A stairway naturally sets the tone inside the entry of a house. Open the front door at this waterside guest cottage and you glimpse painted stair risers that strike a note as zingy as the keys on a kids' xylophone. Saturated blues, from deep marine to Caribbean turquoise, are interspersed with cool gray and set off by lots of clean white, giving them a sophisticated edge.
During a cottage-inspired redo of the little house, which is a converted garage, interior designer Erin Paige Pitts painted the upstairs floor white and connected it to the foyer by painting the stairwell white too. She drew colors for the risers from adjacent rooms. "I like to start out with a palette and let it flow throughout the interior, but without repeating the colors exactly," Pitts says. After playing with large-size color samples at her desk, she chose five shades that were "vibrant but not too bright" and carefully worked out a pattern. Something similar could be done with any color scheme, from warm autumnal tones to icy pastels.
What about scuff marks on all that latex semigloss? "Invest in Magic Erasers," she says with a laugh, referring to those miraculous Mr. Clean sponges. "And tell the kids to leave their shoes by the door."