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Dose of Color

A shot of color can bring out the best in an alcove, a fireplace wall, a built-in, even a sleeping spot. Read on for 13 ways to bump up a bland space and call out its secret strengths, from a paneled tub to a perfectly made bed.

Living Space: Scene-Setter

Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn; (swatch) Don Penny/Time Inc. Digital Studio

Here's where you're most likely to find examples of a house's "good bones"—and good reason to highlight them.

Warm red allows this wall flanked by built-ins to step forward, reinforcing the presence of a graceful arched passageway and the soothing symmetry of a seating area finished in quiet shades of amber and gold.

Shown: Ralph Lauren's Amalfi Red

Living Space: Focal-Point Feature

Photo by Michael Graydon; (swatch) Don Penny/Time Inc. Digital Studio

Ocean blue adds definition to this well-trimmed fireplace wall and invites seating to draw around it, campfire style. The vibrant shade, coupled with clean white, also helps balance the high-profile ceiling beams and chandelier.

Shown: BEHR's Neptune Blue

Living Space: Trick of the Eye

Photo by Mel Yates/Ideal Home/IPC+ Syndication; (swatch) Don Penny/Time Inc. Digital Studio

Bold color blocks, enlivened by delicate floral stenciling, mimic wall panels while suggesting artwork. The panels add visual structure to the space and help organize its furnishings as well.

Shown: BEHR's Green Grass

Living Space: Viewfinder

Photo by Sherwin-Williams; (swatch) Don Penny/Time Inc. Digital Studio

Accent walls feel suited to lofty, sun-filled spaces. Here, intense charcoal gray helps steer the eye to the outdoors, a mission supported by crisp white trim and sage-green adjacent walls.

Shown: (from left) Sherwin-Williams's Peppercorn, Svelte Sage

Bath: Paneling With Punch

Photo by Peter Aprahamian/IPC+ Syndication; (swatch) Don Penny/Time Inc. Digital Studio

Small spaces are an invitation to experiment with color—in some cases, one wall at a time.

An earthy green adds weight to this room's dominant features and highlights the tub's built-in look as well as the contrasting textures of the V-groove paneling, pedestal sink, and exposed beams.

Shown: Glidden's Antique Olive

Bath: Finishing Touch

Photo by Matt Antrobus/IPC+ Syndication; (swatch) Don Penny/Time Inc. Digital Studio

"Think about dressing up an accent wall with framed pictures or a mirror," says Sue Kim, a color strategist at Valspar. Along with providing extra polish, "it can help keep a strong accent color, like this dusky blue, from overpowering the space."

Shown: Valspar's Newport Gray

Bath: Character-Building

Photo by Mark Lohman/CollinStock; (swatch) Don Penny/Time Inc. Digital Studio

Where would this plain white vanity be without its zesty accent wall? Contributing to the cohesive feel are a wall-uniting ribbon of tile along with knobs, picture frames, and sconce backplates, all in black.

Shown: PPG Pittsburgh's Orange Poppy

Bedroom: Warm-Up Move

Photo by Bieke Claessens/Getty Images; (swatches) Don Penny/Time Inc. Digital Studio

One of the most popular places to inject color is behind the bed, where an accent can reinforce or even replace a headboard. But don't overlook other ways color can elevate a sleeping space.

The accent wall here evokes hot chocolate. The color deftly anchors the bed and makes this already cozy spot seem even more so.

Shown: Clark+Kensington's Boardwalk

Bedroom: Playful Stripes

Photo by Sherwin-Williams; (swatches) Don Penny/Time Inc. Digital Studio

"When other walls are a gray-tinted neutral," says Jackie Jordan, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams, "it's an opportunity to use lots of different colors, including blue, yellow, and red." The pattern above takes full advantage by layering all three on a base coat of brown.

Shown: (from top) Sherwin-Williams's Eastlake Gold, Gypsy Red, Dynamic Blue, and Black Bean

Bedroom: Layers of Related Hues

Photo by Simon Whitmore/IPC+ Syndication; (swatch) Don Penny/Time Inc. Digital Studio

Shades of lavender, lilac, and purple enliven a room otherwise wrapped in whites. Windows break up the accent wall so that it can ground the palette rather than overwhelm it.

Shown: Olympic's Perfectly Purple

Bedroom: Alcove Emphasis

Photo by Simon Whitmore/IPC+ Syndication; (swatch) Don Penny/Time Inc. Digital Studio

"Bumpouts and other architectural breaks lend themselves to paint," says interior designer Genevieve Gorder, who works with Valspar. Case in point: this once awkward recess, whose orange lining now signals a built-in lounge.

Shown: Valspar's Autumn Gala

Kitchen: Fresh Dimension

Photo by Benjamin Moore; (swatch) Don Penny/Time Inc. Digital Studio

In these multitasking spaces, color conveys warmth and the presence of a gathering spot. In an open plan, color helps define zones and can also give an unadorned task space an element of interest.

"A strong shot of color can 'interest up' a room that lacks architectural detail," says Ellen O'Neill, creative director at Benjamin Moore. Here, a mirror backsplash amplifies the effect.

Shown: Benjamin Moore's Tomato Tango

Kitchen: Study in Contrast

Photo by David Giles/IPC+ Syndication; (swatch) Don Penny/Time Inc. Digital Studio

Velvety green softens this sunbathed, mainly white space. "You need richness and depth and a different value to make an accent wall stand out," says Puji Sherer, a color expert at Colorhouse. And this verdant wall certainly does.

Shown: Colorhouse's Glass .05