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No-Fail Colors for Living Spaces

Five great hues that can help turn bland and blah into warm and inviting

Fresh New Palettes

Is white's moment finally over? So one might conclude after peeking into homes with surprising new palettes, including soft blues, soothing greens, and buttery yellows. Trend watchers like to say that color choices are tied to fashion, travel, nature, or even pop culture. But whatever their inspiration, today's popular picks can give a traditional room a fresh look and alter the mood of a living space to make it more welcoming. "Soft, complex shades in particular allow whatever you put against them to work," says Dee Schlotter, senior color marketing manager at PPG Pittsburgh Paints—as you'll see in this room and the four that follow.

Twilight Blue

Photo by Douglas Gibb/GAP Interiors; (Paint Dab) Brian Henn/Time Inc. Digital Studio

The cool gray-blue that enriches these walls draws out complementary red, gold, and brown undertones in the furnishings—from the chair legs to the chest, the lampshade, "even the rusty color of the clock," notes Erika Woelfel, color marketing director at Behr. "Gray-blue can recede," she says, "allowing the details to come forward." The popularity of duskier, more muted shades is part of a shift toward what she calls "comfortable colors," adding, "they are also ones that are easy to decorate with."

For a similar look, try: Atmospheric, Behr

Silvery Gray

Photo by David Brittain/Ideal Home/IPC+ Syndication; (Paint Dab) Brian Henn/Time Inc. Digital Studio

Gray is arguably the new "It" neutral, having sneaked up on beige and white in kitchens and baths to conquer walls all over the house. In living spaces like this one, "it whispers," says Dee Schlotter, "so whatever you put against it works and feels melded together." The key, she says, is to look for a gray that is '"clean and light and provides a nice, quiet feel.'"

For a similar look, try: Thin Ice, Olympic

Lively Green

Photo by Nick Keane/Ideal Home/IPC+ Syndication; (Paint Dab) Brian Henn/Time Inc. Digital Studio

"In a formal living space, the right green will be calming but still evoke a bit of energy and warmth," says Jackie Jordan, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams. The trick for a gathering space is to avoid overly bright or saturated hues with too much yellow. "Start with the green in a piece of art or fabric and go toward one that is a couple of shades lighter and has more gray in it, like the one here," she says. "Your goal should be a shade that is relaxed and soothing."

For a similar look, try: Shagreen, Sherwin-Williams

Mint Green

Photo by Tria Giovan; (Paint Dab) Brian Henn/Time Inc. Digital Studio

"With green, there are so many variations, it's easy to find one that works for you," says designer Genevieve Gorder, a color expert for Valspar. This soft green feels cool and refreshing. Crisp white trim plays up its airy character, while warm brown wood and metal accents help ground it and give it a sophisticated edge. The result is a fresh look that keeps this traditional living room from feeling dated.

For a similar look, try: Pillow Mint, Valspar

Golden Yellow

Photo by Simon Whitmore/Ideal Home/IPC+ Syndication; (Paint Dab) Brian Henn/Time Inc. Digital Studio

In this knit-together space, a backdrop of soft yellow harmonizes with the honey tones in the wood, while chocolate-brown armchairs and a creamy white fireplace mantel anchor the space and add contrast. "This yellow is both mellow and elegant and creates a sense of tranquility," says Barbara Richardson, a color expert with Glidden. "It's warm and welcoming but has enough body to make a statement, especially when paired with white."

For a similar look, try: Natural Straw, Glidden