Surprising Ways to Use Paint and Color in Design

By Megan Arquette
Surprising Ways to Use Paint and Color in Design

Paint can be a low-cost, high-impact way to add character and depth to your designs.

Surprising Ways to Use Paint and Color in Design

Interview a hundred interior designers and you'll hear it a hundred times, the quickest, easiest and cheapest bang for you buck is paint. "Paint is your friend!" they'll say, "Paint adds personality to a space" and "If you don't like the color, you can always re-paint!"

All true. Paint is a friendly design medium. Unlike wallpapering, almost anyone can do it. Actually anyone can do it, it's just a matter of how patient you are and even then it's usually a weekend project at most (read: quick DIY for those of us with short attention spans for house projects). And with the low VOC paints on the market, paint is the environment's friend as well. Paint is also, a great way to add character and depth to a space in need of a personality boost.

Surprising Ways to Use Paint and Color in Design

Look up - your ceiling color is just as important as the walls. It casts light in a way that can change the wall color as well as the rest of the colors in the room. It's also a great way to bring in character, especially to a room that is short on architectural detailing. Whether you use it in a complementary way or as a design detail, it's an important consideration when deciding to paint a room.

If you or your clients are feeling a bit faint of heart in this area, there's a way to do it without a lot of investment - i.e. with little to no error. Adding "a few drops" (about 10 percent) of the wall color to a white flat paint, will give your ceiling a more cohesive feeling. If you're feeling braver, you can add even more color. And if you're feeling like a rock star, go ahead and bring in a new color that complements the wall color as well as the other elements in the room.

Surprising Ways to Use Paint and Color in Design

Make sure the ceiling color you've chosen has relevance to the rest of room's color story. You can do this by pulling a color from a pattern that you've used in the room. Feeling even more confident? Then by all means, dial it up to 10 and create a pattern on your ceiling. Tonal Stripes incorporating the wall color can really add some spice. An economic approach to simulating the look of a favorite (expensive) wall paper is to create a stencil of the design and apply it to the ceiling. This application works really well in a small space like a bathroom, and your shoulders will thank you for it! There are many 'how-to' tutorials for this process on line.

And finally, paint isn't just for walls. A very hot trend right now is painted cabinetry. Again, keeping the color within the palette of the room, this is a beautiful way to update builder grade cabinetry and create a focal point for you kitchen.

Surprising Ways to Use Paint and Color in Design

Speaking of focal points, hitting local garage sales and flea markets can garner some great vintage desks or small tables. Grab a brush and a quart of semi-gloss paint in a fabulous color and you'll be amazed at the transformation. Because the initial investment is small, go a little outside of your comfort zone and punch it up with a turquoise, yellow or red. This is a great opportunity to bring in a 'wow' color to a room at little cost.

If you or your clients don't have time to hit garage sales, try painting a door in your house. The front door is a great place to start, but colored, interior doors can bring something that may otherwise be forgotten in the overall scheme. Whether you use a traditional black lacquer effect or something more modern like bright yellow your room will definitely be taken to the next level of design confidence. And hey, if you get tired of it, you can always repaint it!

Photos courtesy of Megan Arquette.

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Megan Arquette is a West Coast–based interior designer and creator of the design blog Beach Bungalow 8. She lives in a bungalow at the beach with her husband, two kids, three dogs and five fish.