Designers share their favorite non-neutral paint colors


Part of Florida designer Lisa Gilmore’s job is to suggest paint colors that can deliver a big wow factor. For a St. Petersburg client whose home was filled with lots of creams and taupes, Gilmore envisioned a cozy family room wrapped in a raspberry shade from Sherwin-Williams. “We’re going to paint this Juneberry space, and it’ll wrap you in this delicious hug of color,” she told them.

Although hesitant at first, the client was blown away by how beautiful it looked once the paint was on the walls. “She had tears in her eyes when she saw it,” Gilmore recalled. Often, the client would take friends for a tour of the house “and save that piece for the grand finale.”

Dramatic colors are a way to make your home special and “create a presence of who you are and what your personality is,” says Jamie Drake of Drake/Anderson in New York. Drake recently completed a book with company co-founder Caleb Anderson, titled “Bold: The Interiors of Drake/Anderson,” which is due out in September from Rizzoli.

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We asked Gilmore and Drake, along with Los Angeles designer Kathryn M. Ireland and Silver Spring, Md. designer Iantha Carley, to share their favorite shades of blue, yellow, green, pink and purple. Here are their suggestions.

Benjamin Moore’s Sweetened Violet. Using deep purple paint takes courage, but Gilmore says this fiery color can create a dramatic Zoom backdrop that will make meetings memorable. “It’s such an attractive color, because it’s kind of an underdog of purples and rarely used in such a large format. But it gives off a little happiness,” says Gilmore. She used Softened Violet, as well as some red and cobalt blue, in St. Petersburg, Florida, a condo for art collectors who love modern design.The room is a combination of guest room and Zoom room/home office.

Gray Charleston by Farrow & Ball. Don’t let the name of this paint color fool you, says Carley. It’s really more of a lavender than a gray. This “grey-violet taupe” is one of her favorite shades. She’s used it in her own bedroom as well as a client’s bedroom in Bethesda, Maryland. “It’s perfect for rooms of all sizes. It still works. And I find it soothing,” she says. And men, including her husband, tend to like color. “He loves it because it’s a bold color without being dark,” she says.

Benjamin Moore’s Delicious Yellow. “This yellow is such a cheerful color and reminds me of sunflowers in the south of France and Monet’s kitchen in Giverny,” says Ireland. It brings a sunny glow to any space. She used it for pops of color in the hallways, on the floors and on the kitchen cabinets. “It gives an uplifting moment without being too much,” she says.

Benjamin Moore Yellow Tone. Drake says the multi-faceted yellow tone is not a typical yellow. “It looks especially delicious because it has this dollop of green and reminds you of a gemstone: citrine,” he says. Company co-founder Anderson chose this color for the second bedroom in his own New York home, which doubles as an office. “The citrine and chartreuse in it highlight the strong architectural elements of the room,” says Drake. They found the perfect fabric, in “cocktail olive green” velvet, to pair it with the padded mattress of the daybed.

Wasabi by Benjamin Moore. Carley loves Wasabi’s sassy yellow-green. She used it in a small condo kitchen in Maryland that has little light to punch up the place when the client’s budget didn’t allow for new cabinetry. “Just painting the Wasabi walls will make any room special,” says Carley. “It contains just enough yellow, which makes it perfect for rooms that don’t get a lot of natural light. It’s perfect for a kitchen, dining room, entryway or powder room.

Derbyshire by Sherwin-Williams. There’s no doubt that Derbyshire is a bright, bold green, says Gilmore. If anyone is hesitant to commit to it for a full wall, she suggests using it on a vanity or piece of furniture to add interest. But it’s also a stunner when used all over the room. “I can see this being used in a home office or formal living room, using built-ins and millwork details,” says Gilmore, “creating a very bold and sophisticated look.” Her pro tip: “Do this shade in a shimmer finish to really pump up the volume and feel luxurious.”

Old Navy by Benjamin Moore. Drake says navy can work in any room, and a dark navy like this can actually make a room feel more spacious. He loves this particular shade because it has a bit of warmth to it. He used it in a small library that doubles as a guest bedroom in New York’s West Village, painting the space in a semi-gloss finish, “so it has a bit of reflectivity,” Drake says. “Some people think you should avoid color in a small room, but we disagree and think you should go boldest.”

Caribbean Teal by Benjamin Moore. Ireland chose this blue-green tone for a cozy room in California that serves as both a library and a place to dine. “Everything in the room, from the ceilings to the bookshelves, is painted the same color,” says Ireland. The lampshade is sophisticated and lends itself well to a small space. Painting shelves and trim a single color gives a room a look that can be classic 18th-century or modern 21st-century, she says. “It’s especially good for nighttime with low lights to create a moody space,” Ireland added.

Juneberry by Sherwin-Williams. “Juneberry is a color that claims the room,” says Gilmore, “so if you’re looking for a paint color that pops and adds a level of luxury and romance, then this is it.” If you’re committing to a color with serious drama, Gilmore says, also consider integrating it into furniture and window treatments for a cohesive look. And reference your bold color in other rooms. “Make a continuous thread in your other spaces, so it all makes sense,” says Gilmore. This can be achieved with a pillow or a lamp, or with the same color in an artwork.

Benjamin Moore Salmon Fishing. How to use pink on the walls and not make it too pretty? Drake likes Salmon Peach because it has some depth. “It’s not really a feminine pink,” he says. According to Drake, bringing black and charcoal gray furniture to the pink space made it “a little more earthy and gritty.”

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