18 Unexpected Paint Color Combinations You'll Love

Bright Blue and Green Living Room
Photo: Laura Negri

Going bold with interior paint colors can feel intimidating for some, but the payoff is oh-so-great. While there is always a place for clean white walls and familiar neutral palettes, it is often the unexpected (and seemingly effortless) color combinations we remember most as guests and appreciate as homeowners.

Kentucky Designer Matthew Carter of Matthew Carter Interiors is truly an expert at the craft of color mixing. His best advice for creating a bold statement is, "Like so many other things in decorating, it just takes confidence to make some of these decisions. Many times people tend to play it safe and go neutral. But if you take a risk and really do what inspires you, it usually pays off in the end."

If you want to make a statement in your home, Southern designers have shared top color combination tips to pair paints as elegantly as they are daring.

01 of 18

Terracotta & Brown

Terra-cotta and Brown Room
R. Higgins Interiors

In this elegant Nashville dining room, designer Roger Higgins of R. Higgins Interiors chose a warm clay-inspired shade for the walls, trim, and dentil molding. "We love the earthy elegance of terra-cotta mixed with brown," Higgins says. "The subtle brown wash balances the formality of the silver leaf ceiling so that it doesn't overwhelm our client's more casual pieces, like an old English pine server and her mismatched chairs." For a luxurious sheen, the walls feature a semi-gloss finish. An antique wash tops the silver leaf ceiling.

Try the Colors: Windswept Canyon (SW 9010) and Coconut Husk (SW 6111) by Sherwin-Willams; sherwin-williams.com.

02 of 18

Yellow & Grey

The master bedroom is a grand 19 feet by 21 feet with a soaring 18-foot cathedral ceiling, so Balducci and Bennett built in warm details like white-painted beams, shiplap ceiling paneling, and a painted brick hearth. “Woodwork and other textural surfaces
Photo: David A. Land; styling: Lindsey Ellis Beatty and Rachael Burrow

Add an elegant quality to a sunshine yellow room by pairing it with grey. Grey can act as a neutral to balance the bright characteristics that yellow paints usually have. Using yellow in rooms with a lot of direct natural light will make it appear brighter, which is something to consider, and even more, a reason to add in some grey.

Try the Colors: Dayroom Yellow (No. 233) and Hardwick White (No. 5) by Farrow & Ball; farrow-ball.com.

03 of 18

Tonal Shades of Blue

Twin Beds with Upholstered Headboards
Paige Rumore

Tennessee's Stephanie Sabbe of Sabbe Interior Design loves a nod to history, and choosing a dark shade of blue for crown molding does just that. "I get really excited about creating spaces that make people question the era in which the home was built," she says. "My favorite homes were built in the early 1900s, and pure white trim was not really the thing back then. This home has a Victorian architectural feel, so we ran with that. The darker molding against the lighter walls draws the eye to the interior architecture. And good interior architecture is our favorite thing to celebrate."

Try the Colors: Niebla Azul (SW 9137) and Blustery Sky (SW 9140) by Sherwin-Willams; sherwin-williams.com.

04 of 18

Purple & Yellow-Green

Main Bedroom with Blue and Green Linens
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Kathleen Varner

If you love bold colors but want to create a serene space for your bedroom, try pairing pastel versions of highly-contrasting colors. The almost-blue purple trim adds warmth to this bedroom but grounds it with the brightly-colored walls. The cream-based yellow paint has flickers of yellow-green, which complements the dusty purple-blue framing in the room.

Try the Colors: Archive Collection: Graupel (No. G10) and Snow White (No. W1) by Farrow & Ball; farrow-ball.com.

05 of 18

Blush & Citrus

Living Room with Pink Chair
Lee Thomas

Kentucky Designer Matthew Carter of Matthew Carter Interiors chose a fresh color combination we love for a client's country farmhouse. "I knew I wanted the living room to be a pale muddy pink," he says. "The adjacent entry hall can be quite dark, so we needed a color that felt happy and welcoming when you walk into the space. I really loved the idea of this citrus green and thought the combination of something muddy with something just a bit more clear could look smart."

Carter used Farrow & Ball's French Gray in an adjoining dining room. "You wouldn't necessarily think pale shell pink, citrus green, and French grey would work together, but I think that is the beauty of it. Color is very instinctual to me. I really love experimenting and finding ways to use fairly traditional colors in unexpected ways."

Try the Colors: Setting Plaster (No. 231) and Churlish Green (No. 251) by Farrow & Ball; farrow-ball.com.

06 of 18

Orange & Tropical Green

Photo: Sara Essex Bradley; Design by Logan Killen Interiors

Set your room up for successful island vibes with this tropical combination. The botanical-inspired wallpaper tempers the vibrancy of the orange door. Achieve this look by using a similar paint color to construct an island getaway.

Try the Colors: Yeabridge Green (No. 287) and Charlotte's Locks (No. 268) by Farrow & Ball; farrow-ball.com.

07 of 18

Sky Blue & Moss

Pale Blue and Moss Dining Room
Rustic White Photography

Atlanta's Alice Cramer of Alice Cramer Interiors designed a show-stopping dining room swathed in Benjamin Moore's Savannah Moss, with a Fine Paints of Europe lacquered finish. A few steps away, she chose an accompanying shade of light blue for the kitchen cabinetry. "We took inspiration from the kitchen stone for these two rooms," Cramer said. "It has blues, browns, greens, and more, and it allowed us to really have fun in bridging the two rooms. Next, we looked at the dining room drapery, which pulled some of the browns of this same piece of stone. The kitchen cabinet color was pulled to bring out the blues. It was a fun process of laying out colors, fabrics, metal, and furniture finishes and seeing what plays well together."

Cramer's top advice is, "Once you get to the narrowing down process, my advice is to choose what is the least expected. That is how we landed on these two colors."

Try the Colors: Savannah Moss (385) and Cos Cob Stonewall (1483) by Benjamin Moore; benjaminmoore.com.

08 of 18

Green & Black

New Old Dining Room
Brie Williams

Using black paint can be daunting. You might shy away from it because it makes a statement in every room, but that's why you should embrace it. There are many ways to use black paints, but a suitable color combination is to pair it with green. Any green, but especially darker moody greens, alleviate some of the highly saturated color's pressure on the room by brightening it.

Try the Colors: Pitch Black (No. 256) and Duck Green (No. W55) by Farrow & Ball; farrow-ball.com.

09 of 18

Blue & White Reversed

Blue and White Dining Room
Paige Rumore

For those looking to make a more subtle statement, consider going white on the walls rather than the trim. The result is a room with bolstered charm and character, says designer Ashley Gilbreath of Ashley Gilbreath Design. "In a breakfast room or dining room, we always look for opportunities to add extra detail, and choosing a contrasting color for trim is a creative way to do so," she says. "In this home, the breakfast room is a prominent space visible as soon as you walk in the front door. For the trim, we played off the colors in the adjoining rooms to add intrigue to the space."

Try the Colors: White Dove (OC-17) and Boothbay Gray (HC-165) by Benjamin Moore; benjaminmoore.com.

10 of 18

Blush & Greige

In this Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, master bedroom, it’s all about a muted and romantic color palette.
Photo: Laurey Glenn; Stylist: Heather Chadduck Hillegas

A sweet combination is a soft, dreamy room in greige (grey-beige) and blush. Finding a greige with warm tints will help accentuate the pink in the blush and tie the room together. Since these paint colors appear similar at first glance, you can use that similarity to your advantage or add a third color to highlight the contrast.

Try the Colors: Warm Blush (892) and Edgecomb Gray (HC-173) by Benjamin Moore; benjaminmoore.com.

11 of 18

Fuchsia & Robins Egg

Pink Built-In Bookshelves
Chris Edwards

North Carolina's Charlotte Lucas of Charlotte Lucas Interior Design loves combining coral with bright blue. "It creates such a joyful combination," she says. "To create a similar look you just have to find a happy printed wallpaper or set of panels you love, frame them or use the paper on a small space like we did here with the closet doors, pick out a color you like from within the wallpaper, and paint the surrounding area that hue!"

Anxious to go bold? Lucas believes it's worth it to go a step further than you think. "My philosophy, no matter the client, is to go a smidge bolder than they'd do on their own," she says. "If I did exactly what they initially envisioned, or what they'd seen on Pinterest, what would be the point of hiring me?"

Try the Colors: Bird of Paradise (1305) and Bird's Egg (2051-60) by Benjamin Moore; benjaminmoore.com.

12 of 18

Powder Blue & Apple Red

Whitney McGregor Greenville, SC Girl's Bedroom
Laurey W. Glenn; Styling: Lizzie Cox

Tone down a bold red wall by highlighting spaces with powder blue charm. The delicate blue, coordinating nicely with an eggshell white, can perfectly match the vibrant red paint. Pairing the unexpected red with the soothing, familiar blue allows you to push your design limits without straying too far from your comfort zone.

Try the Colors: Blue Hydrangea (2062-60) and Million Dollar Red (2003-10) by Benjamin Moore; benjaminmoore.com.

13 of 18

Bright Blue & Green

Bright Blue and Green Living Room
Laura Negri

Designer Mallory Mathison of Atlanta's Mallory Mathison, Inc. calls this color combination a true classic. "Blue and green are the perfect pair—like the grass and the sky," she says. "The vibrant front door receives guests with a spirited welcome, and then you walk into the living room enveloped in soft aqua grasscloth. I love to paint trim a color that is similar to grasscloth wallcovering but not an exact match. In this case, the darker Boca Raton Blue was the perfect touch to feel both inviting and refined."

Mathison recommends sticking to soft, restful shades for bedrooms if you want to go bold. Bolder blue and greens work best in entries, living rooms, and dining rooms where you can "create moments of vibrant interest mixed amongst neutrals," she says.

Try the Colors: Boca Raton Blue (711) and Leprechaun (2044-20) by Benjamin Moore; benjaminmoore.com.

14 of 18

Yellow & Sky Blue

With the couple's input, designers Celerie Kemble and Lindsey Herod dreamed up a palette that's as at home here as it is in a Lilly Pulitzer catalogue. "In Florida, there's endless inspiration in the landscape," says Herod. "So we pulled from the...
Photo: Jessica Glynn; Stylist: Liz Strong

Sky blue and yellow transform a space into a sunny meadow by bringing the outside elements inside and using them in a delicate but effective way. The ceiling, painted sky blue with a cloudy texture, draws the eyes upward, making the room appear taller as if you are in the open air. The pale yellow provides a background for the more colorful decor by adding a tint of color to an ordinary white wall.

Try the Colors: Meander Blue (SW 6484) and Pineapple Cream (SW 1668) by Sherwin-Williams; sherwin-williams.com.

15 of 18

Cobalt & Aqua

Vibrant Blue Mantle
Laura Negri

Design duo Philip Thomas Vanderford and Jason James Jones of Dallas's Studio Thomas James redesigned their client's library to make a statement. "We used a flat sheen paint for the walls and finished the wooden mantel in a semi-sheen, creating a striking contrast in the space," they said. "When creating a room that is different than the rest of the house, we like to pull something in to tie it in with the rest of the home. In this case, we used the same paint color on the ceiling across the entire house and blue drapery in the rooms with white walls. Many homes are light and airy, but it's always nice in the fall or winter to have a room that wraps its arms around you. This library does just that."

Try the Colors: Santorini Blue (SW 7607)and Reflecting Pool (SW 6486) by Sherwin-Williams; sherwin-williams.com.

16 of 18

Blue & Brown

Serene Bedroom
Jean Liu

For the ultimate comfort color pairing, choose blue and brown. Brown might be an unusual choice for paint color, but it works when looking in the taupe-clay range. The moody or earthy brown tones combine with a pale blue to create a cozy space.

Try the Colors: California Collection: Hazy (No. CC6) and London Clay (No. 244) by Farrow & Ball; farrow-ball.com.

17 of 18

Sangria & Olive

Natasha Lawler Charlottesville Home Master Bedroom
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Some say olives go better with a martini, but this sangria-colored paint might disagree. Complemented by the deep shade of olive green, this raspberry-kissed purple is allowed to shine bright. Replicate a paint color similar to the shade of olive found in the wallpaper to offer the same pleasing result.

Try the Colors: Bold Sangria (54RR 09/276) and Olive Black (50YY 09/101) by PPG Paints; ppgpaints.com.

18 of 18

Rust & Coral

Rust Colored Master Bedroom in Florida Cracker Style Home
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Barbara Schmidt

Freshen up a room with this coordinating pair. The warm hues blend nicely as the coral brings out the yellow-gold in the rust. Corals change next to different colors, looking bright and tropical near vibrant colors, or relaxing and cozy near brown or orange color palettes.

Try the Colors: Reynard (SW 6348) and Coral Reef (SW 6606) by Sherwin-Williams; sherwin-williams.com.

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