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Design Themes Start With Your Favorite Colors

Originally Posted: May 19, 2009

Libby Langdon

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In this bedroom I used Ralph Lauren Chocolate Suede paint on the wall behind the headboard, it's bold but creates the feeling of a haven and helps the headboard to really stand out. The crisp white and brown linens and the sheen of the mercury glass lamps add that little zip of hotel chic! Photos courtesy of Libby Langdon

Southampton - Many times people will ask me how I come up with designs and design themes for rooms because they are not sure where to begin themselves and it can sometimes be overwhelming when you're starting from scratch. I start with looking at the person whose home I'm designing and I ask what their hobbies, interests, and favorite colors are and that's the springboard.

In this living room I was going for a modern Big City look and the color palette of gray, cream and black was chic yet still warm. The gray on the wall is Benjamin Moore's "Chelsea Gray" #HC - 168 - it's rich without being too cold and it works well in rooms with lots of natural light.

If someone loves the beach then I know they'll be happy in a room with colors of tans, sand, soft blue, creams and pale aqua. If someone loves an Asian theme, they'll love the colors of red, black, cream and gold. It's funny how people will leave me hints about what they really want their space to look like.

I went into one woman's home and she had a floral chintz sofa and soft pale colors on all the walls and the other pieces of furniture. But, hanging up on the wall all by itself, was the most beautiful Moroccan platter with dark rich colors in eggplant, gold, pink, and turquoise and I knew because she'd hung it in such an important place that she wanted a room with a Moroccan feel. I used the platter as the inspiration for my design and it's a room she really adores!

You can use all sorts of things as inspiration for the design of your space; a necklace, a favorite shirt or piece of clothing, a memorable vacation, a cherished movie, a cool hotel room - the possibilities are endless! If you still need a little help getting started these are some design schemes and color ways I've used successfully for people in the past:

In this room I used crisp white and soft yet brilliant shades of blue to evoke the feeling of the beach. The caramel shade of the wood floor is a nice contrast to the light tones throughout the room and it has a peaceful, airy feeling.

 • Beach Theme: tans, creams, caramel, pale blue and aqua - consider soft blue on the walls and tan upholstered sofas and chairs, white end tables and white woodwork.

 • Country Theme: Yellow, brown, green and coral - paint the walls yellow, use a sage green for the upholstered pieces, mix in some patterned drapes and accessories and use brown tables and woodwork

 • Tuscan/Italian Theme: Rust, black, tan and cream - paint the walls a rich rust/russet color, use black accessories and natural stained woodwork, keep it light with soft creams on the furniture and floor.

 • Hip Hotel Theme: Black, tan, chocolate brown, gray, silver, cream - paint one wall a rich brown, bring in tan and cream furniture, use high gloss finishes and silver/chrome accents on tables.

 • Asian Theme: Red, black, gold, cream - paint one wall red and the other walls a soft tan, use light cream upholstered furniture and black wood accent tables and ottomans.

 • Southwest Theme: Tans, turquoise, terracotta, cream - paint the walls a soft tan, use cream upholstered furniture, turquoise and terracotta accents and rich stained wood pieces.

If you want a bright, cheery country look sunny yellow is a great choice. I love Benjamin Moore's "Hawthorn Yellow" #HC-4 - it's mellow enough to put in a bedroom or kitchen but it still has a little pizazz!

 • Big City Theme: Gray, Cream, Black and silver - paint one wall a rich dark gray, use light creamy upholstered furniture, black tables, steel and silver accent pieces and lots of black and white photographs.

 • Moroccan Theme: Eggplant, gold, hot pink, turquoise and chocolate brown - paint one wall a rich dark eggplant and paint the other walls a soft golden tan use tan upholstered furniture, bright pink and turquoise accents and accessories and dark stained wood pieces.

 • Green Theme: Lime green, tan, chocolate brown and cream - paint one wall chocolate brown, use light cream upholstered furniture, lots of green plants, accessories and accents as well as dark stained tables and furniture pieces.

 • Shabby Chic Theme: Pale blue, soft rose, white and silver - keep the walls bright white and bring in lots of white painted furniture, use a soft cotton patterned fabric on the upholstered pieces and white and silver accessories.

 • French Country Theme: Yellow, black, red and cream - paint the walls a soft yellow, use cream upholstered furniture with black wrought iron and red accents and dark stained woodwork.

Here the homeowner had a beautiful Asian screen but it was so large that it made the room feel cluttered so I painted the walls red and hung the screen panels up on the wall as make-shift shutters, the neutral sofa brightens up the richness of the red wall color.

 • African Theme: Tans, cream, brown and black - paint the walls tan, use cream upholstered furniture, animal patterned fabrics for pillows and small items like ottomans, dark stained wood and black iron accents.

 • Golf Theme: Tan, hunter green, cream, and brown - paint one wall a dark hunter green and paint the other walls a soft tan, use light colored upholstery pieces and dark stained wood tables and shelves - mix in some brass accessories.

 • Sailing Theme: Navy Blue, cream, tan and gray - paint one wall navy blue and paint the other walls a soft tan, use cream or tan upholstered furniture, white painted woodwork and gray accents.

 • Art Gallery Theme: Tan, cream, silver and black - paint the walls a soft tan, use all white upholstery furniture, silver tables and shelving with black frames and accents.

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Guest (antonio) from Berkshirecty@yahoo.com says::
I too like the chocolate paint color and would like to know what the name I should ask for. 1 additional question please. I am considering suede on 3 walls and then in a contrasting color Venetian plaster paint on the 4th. What is your opinion please
Mar 12, 2011 4:35 pm

Guest (Giovanni) from austin says::
Hi Libby, I really like this Ralph Lauren Chocolate Sueded paint I have used it twice over the last 6 years However they don't have a color called "Chocolate". What is the actual name of this paint? Thanks Giovanni Please email me back at grdibartolo@yahoo.com
Feb 1, 2010 12:05 am

Guest (christine) from newport beach says::
Hi Libby, I really like this Ralph Lauren Chocolate Sueded paint. However they don't have a color called "Chocolate". What is the actual name of this paint? Thanks Christine
Nov 7, 2009 3:47 pm

Guest (Pebbles Armwood) from Baltimore,Maryland says::
Hi Libby, My name is Pebbles Armwood I goin to open a womans boutique. I have so many ides in my head for a theme. The colors I love the most are blues. I love to dance, talk, well debate topics, music, and jst helping people. Am a person that loves to think outside the box. Can u help me with a theme PLEASE! Thank you.
May 31, 2009 6:37 pm


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