Decorating Makeover: Add Color in Three Easy Stages

Decorating shouldn’t be intimidating, but it can seem overwhelming if you’re contemplating a whole-room redo all at once. Give yourself a break and the permission to go about a room’s color refresh in gradual steps. That way you’ll be happy in your environment no matter what phase you’re in at the time.


Neutral living room

Create the foundation of your room with furnishings that provide a comfortable gathering place. Start with your main pieces and most expensive furnishings in neutral hues that will form the backdrop of your palette and continue to work for you if you decide to redecorate down the road. Then, choose a color that will comprise 70 percent of your room (mainly the walls), another hue that will make up about 20 percent (perhaps a rug, window treatment, and chair), and the final 10 percent in an accent color through small accessories. Work them in regularly and you’ll soon have a room you love.


Neutral sofa and tables

Going all the way with neutrals is a great way to start—and stop if you’re happy with the look. Start your room off right with sturdy, comfortable seating options with classic lines. Select the best pieces you can afford. An oatmeal sofa, gray chair, and white tables and bookcase create a decor backdrop against aqua walls. Add interest with a variety of textures and layers.

A watercolor landscape brings color to the neutral seating area, while a classically-shaped lamp in warm wood adds substance to the barely-there glass and white metal side table. A plain off-white tapered shade broadens the lamp’s silhouette. In the opposite corner, the form of a Chinese Chippendale-style armchair injects a geometric outline.


Patterned bookshelf

Books add so much to a shelf, whether stacked horizontally or stashed vertically. If you have a collection of books that you love, consider choosing several among them that have spines in colors that work with your palette. If you don’t want to exclude favorites, though, you can wrap their spines in a paper that works with your color scheme. White fauna statues look perfect on the bookshelves, too, working with the mostly neutral room.

A bookcase can be instantly revamped by adding pattern on the shelf back. A stencil was used to paint a chevron design that contributes pattern as well as soft color.


Living room textiles

Though the living room furnishings are mostly neutral, a blue-aqua wall adds just enough color to keep things lively. The cool hue suggests the accent colors in textiles on the floor and seating.

A patterned wool rug grounds the area and offers warmth and visual interest underfoot. Velvety geometric pillows in cool blues dot the sofa and chairs. A soft ikat curtain panel in silver and gold creates a sinuous dance of pattern at the window.


Living room color update

When you’re ready for an update, give color more consideration with judicious additions around the room. The quiet pillows and side table have been exchanged for bright yellow pillows, a lampshade, and an accent table with geometric patterns, adding depth to the design.


Add texture and color

The porcelain lamp base has sheen and a beautiful organic shape. The lampshade brings bright color and pattern to the corner. The introduction of vivid yellow is reinforced by pillows, a throw, and a pretty ceramic photo frame on the bookcase.

The coffee table gets a bit of luxe polish through the simple medium of spray paint. By removing the glass and lower shelf, the transformation is the work of a moment and brings in a contrasting material that offers shimmer and classic looks.


Banded basket with a fluffy white blanket in it

Even in a completely neutral room texture adds a layer of interest that can take a room from ho-hum to harmonious. Here, the addition of a rustic basket is enough to provide tactile appeal.


Jazzed up seating

A dynamic sunburst mirror replaces the serene painting above the sofa. The filigree-like frame gives this mirror presence on the wall. Its openwork design reflects that of the Chinese Chippendale-style chair across the room, as well as the designs on the lampshade, pillows, and curtain panel.

Infusing neutral pieces with color can be as simple as draping a throw or tossing a pillow but for a more lasting impact, we recovered the seat of the armchair with a solid blue fabric. This is a great way to use remnants of expensive decorator fabrics.


Teal accent table

A small accent table in deep teal replaces the airy glass and metal nesting table at the side of the sofa. The rich hue and fretwork design hold their own next to the substantial sofa and offer a little extra storage in the room.


Living room 3-step color

With a layered and colorful refresh, the scheme is complete. Here, the rug is switched for a vivid and simply patterned one and the window panel becomes bolder.

Layering occurs through more bright accessories and extra artwork. The space feels rich but uncluttered.


Yellow and white trellis rug

A yellow and white rug in an oversize trellis motif brings an energy to floor level that unifies the room.


Floral curtain panel

A boldly printed curtain panel encapsulates the color scheme brilliantly and brings oversize pattern to the space. The fabric is repeated in an accent pillow on the gray wing chair. A vivid side table brings a little more yellow across the room to maintain the color balance. It provides support to the gray chair while adding a playful hue.


Gold painted bowl and balls

The formerly white bowl is upgraded to gold with a simple coat of spray paint and enhances the teal and white decorator balls like a jewelry setting.


Framed botanicals in living room

Gilt-framed botanicals create a grid of finely detailed art in a room of large furnishings that invites closer inspection.


Pillows and throw on living room sofa

A dark gray throw creates more definition on the sofa. Color is distributed around the room with a collection of patterned and solid hue pillows that share a common palette.


Gold banded vase of flowers

Jazz up a simple footed glass vase by painting a band of gold around the rim.

Easy, affordable updates give your rooms a new life and energy. And those accents and furnishings you’ve replaced can find a home in new places around the house, paying the refresh forward.


Photography by Chris Hennessey


© Caruth Studio

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  1. I love that teal table! Your rooms are always so nicely put together.

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