8 Unexpected Paint Color Combinations We Bet You've Never Thought Of
Though going bold with interior paint colors can feel intimidating and risky for some, 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 that we remember most as guests and relish as homeowners.
Kentucky Designer Matthew Carter of Matthew Carter Interiors is truly an expert at the craft of color mixing. "I rarely like things that feel matched or overly planned — whether it be furniture, fabric or colors," he says. "I like colors to feel like they work elegantly together but are also a bit unexpected."
His best advice for creating a bold statement? "Like so many other things in decorating it just takes confidence to make some of these decisions," he says. "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're looking to make a statement at home, read on! Nine Southern interior designers have shared their tips and top color combinations with us. These parings are as elegant as they are daring.
Terra-cotta and Brown
In this tasteful Nashville dining room, designer Roger Higgins 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 silverleaf 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. The silverleaf ceiling is topped with an antique wash.
For a similar wall color, try Windswept Canyon by Sherwin-Willams.
Tonal Shades Of Blue
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 1900's 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."
Blush & Citrus
Kentucky Designer Matthew Carter of Matthew Carter Interiors chose a fresh color combination we love for a client's country farm house. "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 also used Farrow & Ball's French Gray in an adjoining dining room. "You wouldn't necessarily think pale shell pink, citrus green, and French Gray 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."
Pale Blue & Moss
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? "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."
Blue & White Reversed
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."
Fuchsia & Robins Egg
North Carolina's Charlotte Lucas of Charlotte Lucas 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?"
Cabinetry: Benjamin Moore, Birds of Paradise
Bright Blue & Green
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."
Looking to go bold? Mathison recommends sticking to soft, restful shades for bedrooms. 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.
Trim: Boca Raton Blue
Cobalt & Aqua
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 are 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."