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Living Color: Tips to Add Color Without Painting the Walls

Color is a magical elixir that can transform a plain room, warm up a cold space or turn a tired area into an exciting, personal oasis. Here are eight great strategies to infuse your home with color.

What To Do When You Have No Clue

If you find yourself staring at the bare brown walls of your new log home, don’t despair. Just think small. Start with the most public space of them all — the great room. Pick a color palette, then pull one color from those areas and carry it throughout the house. Senior designer Mark McCauley of Naperville, Illinois-based Darleen’s Interiors gives this example: Take a red sofa and tone it down to burgundy for your overall palette, which you can continue in the more private rooms like the den, office and bedroom. If you have patterned upholstery, tapestry rugs or large works of art, take a dominant color from the pattern. If you want neutral paint for the non-log walls, find complementary beige and soft-white tones in the patterns.

Color Made Simple

Current trends are skin-tone neutrals for backdrop colors, from beige to taupe to chocolate brown. Other popular choices include shades of orange, peach, dark copper and bronze with saddle and russet in mid-ranges. No pastels. This is good news for log home devotees who typically favor more natural, earthy color schemes. “Decorating with color is like wearing cosmetics,” according to Deborah Zimmer, a color expert for Rohm & Haas Paint Quality Institute in Spring House, Pennsylvania. “Start natural and add bolder colors as accents.”

Paintless Color

Let’s face it; paint is the least expensive way to add color to a home. But a log home doesn’t always have “paintable” spaces. So how do you infuse it with color without the aid of a roller or brush? If you have the budget, fabrics like damask, silk and Flemish tapestries can be wonderful, rich bursts of color. But for less money, you can achieve a similar effect with inexpensive accents like throws, quilts made of colorful scarves, lamps, ceramic pitchers or pottery. Light is another way to brighten a room without a lot of fanfare. Use shadows, lamp shades and different light-bulb colors to create ambiance.

Constructive Advice

Color doesn’t have to be an after-market affair. There are ways to give your home a healthy dose of your favorite hue. For example, glazed French lava stone for countertops in vibrant shades of red, pea green or aqua are gaining popularity according to kitchen and bath designers. For those minding the bottom line, laminate comes in a dizzying array of colors and patterns. When it comes to wood cabinetry, natural wood tones aren’t the only way to go. A gray-based green (think Vermont slate), pumpkin-patch orange and deep currant red can add warmth and vitality. “Log home owners need sophisticated colors because of the wood and the stones around the fireplaces,” says Doty Horn, director of color for Benjamin Moore Paints in Mount Vale, New Jersey. “You don’t want clear, clean colors; instead, you need layers of rich color to accentuate the log walls.”

The 60-30-10 Rule

What’s this? Think of a man dressed in a business suit. Sixty percent of the suit can be dark brown; 30 percent is his goldenrod-toned shirt and 10 percent is the accent color of his red tie. Break down your space the same way: 60 per-cent is a dominant, thematic color (such as a brown leather sofa and a loveseat); 30 percent, a secondary color (a gold armchair), and 10 percent, an accent color (bold red toss pillows or an Oriental rug).

Go With the Flow

It’s important to have a “flow plan” when carrying a single color throughout the home, although each room will wear the color in its own unique way. Choose a palette of similar shades then mix and match them to create a sense of ease and energy when traveling from room to room. “I like to use varying colors of the same hue in different environments. I just use them in different proportions,” says Roberta Richey, president of Lodge Looks in Lecompton, Kansas.

Architecturally Correct

The colors used on both the interior and exterior should reflect a log home’s style and natural aesthetic. Accent colors should convey a rustic or earthy sensibility to blend naturally with the log stain you’ve selected. Warm neutral shades work well with a variety of stains from light to dark. “Stick with greens, terra cottas, blues and blue-based reds,” advises Sheri Thompson, director of color marketing and design for Sherwin-Williams. These colors have a direct correlation with nature and provide a perfect complement for a log home.

Future Forecast

So what’s the crystal ball predict for kitchen color? When it comes to recent trends, think of the little black dress sprinkled with gold accessories. Mustard walls with gold fixtures are being ordered now for the coming months. And all-black appliances, sinks, crystal goblets, tableware and vases in finishes from glossy to matte offer a clean, contemporary sweep with lots of style. “Black gives the eye a break from color and adds drama and definition to the architecture of the room,” says Deborah Zimmer. “It will be huge next year.”

The Psychology of Color Test Your Knowledge

So why are we drawn to one color over another? Is it mere preference? Is it science? Actually, it's a bit of both. Take our quick True/False quiz to see if you can pass Color Psych 101.

1. Many restaurants favor deep-red dining rooms because the color encourages guests to order more. True.

Studies have shown that this vivacious, emotionally intense color stimulates the appetite. In large quantities, it also can raise blood pressure and cause rapid breathing. Devotees of the color red are passionate about the hue — no wonder it's the official color of love! A russet red can be a great complement to your own log home dining area.

2. Green is currently the most popular decorating color in the United States because people believe immersing themselves in green will increase their wealth. False.

Green is the most popular color in the decorating spectrum right now, but it has nothing to do with cash (though it can infer prosperity). Its peaceful, refreshing tone is central to the get-back-to-nature movement so many interior designers are currently embracing — a feeling that fans of the log home lifestyle have been in touch with for years. Hospital waiting rooms and even TV-show backstage areas (hence the term "green room") use the hue because it encourages people to relax.

3. Brides wear white because it's the color of fertility. False.

When it comes to wedding wear, white denotes purity. (However, in the Middle Ages, brides actually did wear green because it symbolized fertility.) In decorating, white is favored for kitchens and baths because it infers cleanliness, but the downside is that it's hard to keep it that way.

4. Yellow rooms make babies cry. True, believe it or not.

Studies have shown that this quintessential neutral for nurseries actually can cause babies to cry more — particularly in brighter, more pure tones. Though it's often considered the color of optimism (think bright-and-sunny yellow), people tend to lose their cool in rooms of this overpowering hue. If you favor yellow for your log home, look to dustier, more subdued shades like buttercream or pale lemon.

5. In the arena of men's sports, some venues paint the visitor's locker room pink because it's emasculating. This is both true and false.

It's true that over the years many a visiting team has had to prepare for the big game in a room the color of Bazooka Bubblegum, but the intent isn't necessarily to rob them of their manhood. Pink just might be the most tranquil color in the spectrum, and by swathing the locker room in this color, it (in theory) will drain the team of its energy. In log homes, it's probably best to leave the hue to little girls' rooms.

6. In decorating, avoid blue because it's cold and depressing. Again, this is both true and false.

Certain blue hues may make a room feel uninviting (and as for the depressing part, the phrase "feeling blue" must have come from somewhere). However, blue remains the most popular color in the palette, be it sky, navy or anywhere in between. And it's a particularly good choice for bedrooms. Why? Most people will say that blue makes them feel peaceful (blue rooms have actually been shown to relieve insomnia). So when you're looking for a good night's sleep, the sky is truly the limit.

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