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How To Add The Right Amount of Color For Every Room in Your House (Plus a Killer House Tour)

Colorful home design can be very polarizing (especially bright color). You have those who want ALL the color and those who are wary of even dipping their toe in the color pond. But we think there’s a place in the middle so that everyone can be happy (especially those who live in the same home). Enter the very talented interior designer, Sarah Zachary. When she took on this beautiful family home, she actually wasn’t the first to tackle its design. Nope, after working with a previous interior designer who went fairly glam, the family decided that they wanted to bring in a more earthy feel (while still keeping it happy and colorful). So Sarah went to work, and I got to ask her about the project and get all of her color tips.

Was color something that your client wanted or did you talk them into it?

I definitely did not have to talk my client into color, especially in the her daughters’ rooms. She has a soft spot for neon pink and butterflies and wanted the kids’ spaces to be as fun and whimsical as possible. I actually took over the job from a previous designer and worked to dial back the color and pattern in some of the rooms. 

I think Sarah nailed it. Both girls’ rooms, as you are about to see, are colorful and whimsical but not so overwhelming that you feel like you don’t know where to look. Balance is always the goal. It’s so important to have “moments” where your eyes can rest.

Wallpaper | Flushmount | Bookcase | Crib | Designed and custom made by Sarah Zachary | Mobile | Chair

For instance in the nursery, the wallpaper is super bold but all of the furniture, window treatments, and rug are all very neutral with almost no pattern. Sarah chose very specifically where she put her bright pops of color which makes the room feel super balanced.

Wallpaper | Flushmount | Blanket | Crib | Mobile | Designed and custom made by Sarah Zachary

What was the reason you wallpapered all four walls in the nursery and not in the other child’s bedroom? Did it have to do with scale and do you have a rule of thumb for that? Basically when to accent and when to go all the way : )

We fell in love with the Christopher Farr wallpaper we selected for the nursery so the client and I were happy to see it cover every surface in that space. I personally prefer to have wallpaper on all the walls as opposed to an accent wall. It just feels more complete. I usually only do an accent wall if 1.) the wallpaper is crazy expensive but we love it anyway, 2.) the wallpaper is a mural rather than a pattern, or 3. the pattern is super busy and will overwhelm a space.

I agree and also am in love with that wallpaper. The mix of boho and modern glam makes this room feel textured, and lux (but still fun and a perfect for a little munchkin).

Wallpaper | Bookcase | Oprah Winfrey Children’s Book | DIY Letter Lightbox | Eyelash Basket | Dresser (no longer available) | Table Lamp | Shelf Brackets | Changing Baskets | Pouf Designed and custom made by Sarah Zachary, Fabric by Pierre Frey

I saw in a different project of yours (coming soon to a blog near you) that you’re not afraid to wallpaper a ceiling. Do you have a rule of thumb on when to go for a wallpaper ceiling or when to keep it bare? 

This particular moment was actually a choice made by the client! She loves a space with warmth and a vintage/cottage feel and I think the wallpaper on the ceiling creates that. If a pattern is subtle and small enough to not be overwhelming in the space, and you’re able to keep the furniture and finishes of the room more minimal, then wallpapering the ceiling as well as the wall can work. Doing that in this nursery would likely have overwhelmed the space.

We agree that delicate pattern work best if you want to cover all five walls. And if you are wanting to tackle your ceiling, this post has a ton of inspiration. Also, here is the list of our favorite online wallpaper resources if you are needing some sourcing guidance.

Now, are you ready for another SUPER cute kids room??

Glass Tray | Dresser | Artwork | Canopy | Bed | Squiggles Pillow | Round Pillow | Wooden Rainbow

What are your tips for going bold with color and wallpaper?

If you are choosing a bold wallpaper or color you have to consider balance. We chose some very graphic and colorful wallpapers in this house and balanced them out with minimalist designs, natural woods, and clean white accents. Before I met the client, the older daughter’s room already had the wallpaper on one wall and the rest of the walls were painted turquoise. They also had blue striped curtains. There was a lot happening in there so we kept the wallpaper (on one wall, as an accent because the pattern worked well as mural), painted the other walls white, and left only the white roman shades. That way the wallpaper could really be appreciated on its own. This opened the door for a colorful canopy and some fun art.

Such a good move. Having too many big moments will make everything a small moment.

Wallpaper | Lamp | Bookshelf | Ceramic Eye | Kacey Musgraves Vinyl Record |Pink Globe | Gold Dog Ballon Bookend

So now we need to know your shopping secrets. Where do you like to source your wallpaper from?

I love Walnut Wallpaper and usually order from them exclusively. They have everything that designers source at the PDC as well as really unique and artisanal wallpaper brands. They are also super helpful in finding that very specific pattern you are hunting for.

Dresser | Artwork | Canopy | Bed | Squiggles Pillow | Round Pillow | Wooden Rainbow

Do you have any advice for people who are nervous about a bold wallpaper?

I say start your bold wallpaper journey in a small and low stakes space like a bathroom or laundry room. This way you can dip your toes into something bold. If you still love the look after a while, upgrade to a larger room and remember to balance out the furnishings with neutral or natural colors. 

Here is a post that Emily wrote about the true benefits of taking the plunge (if you are ready).

Ok, so it makes sense that colorful wallpaper works in a little kid’s room but here’s how Sarah brought some bright colors into the more “adult” part of the house.

Cabinet | Art | Table Lamp | Planter

Was wallpaper ever an idea for any of the common areas?

We considered doing wallpaper in the entry initially but decided to keep the neutral palette. Toys, shoes, and strollers live in the entry so we wanted to keep the space as uncluttered and clean as possible. Wallpaper would have just added to the hustle and bustle of the entry. 

As Sarah implied, wallpaper and color can overwhelm a busy area. So keep in mind how your space is going to be used before putting up really bold and busy wallpaper.

Sofa | Coffee Table | Floor Lamp | Art | Rug | Pillows | Sheepskin | Ottoman | Ceramic Vases

What was the color conversation for the common areas? Since they are a family with two little kids, was the color brought in to bring in some sophisticated youthfulness (ha, that sounds like an oxymoron), or did the parents also want some bright colors – use very intentionally?

When I started on the project, a lot of the choices from the last designer were very glam. We wanted to create a more earthy and eclectic feel, while still being clean and modern. Since the living room/dining room already had the green banquette, I presented a very neutral palette that we could build off of. My client’s background is in art, so I knew that was where the color would come in as well as with pillows and accessories. 

The big takeaway here is that even dabbling in some color can have a massive impact on a space. I love that, while I’m a sucker for a neutral, earthy room, bringing in that colorful art makes it feel really unique and personal. I think even the most neutral loving among us can agree, no?

Sofa | Coffee Table | Art | Rug | Pillows | Sheepskin | Ottoman | Ceramic Vases | Chairs | Mirror

Custom Bench | Pillows | Custom Dining Table by Sarah Zachary | Dining Chair | Vase | Art | Chandelier (similar) | Bookshelves

Before we get into that truly beautiful dining area, a super easy but cool way to add color into your home is books. It’s so simple but I think can be an afterthought in the design process. So if you want to look super smart and colorful, just make sure some of your books have colorful spines.

Also, side note for those of you wanting to know how to style a bookshelf when you have A LOT of books, this room is a great example. From the looks of it, the bottom two rows are filled up, then moving up they staggered the other “full shelves.” Then for the other sections, Sarah played with different and simple configurations of books, objects and picture frames but kept it simple. Also, note that the top row is lightly styled (mainly with art) to make the ceiling feel visually light and taller.

Ok back to the interview . . . .

Custom Bench | Pillows | Custom Dining Table by Sarah Zachary | Dining Chair | Vase | Art | Chandelier (similar)

The dining bench is almost too beautiful! I am assuming it was custom? Also, I know that green is simply just a beautiful color to use, but how did you all decide on it for the bench? 

The bench was custom and was actually inherited from the first designer. We worked everything in this space around the green banquette. When I first started the project there was a huge replica Saarinen Tulip Table that was too big and too cold for the space. We wanted the room to have more warmth, so I designed a custom walnut table that my dad built for my clients. Now the clients have a handmade heirloom as opposed to a replica. 

Oh, I love the story behind the table! And I agree that for warmth and texture a dark wood table was the way to go. It feels approachable but sophisticated. Then to add in some color and playfulness Sarah added some pillows and those happy, bright pieces of art by one of our Sara’s favorite artists, Anna Ullman.

Custom Bench | Pillows | Custom Dining Table by Sarah Zachary | Dining Chair | Vase | Art | Chandelier (similar)

There you have it. A stunning home with the perfect amount of color to add some joy, but not take over. Thank you to Sarah for answering my questions and letting us share your beautiful work on the blog.

So, if you are classically a neutral lover, are you tempted to bring some color into your home? Or if you love color what was your favorite part of this home? Let’s talk about it!

Love you, mean it.

Credits: Design by Sarah Zachary, Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

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4 years ago

It was so fascinating to hear how Sarah edited previously made choices to give a calmer feel while still embracing color. I’d love to see more shots of that bookshelf for sure!! The dining area is stunning. Also, whoooo, the mural in the kid’s room plus turquoise walls plus blue striped curtains sounds like a lot.

This is a post I’ll definitely return to. My husband loves art with bright color and illlustrative or surreal. Whereas my color tends to come from textiles or vases. So keeping everything else neutral lets us do that.

4 years ago
Reply to  Sahaja

I know – that dining room/bookshelf situation is SO GOOD. Can’t wait to show you guys more of her work. xx

4 years ago
Reply to  Sahaja

I love this… I’m recently spending this lockdown time trying to re-assess life/career choices and i’m always automatically drawn to interior and exterior decorating and gardening…reading all of this blog to get some more inspiration and ideas on my own home and i’m loving reading about everything so far….especially the wallpapers, pops of colour, book shelving ideas and Neat co!

4 years ago

I’ve been considering a green couch (breaking the “keep the big pieces neutral” rule!), and this post is definitely further encouragement…

4 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

We just bought a powder blue sofa so I’m with you. I think for those of us who can handle color, we can do it 🙂

4 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

I took the plunge about five years ago and bought a blue sectional. I still love it.

4 years ago

I LOVE this. I like the clam of neutrals and the fun of colour and this balances them perfectly!

4 years ago

gosh i LOVE that banquette. Is it green leather or vinyl? I think that is exactly what i need in my house!!!

4 years ago

I really enjoy this middle ground with neutrals, some highlighted color, and objects (books and art) that bring in color.

4 years ago

That is a beautiful home! It is all at once very stylish but very comfortable. The only thing I hate to see is to see a designer use a direct rip off of a famous designer. The dining table chairs are a copy of Paul McCobb’s 1530 chair. I know Sarah wouldn’t love if she designed something and then saw a copier touting it as, “This new take on the mid-century Windsor chair has a bowed, sculptural silhouette.” There is a big difference between influence and copy and this is a copy.

4 years ago
Reply to  Emily

Sarah didn’t design the chairs, just the dining table : ) We always say, if you can afford the real thing then please opt for it – those pieces are beautiful and honestly works of art. But, understandably, original pieces are not in everyones budget. Which is where some of those “inspired by” pieces can help bring elevated design into everyones homes.

4 years ago
Reply to  Sara Tramp

I would strongly disagree that these are not “inspired by”, they are direct copies. If Sarah designed and manufactured the table and then someone copied it with no credit, then that isn’t okay and that isn’t “inspired by.” Same with your pottery, Sara! I don’t think you would like people that looked at your work to make exact copies. I totally understand that originals can be out of budget, we can’t always afford the things we want is a life lesson, it just makes me mad to see copies and it makes me sad on behalf of all artists and designers that have had their work copied. Studio McGee’s Ruthie Chair, Amber Interiors’ Bowie Chair, Anthropologie’s Mackinder Chair, and now Burke Decor’s Ripley chair are literally all an exact copy of a chair made 70 years ago with no credit given. ALSO, these copies are selling for twice as much as the originals, it just requires more work to find the originals and people can be lazy and want a quick buy option.

4 years ago
Reply to  Emily

You realize that functional items are not copyrightable, right? You can advocate for new copyright legislation, but also understand the current law.

4 years ago
Reply to  Azure

Correct. But I think most artists and creators would agree that copying is morally wrong.

Katie Cardon
4 years ago

Love the added encouragement to get some wallpaper up! I was really taken with the wallpaper in the set for the recent Netflix show “Never Have I Ever…” In fact, the entire design of Devi’s house was just really breathtaking!

4 years ago

Can you do a post on how to make that banquet on a budget? A round up!

4 years ago

OK WOW. This home tour was incredible!!

Lisa Lichterman
4 years ago

Holy Moly – it is all SO good!

4 years ago

I adore that dining bench! That shade of green! Beautiful! 🙂

4 years ago

Beautiful home and such a helpful post! Many of us have homes with at least some with furniture we didn’t choose but can’t afford to replace – it’s a process to figure out how to incorporate it cohesively into your own style (to say nothing of figuring out your own style to begin with!). Even though the pieces in the home tour were not hand me downs like I’m talking about, it was still a “make it work” situation, in the words of Tim Gunn.

4 years ago

At least the first designer did one thing very, very right with that green banquette!

4 years ago

Colour is such a personal choice my wife painted the house getting ready for our house sale the colour choice was putting buyers off we eventually redone it in neutral tones amazing it sold really quickly afterwards.

4 years ago

Great article! Thanks for sharing such great piece about the correct amount of color.

4 years ago

It’s so funny. Some people need somewhere for “their eye to rest.” I need the opposite — I NEED visual stimulation. I think it’s like the difference between introverts and extroverts!

Also, that white rug with the skinny black strips would make me nervous. And with so much of the surface white, it looks like a bed sheet laid on the floor. Love the banquette, though. In my next (ha!) house, I will have them.

4 years ago

I always love to see examples where what someone already had is enlivened and used to create a whole new vibe in a space. I also like the balance of “stuff” and space in this design. Great inspiration and calming, colourful eye candy. 🙂

4 years ago

Would you mind sharing what the wood flooring is? We need to redo our floors and I love how it looks.

I adore the meadow wall paper. Bringing in color via art is a great strategy. For me, it balances the energy of color with the calm of neutrals. It’s like wearing a white shirt, jeans, and really fabulous earrings and red lipstick.

Aloha Leslie
4 years ago

I love color! I love neutrals. I’m definitely not a minimalist. AND I have a very small space where I have placed all the things I love and done pretty well with (well maybe my daughter, the minimalist, may think I have too much stuff). LOL My question is when you say that you need places for your eyes to rest. What does that mean to you? Silly question, perhaps, but I think I have places where my eyes can rest. But a minimalist may not think so. Thanks!!!