Designing with a Bold Color Palette: Ideas for Your Home

For those with maximalist design tendencies, a bold color palette is one of the surest ways to add depth and character to your space.

Bold colors can create a wide range of feelings or emotions in a room. From coziness to drama to whimsy, if you are interested in playing with a gutsy color palette, it’s possible to do so in any room.

Let’s explore some of the guidelines for creating a room steeped in color and style.

With Bold Palettes, Color Within the Lines

Bold color palettes are designed to pull focus. That’s why they’re often best executed in a well-defined space. Open floorplan homes or giant SoHo lofts are not the best candidates for a commanding color palette simply because there’s too much visual space to contend with. Bright, attention-grabbing colors running across a wide open floor can begin to feel like a visual onslaught.

Instead, select a well-defined space in your home for your brilliant color scheme. A room with doors and walls that section it off from other areas of the home is the best canvas for brave color choices.

In a discrete space, bold colors feel cozy, welcoming and fun, rather than overwhelming.

Find Your Color Inspiration

When you’re introducing bold colors into a design scheme, one of the simplest ways to create cohesion is to anchor your room with an eye-catching piece that incorporates your key colors.

A large canvas, an area rug, or upholstered furniture can all contain bright patterns with a range of strong colors.

Hygge dining room
Dining room from Acampora Interiors’ Cozy New England Colonial project. Photo by Jessica Delaney.

This single piece justifies your inclusion of all the colors found within it. Viewers notice this element as they enter the room, and it creates visual cohesion as its colors are echoed elsewhere.

The colors you use throughout the room need not be exact matches for the ones in the unifying piece. In fact, sometimes using the exact hue, tone and saturation of each color can make the room feel overly fussy.

Instead, play with where and how the colors are introduced. Experiment with color saturation and disparate textures. Perhaps a true red from your rug is paired with a garnet in your upholstery.

Alternatively, a perfect match for the indigo in your big artwork feels entirely different when incorporated in the velvet drapes across the room. The texture of the fabric introduces new layers and dimensions even when the hue and saturation level are the same.

Live By the Color Wheel

How do you keep your room with bold colors looking rich and elegant?

If you selected a piece for your color inspiration, that will serve as a good jumping-off point. However, if there are other colors you wish to incorporate, it’s best to turn to the color wheel.

Color theory and meaning are truly their own art forms, but understanding the basics of how colors relate to each other can help you make well-informed color choices.

You likely remember learning about complementary colors in art class. These colors, like red and green, sit directly across from each other on the color wheel, and there is a scientific reason they pair well together. Analogous colors, those that sit next to each other, also make for harmonious pairings.

A dining room featuring Maximalism in interior design
Dining room from Acampora Interiors’ Collected Concord Farmhouse project. Photo by Read McKendree.

Take an example from Acampora’s Collected Concord Farmhouse project. These ultra-saturated teal walls work with the yellow-chartreuse drapes because blue, green, and yellow all sit next to each other on the color wheel. 

If you are opting to pull in colors without a single piece to anchor them, consider limiting your palette to one or two bold colors that sit in appropriate relation to each other on the color wheel, and support them with neutrals. 

To push the maximalist boundaries within a more limited palette, you can add further visual interest with eye-catching patterns or sumptuous textures.

Embrace Bold Neutrals

Not all bold colors are domineering. Yes, electric lime green is a color that is best used sparingly. But bold neutrals can be incorporated liberally into an interior design to chic and stunning effect.

Jewel tones are decisive colors, but they are neutral in the way they interact with other hues. Shades like midnight blue, deep aubergine, or rich brick red do not overpower a space. They add gravitas, but their command of attention is quiet–unlike the scream of that lime green.

These bold neutrals are a wonderful choice for wall colors, floor-to-ceiling drapes, large built-in pieces, or any other design element with which you want to make an impact without being overpowering.

Create Continuity Between Room Designs

Once you’ve selected a bold color scheme for one room, you must consider it in relation to the rest of your space. A brightly-colored living room in an otherwise all-white first floor will feel like it sits in a different dimension from the rest of your home.

To avoid discontinuity, look for ways to create cohesion between neighboring rooms. Pulling through color or theme from the living room into the neighboring dining room will help each space feel like it’s part of a unified whole.

Home office design featuring vibrant green wall color
Photo by Read McKendree.

Again, the color wheel can play a role here. You see in our Concord Collected Farmhouse design, shown above, the forest green of the study plays nicely with the damask-print wallpaper in an analogous yellow and complementary red oriental rug in the hallway.

Hesitant To Experiment with a Bold Color Palette?

If you’re intrigued by the idea of incorporating bold color into your rooms but are not sure where to begin, we suggest you start small.

A powder room is the perfect place to begin experimenting with gutsy design choices. Even one bright element in a small room can make a big impact. An adventurous wallpaper or bold vanity color can add vivacity to a compact space.

If you’d like to experiment with color in a larger space, simply choose a more limited palette. Introduce one bold color throughout different areas in the room. Again, anchor this color choice with a central piece. Perhaps you add a richly-hued velvet armchair to your study. Or you may paint the custom cabinetry in your mudroom a saturated jewel tone.

Let this central element be your introduction to louder color choices, but do not let it be the singular expression of this bold palette. One bright piece in an otherwise stark white room leaves your design feeling disjointed.

Instead, reflect this color choice elsewhere in the room–if not with a full-throated reply, then with a whisper. As you see in the photo above from the mudroom at our Watch Hill project, the rich blue-grey shade of the built-ins brings out similar hues in the flooring.

No matter what feelings you’re hoping to evoke in a space, a bold color palette can help you achieve your goals. Making deliberate choices and establishing cohesion with the rest of your home is the key to creating a welcoming space filled with vibrant color.