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We scoured the spectrum to find 18 hues that offer you a neutral look that's enhanced by a hint of color -- making them more complex and sophisticated than the usual beige or off-white. Even if you've never been brave with color, you can use one of these paints. They will enliven what's already in your rooms, whether your style is modern or traditional, vibrant or restrained. And a little goes a long way. We've used these hues in simple, do-it-in-a-day painting projects -- from furniture and lampshades to walls and ceilings -- that can completely transform a room.
1. Buoyant Blue, No. 6483, Sherwin-Williams, sherwin-williams.com
2. Dragonfly, No. AF-510, Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com
3. Gray Horse, No. 2140-50, Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com
4. Blue Fir, No. MSL124, Martha Stewart Living Paint, homedepot.com
5. Cooking Apple Green, No. 32, Farrow & Ball, farrow-ball.com
6. Titanium, No. 2141-60, Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com
7. Punch, No. MSL014, Martha Stewart Living Paint, homedepot.com
8. Stonington Gray, No. HC-170, Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com
9. Babouche, No. 223HC-170, Farrow & Ball, farrow-ball.com
10. Heath, No. MSL212, Martha Stewart Living Paint, homedepot.com
11. Natural Twine, No. MSL217, Martha Stewart Living Paint, homedepot.com
12. Lancaster Blue, No. UL34, Ralph Lauren Paint, ralphlauren.com
13. Makaha, No. 19-32, Pratt & Lambert, prattandlambert.com
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14. Ash Bark, No. MSL211, Martha Stewart Living Paint, homedepot.com
15. Morning Walk, No. VM58, Ralph Lauren Paint, ralphlauren.com
16. Feldspar, No. MSL131, Martha Stewart Living Paint, homedepot.com
17. Mink, No. SW6004,Sherwin-Williams, sherwin-williams.com
18. Wampum, No. MSL179, Martha Stewart Living Paint, homedepot.com
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Soft and Striking Living Room
Why These Colors Work: Looking at this room of subdued peaches and tans, you might not think "contrast." But the accent pieces -- end tables painted Lancaster Blue (12) and a round tray coated in Babouche yellow (9) -- are in complementary colors that bring just enough modern pop to the formal setting. We unified two different end tables of the same height by painting them in the same color. Lampshades are often lined in peach to tint the light. Here, we painted the exterior of the shades to project the flattering color into the space (use blackout shades, otherwise your brushstrokes will show when the light is on).
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Living Room Palette
On the ceiling: This earthy tan (10) has an olive tone that works well with yellows. Think of it as sophisticated camouflage.
On the walls: This warm beige (11), taken from nature and tinged with peach, is one of Martha's favorite wall colors.
On the lampshades: A light and airy peach (15) with brown undertones, it adds sweetness without being saccharine.
On the side tables: Painted this deep, muted blue (12), furniture in a traditional shape takes on a more contemporary feel.
On the tray: A creamy honey mustard with a hint of gold, this yellow (9) brightens whatever it touches.
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In theory, we all know how to paint a room. Dip a brush or roller in a color and spread it over the wall. But painting neatly and efficiently is a skill most of us could brush up on. We have a basic guide to the essential tips and techniques to get the job done.
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Vantage Point with a View
Why These Colors Work: Three shades of green mingle by a window, showing how well superneutrals get along. Painted the grayish hue of a blue fir (4), the handsome wooden valance has a strong cutout shape. We accented its silhouette with a crisp stenciled border in light apple green (5), also applied to the picture frame. The stool got a similar treatment. We painted the legs a deeper shade of teal (2), leaving the raised edges the original gray color.
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On the walls: A sweet, slightly cool white (6) that suggests fluffy snow or fresh whipped cream.
On the window mullions: A stony or steely gray (8) that adds an extra dimension to woodwork and a layer of depth to a room.
On the valance: Regal yet earthy, this strong, mossy, grayish blue-green (4) is a good partner for Dragonfly (see 2, below).
On the valance border and picture frame: One of our favorite superneutrals: The pale Granny Smith green (5) makes a sharp highlight for trim.
On the stool legs: A dose of taupe mutes this jewel tone (2). Use it to ground a piece of furniture, and then go a little wild with the upholstery.
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Bright Notes in the Bathroom
Why These Colors Work: Bathed in soft gray (3) and enlivened with peach (7), what's normally a utilitarian space becomes warm and welcoming. This mirror's carved-wood frame is an unexpected flourish. We painted its acanthus-leaf curls in peach to stand out against and harmonize with the gray bead board. A wooden towel rack -- the sort often found at flea markets and country antiques stores -- was coated in sky blue (1). The monogrammed trash bin, embellished with peach and blue, pulls the palette together.
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On the walls: Like a cozy, wintry day, this classic gray (3) has a pretty, watery quality. It's a great foundation color for any room.
On the mirror and trash bin: Definitely a strong peach, but the gray base prevents it from being garish -- just the right amount of drama.
On the towel rack and monogram: An airy sky blue (1) that's beautiful on a ceiling but strong enough to hold its own anywhere.
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Cool and Collected Office
Why These Colors Work: Among the easiest colors to add to a room, grayish blue greens are layered here to create a calming effect in a home office. The warm gray wall color (14) was also used on the sides and interiors of the open-back bookcases, giving them the feel of built-ins. A minty green on the case's front (16), applied with a short roller, adds crisp definition. The same paint was used on storage baskets stowed in the lower cubbies. Rounding out the palette, the desk is painted a misty, barely there grayish blue green (13). Because the wood of this Ikea piece was so smooth to begin with, we chose glossy paint, adding shine to the many textures in the space.
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On the walls and bookcase interior: Like khakis you want to wear every day. It has a greenish tint (14), but it's still warm.
On the bookcase fronts: A classic Martha mint, this green (16) shines against putty colors. It's ideal for accenting furniture.
On the desk: Want a break from straight-up white? This is the perfect upgrade. A hint of green (13) allows it to work with darker and lighter shades. To bring out its complexities, paint something large -- even a ceiling.
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Hint of Spring in the Dining Room
Why These Colors Work: Lavender (18) brushed on the bases of tabletop domes adds dimension to the earthy gray-green palette of this dining room. We selected semigloss paint for this easy centerpiece project; it yields a soft sheen that plays off the glistening glass domes and the gleaming rosewood pedestal table. Although our tabletop domes are new, with traditional beveled edges or more modern straight sides, vintage pieces are also available. Use one or more as a centerpiece year-round, filled with flowering plants that echo the china or artwork you have in the room. A picture frame painted dark taupe (17) ties in nicely with the linen-covered chairs, while the pale-green ceiling (5) lightens the space.
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Dining Room Palette
On the ceiling: This shade (5) is equally intriguing on a ceiling or as an accent color.
On the picture frame: This rich lavender taupe (17) doesn't compete with its neighbors, such as artwork.
On the dome bases: A moody, Victorian-inspired lavender (18). More of a trim or accent color, it freshens a space without being loud.
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Ready to paint? First, read our primer, which details how to find the perfect one for you and create a palette.
Photography: Bill Batten
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