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Author: Cristina Acosta

Cristina Acosta is an artist, author and color expert: Beautiful paintings, artisanal interior design and delicious recipes.

Afraid of Color? Is it Chromophobia or a Fear of Expensive Mistakes?

Are you afraid of paint color? You might be. Or, maybe you just have a fear of making expensive interior decorating mistakes. Although paint is often touted as a cheap and easy interior design fix, in reality painting your home can be a big, expensive and messy project. With paint prices between $30 – $80 per gallon, plus the cost of application, color mistakes add up fast.

And now is where I usually say, “Which is why you need a color consultant.”  But not everybody can afford or find the right color consultant.

So, what should you do if  you are determined to create your own paint color plan? Here are some color choosing tips if you’re looking to freshen a room with color:

  • Take time collecting samples of colors you love. Look outside of paint store swatches to the ordinary things in your life that you enjoy. The color of your morning latte may be your best soothing warm brown color.
  • Assemble your samples of the colors you love with samples of the colors in your room that you have to live with, like that ugly tile or flooring you can’t afford to replace.
  • Now, using a paint store fan deck, look for a way to bridge the colors you love with the colors you are stuck with. A “bridge” color is my way to describe a color that is a version of what you love, that will work with what you have.
  • Give yourself time with your color choices before you ask for anyone else’s opinion.
  • Life is short, live with the colors you love.  (And that includes white!)

Is Red Really the Color of Desire?

Painting your bedroom dark red can really work. (If you love red.) Be brave and use the colors you love in your home.

Drive by most any fast-food restaurant and you’ll most likely see red regardless of your emotional state, because red is understood to be a color that stimulates the appetite. KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King, and In-n-Out are some of the national fast-food companies that use red in their marketing.

Red has such a reputation as an appetite stimulating, passion rousing color that I’ve had clients insist on putting red in a room for that reason, or insist on not using red for that reason.

This was the case for a business that wasn’t in the food industry. After putting together an office color scheme with a company CEO, I was approached  by an upset employee who was sure that the dark cranberry red color we had chosen for the conference room would exacerbate arguments and increase dissension.

I assured the employee that red was going to work beautifully in the room and stimulate conversation rather than direct it. He wasn’t that sure of my advice, but he accepted his boss’ choice. The boardroom walls became cranberry red and everyone deemed it a success.

But all reds aren’t equal. Red-oranges, blue-reds, pinks, magentas, deep reds, bright reds, dull reds, dark reds and light reds are some of the variations of red that most any national paint brand offers.

And just like the many varieties of reds, there are just as many reactions and beliefs  surrounding the color red. Passionate, powerful, stimulating, argumentative, sexual, life-giving, playful, decorative, deep, are just some of the concepts that people attach to the color red and/or feel from the color red.

Whatever you feel about the color red, if you are attracted to it, I encourage you to use red in your room. As a room color or as an accent wall color, if using red scares you, putting it on your wall is a worthwhile risk. Whether you love it or hate it, facing the color red will leave you feeling stronger.

Mid Century Modern Bright Wall Colors

Choosing colors for a mid-century modern home is a balancing act between the historical and the contemporary color palette. Though slavishly adhering to a past aesthetic makes sense for a movie set, I prefer to choose a group of colors that give a nod to the past and live in the present.

Mid-century modern homes typically have an open floor plan that blends the communal rooms of the home: the kitchen, living room and dining area. This arrangement of communal rooms is typically called a great-room. Ceilings in the great-room are often vaulted and intersect at interesting angles with other parts of the architecture.

Bright colors define a Mid-Century Modern open floor plan accented with shapes of bright colors balanced with earthy golds.

These intersecting architectural spaces demand a cohesive color plan that looks great from every angle. Here is how I made the color choices for the home pictured. The home is mine, so the colors are some of my favorites mixed with some of my family member’s favorites. Built in the late 1980′s with a mid-century sensibility I sought to enhance the mid-century aspects through the color choices as I updated and resurfaced the home.

Cork Floor Stairwell with contemporary mid-century modern design and bright wall paint colors
Stairwell with contemporary mid-century modern design and bright wall paint colors

The primary color chosen for the home was the floor color, as the flooring is the same through most of the house. I chose Wicander floating cork flooring in a light golden hue that coordinated well with the existing natural wood baseboard, window and door trim. Cork is also a classic mid-century material that is considered modern, cool and environmentally sustainable, so it was key to setting the conceptual tone of the home.

The interior doors are natural wood (another type of “gold” color). With that earthy gold “anchoring” the home, I chose a gold paint color that I would use in various parts of the house, as a “connecting” color, thereby enhancing the visual flow of movement throughout the home. With that strong foundation of warm golds repeating throughout the home, the remainder of my color choices where predominately the warm colors of red and purple with a subordinate palette of cool green and blue.

The resulting palette of strong bright colors anchored with earthy golds created a happy, contemporary feel to the home.

Wall Paint Colors for a Small Home, Bungalow, Casita

Benjamin Moore color grouping. I put together this color palette of paint colors for a client looking for strong colors that would work in her small casita Spanish style home. Trims throughout the home stayed a natural wood finish.


Wall Colorpaint color ideas to help you create a sense of spacious flow in a small home or room.

Paint colors for a small house, bungalow  or apartment, (“casita” means “little house” in Spanish) can range from light colors to dark. Despite any color or design rules you may have heard, light colors like white, don’t always “open” up a room.

How the wall and ceiling paint colors you choose interact with the architecture is what gives you the feeling of flow that makes even a small home seem spacious. Here are some color ideas for small rooms and houses that will help you create a sense of spacious flow:

  • Choose colors that look great together. When a home is very small, the color choices for each area must work together as one pleasant grouping of color. (Pleasant to you).
  • Consider painting the walls and ceiling the same color. Ceiling colors that contrast with wall colors can create strong focal points that “break” the space of the room. The result is that you notice the line of contrast between the ceiling and walls before you notice other nice things about the room.
  • Select glossier paint finishes for darker colors: Glossy colors reflect light better than matte or eggshell sheen colors. When using dark colors in a small room a semi-gloss or high-gloss sheen will increase the feeling of light in the room.

Primary Colors are Red, Blue and Yellow

When people talk about bright colors they often call them “primary colors”. But to the artist and the color professional there are only three primary colors; red, yellow and blue. From these three colors, all other colors can be mixed, which is why they are called “primary”. The secondary colors (obtained from mixing one primary with another) are orange (red and yell0w mixed), green (blue and yellow mixed) and violet (blue and red mixed).

In the real world of mixing paint, it takes more than just one or two pigments to make every other color in existence. The reason is that each pigment whether natural or human-made is rarely “purely” a red, yellow or blue. And, the carrier or “base” solution the pigment is in can affect how the color appears.

Yellow, red and blue are the three foundation colors on the color wheel

In the art world, the carrier or base solution could be oil, acrylic, gum arabic (for watercolors), etc. In the world of house paint, a base is “tinted” (it has a color) and is different depending upon what type of house paint it is (interior, exterior, semi-gloss, eggshell, etc).

Color mixing can get pretty complicated.

But that’s nothing to worry about. Any professional paint store employee has a computer to help out with the color mix, and the most well-trained staff understand the science of mixing so that they can be sure the computer gets it right.

So…if you want to say, “Primary colors,” to define brights, that’s fine, most every color professional will visualize the usual Sesame Street kid’s colors and know what you mean.

Primary Colors are Red, Blue and Yellow

To the artist and color professional there are only three primary colors; red, yellow and blue. From these three colors, all other colors can be mixed, which is why they are called "primary". In the world of mixing paint, it takes more than just one or two pigments to make every other color in existence because each pigment whether natural or human-made is rarely "purely" a red, yellow or blue.

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Accent Wall Colors, Ideas and Rules

Originally published in Latina Style magazine, Su Casa home decor column, by Cristina Acosta

Dear Cristina,Bath, Project:Acosta, Interior

I love muchos colores and I want to include a lot of color in our home. I’ve painted a few accent walls that I like, but I’m unsure about how to continue adding color to the rooms and not break up the flow between areas. Can you give me some tips to help me organize my color choices so everything works?
M. Valdes
Painting an accent wall is a great way to bring color into your home. What often happens is that you’ll love your accent wall so much you’ll paint more of them. That’s when your trouble begins. There you are, standing in front of three or four accent walls painted in your favorite colors and the whole thing just doesn’t work. You’re getting confused. You’re starting to think that the only way out of your confusion is to paint the whole thing beige again. Stop! Sit down with a nice bar of chocolate (seems to work for me!) and take time to figure out what went wrong.

We’ll start out with a few basic concepts that you can work with for choosing and planning your color choices. Then I’ll explain them in depth.

  • Connect colors within a room — This can be walls to ceiling and walls to walls.
  • Repeat colors between rooms – A wall color in one room becomes the ceiling color in an adjoining room.
  • Choose colors with a similar intensity or value such as subdued, bright or light colors for any area of the house with connecting spaces.
  • Unify a variety of color choices with a repeating design element such as a trim color that repeats throughout connecting rooms.

One way to understand connection or flow is to explore disconnection. Exploring disconnection is a natural place to start as this is what you have, a house full of disconnected colors.  Begin with understanding why your first accent wall was such a success. An accent wall is a large area of isolated color that repeats the color of a furnishing or accessory like a sofa or vase. Paint one accent wall and it’ll look great. It’s presence helps to focus the eye on a portion of the room. Because the isolated color of the accent wall doesn’t lead (or connect) your eye to another area of the home, flow is not enhanced. That’s not a big deal as flow may not be important for that part of the room. Paint a few more accent walls and the lack of flow (or connection) becomes a big deal.

The reason a few accent walls don’t enhance flow is because the color is on only one wall surface (or plane) so it becomes a graphic or two-dimensional addition to the room. Connect that accent wall color to the same color on the ceiling or an adjoining wall and the color now occupies two surfaces (or planes), making the color part of the three dimensional architecture of the room. That’s why you aren’t sensing flow with a few accent walls. It’s simple; you’ve got to have a sense of three-dimensional space to have flow. In other words: For color to enhance architecture, it has to be on enough surfaces that it contributes to the shape of the room.

When you get one room looking great, your next challenge is to make sure the colors between the rooms flow together easily. Repeating a color from one room to the next can enhance the sense of flow between the rooms.  This is especially easy to do in an area where the rooms are intimately connected, such as a master bedroom and bathroom. Repeat the color on the walls in the bedroom on the ceiling in the adjoining bathroom.  I call this  “flipping” a color – it flips from the wall (a vertical plane) to the ceiling (a horizontal plane).Fireplace,Project:RichterW.jpg

A wonderful way to include a variety of colors in a home is to choose colors that have a similar lightness or darkness (value) to each other.  Think of the colors in a landscape at twilight or on a rainy day.  The lack of bright light makes the colors in the landscape less defined. They become more similar in value and shapes seem to melt into each other. Translate this concept into your color choices and your rooms will flow seamlessly together.

Another simple solution to unify colors is to repeat the window, door and wall trim color through out the home. Paint the trim a warm white semi-gloss or pearl finish. The white trim will enhance the flow of a variety of colors from room to room. If white isn’t your style, experiment with medium cocoa or dark chocolate brown tones.

Whatever your style, be bold and experiment with your color choices.  You’ll soon discover that bringing color into your home brings new and exciting perceptions and experiences into your life.

The greens and gold in the room with the piano are of similar value to each other and the wood floor. The slightly darker eggplant hue of the fireplace chimney is a similar value to the slate fireplace stones, creating a dramatic focal point amid the flowing background colors.

Taking a traditional color scheme and using it in a contemporary manner blends the clients rather contemporary home with her eclectic collection of furnishings.



Are You Tired of Struggling with Paint Color Choices?

So how does a person pick exterior paint colors? There are a variety of color solutions to this question ranging from the custom to off-the-rack choices. As a color consultant, when I work with a client to choose colors, the process is completely custom. Together we build a color palette that works with their architecture, environmental setting and possibly the local neighborhood association.

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