It’s one thing to love an intense color, like the bright green on the wainscot shown at left, and another to drench an entire room in it. Consider instead pairing it with a closely related color, like the pale chartreuse on the upper portion of the walls, to create a combination that feels right.

The trick, says Mark Chamberlain, a decorative painter and colorist in New York City, is to select colors that are neighbors on the color wheel, a tool that designers use. The seven basic colors in the spectrum are arrayed on the wheel this way: red, orange, and yellow (warm colors) and green, blue, indigo, and violet (cool colors).

Then keep in mind that warmed-up hues often pair well with cooled-down ones. The two here are Climbing Lily (VM101) and Limeade (IB75) from Ralph Lauren Paint. Limeade is a warm, yellowish green; Climbing Lily is a cooler, greenish yellow. “Choose colors from close but different paint strips,” Chamberlain says. “Then play around until you find a combination you like.

Rooms with wainscot naturally lend themselves to the two-related-shades treatment, but you can also create separate color fields by taping off the wall halfway up or adding a chair rail. Here, crisp white bath fixtures help lighten up the effect. The bottom line: a lively look and a great place to begin the day.
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