Designers share their favorite non-neutral paint colors


Part of Florida designer Lisa Gilmore’s job is to suggest amazing paint colors. For a St. Petersburg client whose home was full of cream and taupe, Gilmore envisioned a cozy family room surrounded by Sherwin-Williams raspberry shades. “We’re going to paint the space with Juneberries, and it’s going to wrap you in this delicious color,” she told them.

Although hesitant at first, once the paint is on the wall, clients are blown away by its beauty. “When she saw it, there were tears in her eyes,” Gilmore recalled. Often, clients will show friends around the house, “and save the room until the end.”

Dramatic colors are a way to make your home feel special and “create who you are and what your personality is,” says Jamie Drake of Drake/Anderson, New York. Drake recently completed a book with the company’s co-founder, Caleb Anderson, called “Bold: The Interiors of Drake/Anderson,” which will be published by Rizzoli in September.

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We asked Gilmore and Drake, along with Los Angeles-based designer Kathryn M. Ireland and Silver Spring, Maryland-based designer Iantha Carley, to share their favorite shades of blue, yellow, green, pink and purple. Here are their recommendations.

Benjamin Moore’s Softening Violets. It takes courage to use deep purple paint, but Gilmore says the vibrant color creates a dramatic Zoom backdrop that makes meetings memorable. “It’s a very appealing color because it’s the underdog of purple and is rarely used in such a large format. But it exudes a little joy,” says Gilmore. She used pastel violets along with reds and cobalt blues in her apartment in St. Petersburg, Florida, for an art collector who likes modern design. The room is a combination guest room and Zoom room/home office.

Charleston Gray of Farrow & Ball. Don’t be fooled by the name of this paint color, says Cali. It’s actually more like lavender than grey. This “taupe ash-purple” is one of her go-to shades. She uses it in her own bedroom as well as in a client’s bedroom in Bethesda, Maryland. It always works. I find it soothing,” she says. Men, including her husband, tend to like the color. “He likes it because it’s a bold color, not dark,” she says.

Benjamin Moore’s Delightful Yellow. “This yellow is such a delightful color and reminds me of 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 colour on hallways, floors and kitchen cabinets. “It’s an uplifting moment, but it’s not overpowering,” she said.

Benjamin Moore’s Yellow Shades. The faceted yellow hue isn’t your typical yellow, Drake said. “It looks especially delicious because it has a blob of green that reminds you of a gem: citrine,” he said. Anderson, the co-founder of his company, chose the color for the second bedroom of his own New York home, which doubles as an office. “The citrine and chartreuse inside accentuate the strong architectural elements of the room,” said Drake. They found the perfect fabric, in “cocktail olive green” velvet, to match the tufted mattress on the guest bed.

Benjamin Moore’s Mustard. Carley likes the funky chartreuse of mustard. When a client’s budget didn’t allow for new cabinets, she used it in a small apartment kitchen in Maryland that was poorly lit to give the place some punch. “Just paint the walls mustard and any room becomes special,” says Cali. “It has enough yellow in it, which makes it perfect for a room that doesn’t have a lot of natural sunlight. It’s perfect for a kitchen, dining room, entryway or powder room.”

Sherwin-Williams’ Derby County. There is no doubt that Derbyshire is a bold, lively green, says Gilmore. If anyone is skeptical about using it for an entire wall, she recommends using it on a dresser or furniture for added interest. But it’s also a stunner when used across a room. “I could see it used in a home office or formal living room, using built-ins and woodwork details,” says Gilmore, “for a very bold and sophisticated look.” Her pro tip: “Doing this glossy shade can Really boosts volume and luxury.”

Benjamin Moore’s Old Navy. Drake says navy can work in any room, and dark navy, like this one, can actually make a room feel more spacious. He likes this particular shade because it has a little warmth. 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’s a little more reflective,” says Drake. “Some people think you should avoid colour in a small room, but we disagree and we think you should go there boldly.”

Benjamin Moore’s Caribbean Teal. Ireland chose this teal hue for a cozy room in California that doubles as a library and a place to eat. “Everything in the room, from the ceiling to the bookshelves, was painted the same color,” Ireland said. The shade is delicate and perfect for small spaces. Adding a color to the shelves and woodwork can make a room look both classic 18th century and modern 21st century, she says. “It’s especially good for creating a moody space on a dimly lit night,” adds Ireland.

“Juneberry” by Sherwin-Williams. “Juneberry is a room-flattering color, so if you’re looking for a pop of paint color that adds a level of luxury and romance, this is it,” says Gilmore. If you’re really committed to a color that has Seriously dramatic colors, then also consider bringing them into furniture and window treatments for a cohesive look. And reference your bold colors in other rooms. “Do a continuous thread in your other spaces, so it all makes sense,” Gilmore said. This can be done with a pillow or a lamp, or use the same color in a piece of art.

Benjamin Moore’s Salmon Peach. How do you use pink on a wall without making it look too pretty? Drake loves salmon peach because it has some depth. “It’s not really feminine pink,” he said. According to Drake, bringing black and charcoal grey furniture into the pink space makes it “more earthy and tough”.

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