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Be bold
Three designers pick daring colors they love to use


August 2015

A rich navy blue color contrasts a white sectional; room designed by Warren Barnett

When it comes to color, Bill Koehnlein of Collaborative Design in Waukesha doesn’t like to follow trends.

"I like the unexpected," he says.

His room designs often incorporate blocks of color or ceilings painted a bold hue in contrast to the rest of the room.

But even Koehnlein’s most daring clients sometimes question his color choices. Case in point, while decorating a condo for a saucy salsa dancer recently, Koehnlein selected a sunny gold for the living room ceiling.

"When it was going up, she commented that it seemed rather bright," he recalls.

On its own, the ceiling color could easily invoke memories of 1970s harvest gold kitchens. But tempered by austere white walls, walnut floors and dark espresso trim, the vibrant yellow bathed the room in warmth. The layering technique is something Koehnlein relies on often to calm down — or punch up — a color palette.

"You have to know your boundaries without going over the top," says Koehnlein.

Although he typically draws inspiration from clients’ artwork or interests to create customized color palettes, Koehnlein says he tends to favor warmer tones like Old Gold by Benjamin Moore — the paint color he used to transform his client’s condo ceiling.

"I like playful use of color," he says. "It doesn’t feel calculated."

Charcoal gray adds a sense of comfort to a glamorous dining room; designed by Warren Barnett

Signature color

Not one to shy away from color, Stephanie Quinn of Modern Edge Design says a coat of paint is one of the simplest ways to freshen your home décor.

To help her clients step out of their color comfort zone, she incorporates neutral tones into her room designs, whether it’s furniture or accent pieces.

"Any color goes with gray," she says.

Using complementary color schemes — pairing colors from opposite ends of the color wheel — is another trick Quinn, and other design professionals, employ.

"Opposites attract," she says. "When you put them together, they bring out the best in each other."

One wall color Midwesterners tend to shy away from — but Quinn loves — is coral.

"It’s cheerful and versatile, especially when paired with teal," she explains. And totally on-trend — Sherwin-Williams chose Coral Reef, a blend of pink, orange and red, as its 2015 color of the year.

Quinn is equally fond of spicy color palettes, often incorporating them into her kitchen designs. One of her current favorites is the Pantone color of the year, Marsala — a rich, red wine tone. Though some homeowners may fear the hue could overpower, Quinn finds the earthy color "soothing and easy to work with."

Spot on

If you’re hesitant to experiment with color, Emily Bachman of Warren Barnett in Brookfield suggests starting small.

"Bathrooms are a great place to play with rich colors," she says. The small space presents an opportunity to incorporate color that might not work in a larger room.

Entryways and stairwells also provide excellent canvases for infusing bold hues, says Bachman. Small applications of intense color can be incorporated virtually anywhere in a room, from the inset of a book case to the back of a door.

"Even a small dose of color can make a big difference," says Bachman. "You can use rich colors as a pop of interest on a backsplash or an accent wall."

One wall color often overlooked by homeowners that’s currently having a moment is navy blue. Though the classic color may seem too overpowering, the dark hue can actually make living spaces feel larger. Bachman has used navy blue in clients’ entryways and bedrooms.

Brown is another underused paint color, according to Bachman. Though it can easily be dismissed as too bland, an espresso brown can transform a space into a warm, cozy retreat. "Dark walls can create a sense of comfort," says Bachman.



This story ran in the August 2015 issue of: