork as a springboard for the whole color palette, of course. But it’s also fun to jazz up neutral walls with different artwork throughout the year.
Shown: “This painting by Wolfgang Tillmans cannot be ignored,” says designer Kara Mann. “Plus, eye-catching art is always a great conversation-starter.”
Design: Kara Mann
Display Dazzling Decorative Art
White or beige walls will always be in style. But some people want to have their neutral rooms and enjoy their colors, too. Isn’t it lucky that neutral walls provide the perfect gallery space for everything from decorative plates to wall pockets? Let your imagination be your guide.
Shown: An informal arrangement of colorful dishes is as free-spirited as the family who uses this festive kitchen.
Design: Louise Voyazis
Pile on the Pillows
Interior designer Lisa Sternfeld certainly knows how to update a room. Her advice for a quick makeover? “Use decorative pillows to instantly change the feeling of a sofa or chair. Choose similar colors and tones to make stronger patterns more versatile and softer on the eye. But don’t be afraid to mix.”
Editor’s Tip: Put your smartphone to work in creating a pillow arrangement. Try different variations of colors, sizes, shapes, and upholstery fabrics. Take pictures of each arrangement, then compare. Choose the one you like the best. Return the pillows that don’t make the cut.
Design: Lisa Sternfeld
Roll Out an Area Rug
Give rooms with hardwood floors or neutral carpeting a quick makeover by adding a colorful area rug. That way, you can jazz up the room in a matter of minutes (excluding shopping time, of course). “Not only are rugs decorative, they create a sense of grounding, anchor a furniture arrangement, and define a space,” says designer Timothy Corrigan, whose work is shown here.
See a more contemporary room on the next slide.
Shown: An antique Tabriz rug lights up the foyer with bold color. The walls are painted with Dayroom yellow from Farrow & Ball.
Design: Timothy Corrigan
Choose a Riveting Rug
Rugs can revive contemporary interiors, too. This modern dining room is warmed by both a fireplace and a spice-colored Ventura wool rug from Oriental Weavers.
Design: Erik Kolacz
Slide in a Stand-Out Sofa
Your sofa is probably the largest—and maybe the most expensive—piece of furniture in the room. So make that couch a focal point by choosing a model blessed with extraordinary color.
Editor’s Tip: Set out a few accessories in the same hue to carry the accent color throughout the room.
Shown: A tufted velvet sofa by Tilton Fenwick anchors a seating area with a blaze of color.
Design: Anne Maxwell Foster and Suysel dePedro Cunningham
Select Seats That Sizzle
Jazz up any room by upholstering seat cushions in attention-getting colors. You may want to pull the accent color from the largest pattern in the room—an Oriental rug, for example. Or make the seat cushions stand out even more by having them contrast with the background color. Redoing the room? Simply re-cover the seats with different fabric.
Shown: Lucite barstools with yellow vinyl seats glow against the kitchen’s neutral background palette and natural stone surfaces.
Design: Tobi Fairley
Place a Piece of Painted Furniture
You don’t have to limit your use of color to the walls, the drapes, and the throw pillows. Choosing a single strong hue for a piece of painted furniture is a great way to add color to any room.
Editor’s Tip: This also works in the kitchen or bathroom. Count on a brightly painted island or vanity to energize a sedate color scheme.
Shown: A single hue from the patterned Oushak rug inspired the paint color for this secretary, which now glows against a neutral wall color.
Design: Mary Douglas Drysdale
Colorize a Bookcase
You’ve got the urge to update a room without investing a lot of effort. Happily, that vertical space behind the bookshelves provides a blank canvas for adding a color boost with wallpaper or paint. Choose a background color that contrasts with your collectibles to make them pop.
Shown: The dining area’s built-in bookcase gets an energetic color fix from having “Pheasant” wallpaper from Twigs, Inc. applied to the back wall.
Design: Anne Maxwell Foster and Suysel dePedro Cunningham
Set Out Fresh Flowers
Just call on Mother Nature for help if you need to liven up a lackluster space. Do as homeowner Mary Silk did here in a neutral entry: Display an arrangement of vibrant blooms in an equally dazzling glass vase. Even branches with autumn leaves still attached add a welcome splash of color.
Design: Mary Silk with Danielle Krieg
Hang a Fab Fixture
Some experts consider hardware to be jewelry for cabinetry. That’s true, but we happen to think that chandeliers and pendants do the same thing for rooms, but in a much bigger way. Check out this screened-in porch: The blue Venetian-glass lantern stands out like the necklace on Kate Winslet’s neck in Titanic. All eyes are drawn to the blue glass, then to the white wicker set below. The coordinating striped pillows are from Ralph Lauren Home.
Design: Erin Paige Pitts
Layer on Luxe Fabric
At their best, neutral interiors offer elegance and serenity to all those who enter. But sometimes they can be borderline bland. For a quick fix, add color with a coverlet or throw tossed across the sofa, daybed, or overstuffed chair. Change the color or pattern with the seasons or special event.
Shown: A bright orange cashmere throw juices up a master bath dressed in a quiet palette of blues and grays. The geometric wallpaper and custom window treatment are from Holland & Sherry.
Design: Brian Brady and Franco Biscardi
Arrange for Some Tabletop Flair
Add color, character, and style to your interiors by displaying decorative accessories on coffee tables, end tables, mantels, and nightstands. Group items of a similar size or hue to make a stronger impact.
Shown: Pottery in different sizes and shades of turquoise lift the room’s palette without jarring the restfulness of the space, says designer Connie Beale. “Turquoise can provide a terrific spark without being overwhelming as a red or orange accent might,” she says.
Design: Connie Beale
Light Up the Look with a Lamp
Looking to boost a room’s style quotient without painting, wallpapering, or investing in new furniture? Turn to lamps. They can spark your style with either their shades or their bases. And they’re easy to swap out for models adorned with different colors.
Shown: A deep fuchsia-color lamp stands out against Tiffany-blue walls. This children’s bedroom is furnished with three matching beds dressed in white.
Design: Elizabeth Schmidt
Insert a Contrasting Piece of Furniture
Update the look by pairing larger foundation pieces, such as neutral sofas, with a contrasting coffee table, accent chair, ottoman, garden stool, or pouf. These smaller, less expensive pieces excel at adding personality, but can be easily changed out later when your color preferences change.
Editor’s Tip: Slipcovers offer another affordable way of making accent chairs or dining chairs stand out—temporarily.
Shown: In this softly colored room, all eyes are drawn to the tufted ottoman upholstered in “Union Linen”/Aqua from Pindler & Pindler. The sofas are covered in “Bastide”/Taupe by Manuel Canovas, Cowtan & Tout.
Design: Louise Voyazis
Rev It Up with Removable Wallpaper
Create a colorful accent wall with peel-and-stick wallpaper that goes on—and comes off—in a flash. “Like painting, it’s a quick way to provide drama,” says designer Eileen Kathryn Boyd.
Shown: Lipstick Plus-Faux Linen removal wallpaper from the Drysdale Signature Colors Collection through Casart Coverings.
Give Your Bed a Boost
Energize your bedroom by layering the bed with a comforter and throw pillows in saturated hues and bold patterns. For an even livelier look, include the sheets, pillowcases, and dust ruffle in the fun.
Shown: Coral is the dominant bedding color in this room, with splashes of pale blue in the pillow shams echoed in the table lamp.
Design: Allison Johnston
Tour the House of Hues
Get more color inspiration by visiting designer Tobi Fairley’s family home. “To live with me, you have to love color,” she says. You’ll soon see why.