Room Color Trend: Divide and Conquer

2013-07-07T14:30:00Z 2013-07-09T12:22:07Z Room Color Trend: Divide and ConquerMichelle Krueger Times Correspondent
July 07, 2013 2:30 pm  • 

You want bright yellow. He prefers gray. Your favorite color is blue. She likes neutrals.

Can't agree on room colors? Now you don't have to choose.

According to Debbie Zimmer, a color expert and Director of the Paint Quality Institute, couples don’t have to fight over room colors anymore. This season’s hottest make-over trend calls for multi-color paint schemes using three, four or even five accent colors in a single room.

“Say you’re gravitating toward designer shades, and he’s fixated on the colors of his high school alma mater,” Zimmer said. “With multi-color paint schemes, you can create a room that satisfies both preferences.”

Unlike the prevalent one-color “accent wall” of the 80s, multi-color paint schemes encompass all four walls and take advantage of architectural features like molding, soffits and doorways.

“These are natural dividing lines that can increase the color potential of any wall,” Zimmer explained. “A simple chair rail can double a room’s color potential. The same goes for a half wall, an alcove or a mantel. Any architectural element is an opportunity to introduce a new and different color.”

If your walls don’t have molding or trim, she suggests creating individual color spaces with some imagination and painter’s tape - experiment with strategically placed horizontal and vertical lines.

“For best results, multi-color paint schemes should build on one predominant color,” Zimmer added. “This is the anchor that pulls your room together, so make sure it’s a color you really love.”

Whether it’s a favorite shade from childhood or one of 2013’s new hues, the anchor should cover about 40 percent of a room’s wall space. Then, choose a secondary color for 25 percent and two to four colors for the remaining space.

If this is your first foray into the world of multi-color paint schemes, the Paint Quality Institute recommends starting with suggestions from professional colorists who create paint palettes for a living. Nearly every paint manufacturer offers free brochures showing professionally created, carefully coordinated color palettes comprised of several hues that go together beautifully. Choose a palette of harmonious tints and shades that include your anchor color, and you won’t go wrong.

Then, to decide which color goes where, you can proceed in one of three ways:

You can simply cut apart color cards and tape the color samples to the walls. In doing so, be sure to place the cards close together where one color will abut another, and view everything both in daylight and under artificial light at night (different lighting conditions can alter colors dramatically). Experiment until you’re completely happy with your plan.

Another way to map out a multi-color paint scheme is to rely on a color visualizer, which may be available either at the paint store or on the paint manufacturer’s website. Using this special software, you’ll be able to nimbly move colors here and there with just a couple of keystrokes until you get things exactly the way you want them.

A third way to go about developing a multi-color paint scheme is to purchase small samples of paint, and brush color swatches right onto the walls. This takes a little more effort, but it can help make your decision-making virtually foolproof.

Since interior painting is a simple and inexpensive way to enhance a room or an entire home, Zimmer offers some suggestions for getting the best results - even if you’re an inexperienced do-it-yourselfer.

Get started by properly preparing all surfaces - removing dirt and grime before starting to paint. This can be done by washing walls and woodwork with a detergent-water solution, rinsing the surfaces clean and allowing them to dry.

Then, repair cracks, holes and surface imperfections with spackling compound, and apply stain-blocking primer to any areas that have water stains or other serious discoloration.

For best results, use the best quality paint. Top quality 100 percent acrylic latex paints resist spattering, tend to conceal brush marks and do a better job of hiding the color underneath. They are also tougher and more durable, with better long-term resistance to fading, yellowing and staining.

Work with high quality brushes and rollers as well. Better quality applicators apply the paint more evenly and make painting more effortless. The best brushes tend to be well balanced and springy, with tightly packed bristles (these will hold a lot of paint). When applying latex water-based paints, use brushes and rollers made with synthetic bristles and covers – they’ll maintain their shape regardless of the amount of water they’re exposed to.

To learn more about color and decorating, or to download the Paint Quality Institute’s free color app, visit More advice on interior paint color can also be found at

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