living room with bold turquoise walls
Photo: Karin Melvin
The interior of the living room’s uncased square arch is wrapped with the entry’s warm yellow, leading the eye from the front door through the house.
A room containing wainscot provides a good opportunity for a contrast between light and dark. A dark wainscot below a bright wall will draw attention to the upper walls, while a bright white wainscot next to a colored wall will focus the eye on the wainscot. You can also use paint to create the effect of wainscot where it doesn't exist by covering the bottom third of the wall in one color and the upper walls in another; then place a piece of flat molding along the intersection and paint it the color of the lower wall to reinforce the wainscot look.

Where rooms are relatively featureless, painting an "accent wall" in a vivid hue where the others are white or neutral can add a dramatic, contemporary edge. Or, as Ken Charbonneau, a New York color marketing consultant, suggests, paint the primary walls a soft color such as beige or celadon green and the accent wall three shades darker. "The accent wall still gives the room some punch, but it's not as dramatic."

If drama is your goal, you might rethink the entire notion of painting a wall from corner to corner, says Doty Horn, director of color and design for Benjamin Moore, and you'll create an architectural emphasis where one doesn't exist. Moving around the room in a clockwise direction, try painting a third of one wall and two thirds of the adjacent wall, wrapping the corner in color. Then paint the last one eighth of the second wall and three quarters of its adjacent wall, covering that corner. Another bold play: Take a big wall and, working in from both corners, paint it almost to the center, leaving an 18- to 20-inch vertical line of white space, and hang artwork down the center.

room color
Photo: Karin Melvin
Using the same gray in the open-plan adjoining living room unifies the two spaces. The simplicity of archways with no casework pulls in the view of the next room rather than framing it.
Consider the ceiling the fifth wall of a room. Though sticking to "ceiling white" generally makes a space feel airy, a similar effect can be achieved by painting the ceiling a lighter shade of the wall color. Just take the paint sample card that has your wall color as the middle choice, then go one or two choices lighter for the ceiling color. The result will be a room that appears larger, because the contrast between wall color and ceiling color has been softened. In a small room, such as a bathroom, the ceiling can even be painted the same color as the walls to make it look bigger.

Of course, sometimes lowering the ceiling visually creates a welcome feeling of enclosure. In his own 19th-century brownstone, Ken Charbonneau painted the dining room ceiling Pompeiian Red. "People love to ask if the red paint doesn't bring the ceiling down too much. But you're sitting the whole time you're in a dining room, and you want to create a warm, cozy, intimate feeling, so why not?" Of course, his ceilings are 11 feet high. In a house that has ceilings just 8 or 9 feet high, painting a bedroom ceiling a pale robin's egg blue, for instance, would be a way to create a similar, soothing effect.

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