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Bright Ideas

Martha Stewart Living, June 2007

Who says more is always better? When it comes to color, sometimes a bigger impact comes from thinking in smaller terms. Infusing a flash of orange here or a whisper of blue there is all that's needed to up the wattage. Paint, fabric, and paper offer opportunities to sneak rich hues into otherwise neutral spaces without a huge commitment of time or money. Taking a second glance at collectibles can provide ideas; a seashell's blush might inspire a bookcases coat of pink paint. Like fireflies on a summer lawn, the change will be subtle but dazzling.

Although we selected colors keyed to specific rooms, all of these projects will work with whatever color you choose. You can be casual -- selecting a spray paint you love, for example -- or more precise, perhaps using wall paint for an exact match with your decor. In any case, all of these ideas are low risk, so you should feel free to mix things up again.

Dining Amid Greenery

1. Hues on High

A chandelier's fanciful lines are highlighted by simple paper shades painted a coordinating color and finished with contrasting grosgrain ribbon.

2. Framed in Color

Richly colored two-tone framing mats bring vibrancy without the need to repaint an entire wall.

3. Fabric Table Cover

A coordinating mat protects the table and entices the eye. Ours is made of triangles of linen sewn together and trimmed with a cord.

4. Custom Rug Details

Embellishing a sisal rug with a painted border ties the room together and reinforces the color scheme with little effort or expenditure.

5. Patterned Seat Cushions

Slipcovers for chair cushions offer a chance to add pattern without going to excess and are easily changed. These printed-linen ones feature solid-white undersides and the same cord trim as the table cover.

Pretty in Pink

A cheeky pink works surprisingly well in the kitchen.

1. Ceiling Stripes

A wallpaper that might be overwhelming in big doses can add an unusual radiance to the ceiling.

2. Wallpaper Shade

Windows get a shot of matching stripes, courtesy of wallpaper adhered to a vinyl roller shade. To size the wallpaper, place it on a self-healing mat. Using a metal ruler, cut it with a craft knife, making it slightly longer than the shade. Attach it with spray adhesive, folding over the extra at the bottom to cover the shade's bottom edge. You may have to move the mounting mechanism, as the rolled-up shade will now be thicker than before.

3. Painted Shelves

A fresh coat of rosy paint is a time-saving alternative to installing new shelves. Removable wooden ones are the best candidates for a makeover. Prime and paint them with two coats, using a roller that leaves no telltale brush strokes.

4. Accents

Spray-painting metal canister lids is an easy way to add spots of brightness. Here we took the electric mixer as the color cue.

Blue Notes

Serene sky hues take the bedroom far beyond beige.

1. Headboard Ribbon Trim

A sedate fabric headboard is easily dressed up by attaching a wide edging of cotton-linen tape trim with fabric glue.

2. Richly Colored Bedding

There's no need to buy a whole new set of linens to vary the vibe in a bedroom. A few deep-colored items, such as pillowcases and accent pillows, provide a soft foil to crisp white sheets and a coverlet.

3. Wallpaper on the Side

To amplify a side table, slip a patterned wallpaper under glass. This project works best with tray tables or furniture with a raised perimeter or lip.

4. Skirting the Issue

When embellished with a tape trim that coordinates with the headboard, a bed skirt acquires a finished, inviting look.

Hints of Sunshine

Golden accents raise the visual temperature, creating a warm spot for relaxing.

1. Curtain Trim

A tape trim creates a bright edge on cream curtains. No sewing is required when you use a fusible web tape, such as Stitch Witchery, that binds two fabrics together.

2. Lampshade Highlight

Echo the trim color on the curtains by using fabric glue and a small brush to adorn a shade with matching bias tape.

3. Dual-Personality Pillows

A yellow sofa might be too much, but pillows infuse color without going overboard. Better yet are cushions with a neutral color on one side and a bright one on the other.

4. Painted Coffee Table

Even a simple coffee table can become an oasis of color. For a glass table, remove the top and spray-paint its underside. For a wooden or metal table, have a piece of glass cut to size, and then paint it. In either case, the result adds a luminous gleam to the living room.

In Contrast

Hip colors for a home office.

1. Vibrant Storage

Fabric storage boxes bring organization as well as a dose of color. Use fabric glue and a brush to enliven coordinating ones with vivid grosgrain ribbon.

2. Desk Set

Buy desk accessories in bright hues; or transform vintage trash cans, tape dispensers, and letter trays by having them professionally painted with auto paint.

3. Workstation

A custom work space can be made from file cabinets that are topped with wood or fiberboard and covered with Marmoleum.

4. Floor Plans

Use carpet tiles to create a rug-or even wall-to-wall carpetingthat fits your specifications exactly.


Although we selected colors keyed to specific rooms, all of these projects will work with whatever color you choose. You can be casual -- selecting a spray paint you love, for example -- or more precise, perhaps using wall paint for an exact match with your decor. In any case, all of these ideas are low risk, so you should feel free to mix things up again.

Painted Rug

To add a bold stripe to a neutral-colored, natural-fiber rug, such as one made of jute or sisal, put the rug on a protected work surface in a well-ventilated area. Use medium-level-adhesion painters' tape to mark a stripe of the desired width on the rug, so that each side of the stripe is delineated. Make sure that the tape is affixed firmly. With a small foam roller, lightly fill in the area between the strips of tape with paint, using only one coat and not pressing down too hard; the paint will sit on top of the weave without bleeding under the tape. Let dry overnight, and remove tape.

Colored Lids

To add color to metal canister tops, first choose a glossy spray paint in the desired hue. Alternatively, if you'd like to use a specific latex paint, home-supply and hardware stores carry power painters that spray paint. (Ask which model will work best for small projects.) Lay newspaper or another protective cover on the work surface, which should be in a well-ventilated area. Next, place an upside-down paper cup on the newspaper, and put the metal canister lid on top of the cup (to prevent paint from accumulating on the sides and sticking to the newspaper). Working with a slow and steady back-and-forth motion, spray the metal top with paint, making sure the liquid doesn't pool. Let dry.

Fabric Trims

To edge window coverings or embellish a bed skirt with color, choose a wide, textured ribbon in cotton or linen, and adhere it with a fusible web tape, such as Stitch Witchery, that binds two fabrics together. Following the manufacturer's instructions, pin ribbon to fabric, sandwiching the fusible web tape in between. Iron on both sides to adhere. For the headboard, use fabric glue. Place the headboard on a protected work surface. Use a trim or ribbon that's not too thick, and make sure you have enough for the entire headboard. Start with a corner: Fold ribbon over to create a right angle, with the extra fabric tucked behind. Apply fabric glue to the back with a brush. Pin down corner, then apply glue in sections to the remaining ribbon, pinning it in place as you go. Let dry, and remove pins.

Wallpapered Side Table

It's best to use a tray table or a side table with a lip around the perimeter for this project. At a glass or hardware store, have a piece of glass cut exactly to the dimensions inside the lip of the table. Glass will slightly darken paper's appearance, so you may want to test a small piece before proceeding. Place the wallpaper on a self-healing mat, lay the sheet of glass on top, and trace it with a craft knife. (Patterned paper or fabric, cut with scissors, works just as well.) Lay the wallpaper on the table, and place the sheet of glass on top.

Glass Tabletop

To create a colored-glass top for a table, first have a piece of glass cut to the desired dimensions at a glass or hardware store. In a well-ventilated area, lay down newspaper and items with which to prop up the glass, such as bricks with cloth on top or a sheet of plywood. Place glass on top. Tape the edges of the glass with painters' tape, folding a bit over to the unpainted side to protect it. Using a spray paint made to adhere to glass or plastic, such as Krylon Fusion, spray evenly and lightly, until the glass is covered. Once the paint has dried, remove the tape and carefully position the glass, paint side down, on the table.

Custom Desktop

Made from linseed oil, Marmoleum is environmentally friendly, is easy to clean, and comes in a variety of colors, making it an ideal surface for a desktop. First buy a precut wooden or fiberboard top. Cut Marmoleum to the desktop's dimensions, using a utility knife made for linoleum, available at home-supply centers. Finish the edges of the desktop with lattice strips, available at lumberyards. Paint the strips with latex semigloss paint, and use wood glue and brads to affix them to the sides. Place the wooden top on the file cabinets, and stabilize it with strips of Velcro fasteners; top with Marmoleum, weighted on both ends for several days so it will flatten. Then affix it to the wooden top with double-sided tape. It is simple to change the Marmoleum when you desire.

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