Curing ‘color phobia’

In my business, it is not uncommon to encounter clients who can’t make a decision to commit to color, so they end up going with what they consider to be “safe,” which usually means beige or white.

But a splash of color is worth it; this will not only brighten your home, but also your mood. And you can start small -– you don’t have to take the great leap all at once and paint your home a rainbow of hues. Here’s what I did with one of my most severely “color-phobic” clients.

This homeowner had spent 20 long, colorless years living in a sea of boring beige. She was always afraid to go with any other colors in case they didn’t “match” her furniture. But finally she agreed to try something new.

And since I wanted to knock her socks off with satisfaction, not shock, I decided to introduce color with soft fabrics and a muted, textured wall color.

My client had told me that her favorite color was blue, so I chose a dusty silver-blue and a neutral cream color to work with as my base palate. The rich cream color was applied to the walls, then accented on the central walls with a gorgeous Venetian plaster faux-finish in silver-blue that gave the room instant sparkle and vitality.

One of the biggest changes in this space was in the floor. After taking out the 20-year old beige broadloom carpet, we were thrilled to discover the original hardwood floors beneath. I had them refinished with a medium-bodied walnut stain, which really brought out the grain and gave the room a nice strong anchor.

A highlight was the large picture window at the front of the room. But it was hidden behind (yes, you guessed it) 20-year-old beige sheers. So out they went, and in their place I brought in stunning raw silk, custom-made side drapery panels. They’re nearly the same silver-blue color of the walls, and the sheen of the raw silk sparkles in the same way the plaster treatment does. The effect is a total envelopment around the room in rich, sparkling blue walls and window.

To give added privacy, we hung a crinkled champagne-gold silk curtain behind the side panels. The combination was bright and luxurious.

I brought in a cream-colored suede lounger-sofa and made it the centerpiece of the room. A large mirror and demi-table to one side increased the light, and the two gold-hued antique French chairs flanking it added sophistication and color to the space.

I brought in throw pillows in rich fabrics that were similar shades of blue, ranging from a muted stone color to a deep ocean teal.

I worked in my client’s teak shelving unit by restyling it and making it a showcase for her multi-colored artwork and books. The traditional area carpet was a fairly neutral cream color but had blue, soft green and brown woven throughout.

Color can be brought into a home without being scary. Just pick a color you love and introduce it simply and moderately into a space. There’s no need to overwhelm yourself or the room.

Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of Home & Garden Television’s “Divine Design.” For more ideas, information and show times visit or

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