Plus, she shares the hues we'll all start seeing everywhere.
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Colorful art hangs over a nightstand
Sharon Radisch
| Credit: Sharon Radisch

Want more color in your home, but you're afraid to make the commitment to a bold paint color or a vibrant armchair? In her new design tome, Living with Color: Inspiration and How-Tos to Brighten Up Your Home, textile designer, artist, and author, Rebecca Atwood teaches readers how to break their relationship with beige and create a color palette that not only resonates with their aesthetic, but also makes them happy. Here, the Brooklyn-based designer shares some of her best tips from her stylish and sensible guide, as well as predicts the next "Millennial Pink."

Start Small

When it comes to creating a color palette for you home, experiment with the hues you're drawn to. "Start with small pieces that you can change out frequently, that way you can see how you respond to certain colors without any big commitments," says Atwood. For instance, buy pillowcases for your bed in colors that you're considering instead of a whole bedding set, or switch out napkins on your table with another color that interests you. "It's about playing around with color combinations," she says.

The Colors You Can't Go Wrong With

If you just can't decide where to start, Atwood promises, "you can't go wrong with blue—I really think of it as a neutral." Another one of her favorites, "even though it often gets a bad rap, as some associate it with the 70s and shag carpeting," is orange. Instead of a bright hue, think about terra-cotta tones or a beautiful soft tangerine she says. "Those help warm up a space."

Figure Out the Vibe

Even before looking at a color wheel, think about the mood you want to create in a room, says Atwood. "If you want [the space] to feel light and airy, you're going to want more light colors. If want it to feel more comfy and cozy, you might want more midtones," she explains. "And if you want it to feel more moody and dramatic, add in more dark tones."

Find the Colors That Make You Happy

Although oranges and yellows are often associated with happiness, how emotions are tied to color is a bit more complicated. "While yellow [is known to] make people feel sunny and happy, if you have negative associations with the color, it may not make you feel that way," explains Atwood. How people react to colors is very personal. "One of the reasons I wanted to share the history of colors in the book was to show that in different cultures, specific colors can have different meanings," she says. "There are things that are going to affect that meaning for you—like your cultural references or your memories." That's why she encourages readers to examine their personal associations with a variety of colors.

Add Connector Colors Instead of Pops of Color

"One of the biggest misconceptions is when people are told to, 'just add pops of color,'" Atwood says. "It's not that that's wrong, but you have to have colors that connect that pop to the rest of your palette. If you're trying to add tomato red accents to a couch that's entirely white or beige, the red is going to be very jarring," she explains. To make the look work, she says to add "connector colors," or the colors that help tie your neutrals and your bolder colors together. In the case of those tomato red throw pillows and neutral sofa without any color friends, she says to "add them in with some peach, a soft, deep taupe, and a coral so you're taking that strong color and making it a little lighter, a little less saturated."

Colors to Help You De-Stress

Looking to feel more relaxed at home? Atwood says try shades of greens and purples. "There's so much science behind why green makes us feel good—it's a very restorative color that I think of as both active but restful," she says.  Atwood has a lot of tips in the book for incorporating green into your home, the most obvious (and easy!) way is with plants.

Although purple can be a polarizing choice, Atwood says you can interject this calming color with a small accent like a bunch of dried lavender, or with a paint color that just has a hint of purple. "White Pepper" by Valspar is a beautiful gray-white that has just a little touch of purple in it, and I'd say could be used in any room of your house," she says. Also, instead of using purple with gray (a popular combination) try mixing purple in with earth tones such as natural woods, oranges, and yellows. "Mixing it in with earthy colors and textures will make purple feel more balanced and much calmer."

The Next Big Color in Décor

As for colors she thinks will be trending in home décor, Atwood says there's—gasp!—a new version of blush that's soon to take over. "We're seeing lots of this gray-lilac, similar to Valspar's "White Pepper" paint, and I feel like it's going to be the new version of blush," she says. She also predicts a resurgence in various shades of green, which she says has to do with people wanting to feel closer to nature. "I really love a dune grass green and a super deep green—there's one that reminds me of the shutters of a house near where I grew up," she says. "See, memories and color associations are so closely tied!"


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