11 Truly Surprising Ways to Use Color

Kate Reid lets us in on her most prismatic tricks.

Kate Reid sees life in Technicolor. Her Manhattan apartment is a collage of pinks, blues, butter yellows, purples, even chartreuse—super-saturated tones that leap from the walls and furnishings. "They're all sort of tricky colors," admits the British-born decorator, who cites a beloved late grandmother and world travels for helping her develop such a distinctive palette. (Over the course of her 15 formative years at Marshall Watson Interiors, Reid had taken a lot of good work trips.) "I wanted it to be fun and cheerful and uplifting and quirky and eclectic," she says. Thanks to a few very clever decorating tricks, the apartment is just that—and then some.

Let a pattern guide your palette.

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James Merrell

"The old-fashioned aspect of this wallpaper has a modern twist of color." says Kate Reid of House of Hackney's Artemis, which covers her hallway, its greens and pinks spilling into adjoining rooms.

Use super-pale colors as neutrals.

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James Merrell

The barely blush Benjamin Moore Proposal on the guest rooms walls (left) is one of the few "quiet moments" in the home—but it still speaks volumes.

Try a dark color in a high gloss.

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James Merrell

Naysayers told Reid that her dream of navy walls would make the living room "dark and awful," but she stuck to her guns. In a super-reflective finish, Benjamin Moore's Newburyport Blue "brings light into the space—and drama!" she says.

Pair old things with jewel tones.

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When Reid brought home her beloved late grandmother's antiques, hers siblings balked. "They thought, Are you actually mad?" she laughs. But timeworn accents like books and gilt plates actually pop against the colors in the living room.

Find eye-catching art that uses all your hues.

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While considering a gallery wall above the banquette, Reid spotted this piece by Kevin Harman that features nearly every color in the apartment. "It was the last piece I bought," she says. "When I put it up, it was perfect."

Use a surprising shade to highlight architecture.

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"My accountant said, "Kate, you shouldn't be buying an apartment because of the doors," she laughs, "but these were sort of a selling point." A new coat of Benjamin Moore's Lazy Afternoon was all the updating they needed.

Give color a chance to breathe.

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James Merrell

"In the larger expanse of colors, there are some quiet moments," says Reid. The mix of striped wallpaper (a discontinued Schumacher print), white subway tile, and gray cabinets doesn't compete with the wild botanical outside the bathroom door.

Consider grout an actual color.

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James Merrell

Reid hemmed and hawed about what grout color to use in the kitchen. In the end, she want with a gray that matched the cabinets and the veining in the marble. "It ties it all together," she explains.

Soften electric hues with ware metallics.

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Farrow & Ball's Yellowcake, which Reid "had been obsessed with for the longest time," was splashed onto the shelves, but it's the brass brackets that make the color look almost traditional.

Think outside of the boring-upholstery box.

Another lesson in balance: The old-timey lines and brown wood of an antique armchair in the living room beg for a contemporary fabric. Pale purple velvet never looked so sophisticated.

When in doubt, go with your gut.

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James Merrell

Yellow curtains with navy walls? "I knew it would be amazing," says Reid, so she added these buttery drapes when a client tossed them out.

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