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Color Surprises

The deep teal door leading to the peaches and cream guest room. Photo by Barbara Clare

Those of you who read my last post know that I spent a whole lot of time solving a complex color puzzle in our guest room. As happens in many creative projects, my guest room painting project kept growing.

When I was nearly done painting the guest room, I noticed that its entry door looked shabby. Time for a fresh coat of paint. Turns out, we didn't have any of that door paint left.

" opportunity for a new COLOR!"

Yes, I could have gone the easy route and run to the paint store for another quart of paint, but my gut told me to pursue this new color quest instead.

I rummaged through our paints and found one strong color in both wall and trim paint. It was a deep teal that I had used in an area of our living room.

When we bought our home, this is what the hallway looked like. Photo by Barbara Clare

Oooo...I thought, "This teal will look fab with our Georgia O'Keefe painting and its cool tone will contrast beautifully with the warmth of the peaches and cream walls."

I also knew that repeating the teal in the hallway would establish a "color echo". This application would create a pleasing continuity from living room to hallway.

Right after I had painted the door and the bit of wall above it, my friend Lynn, who has a great eye, stopped by. Looking at the door she said, "You know, now you have to paint the left hallway wall the teal." Lynn was right. The deep teal door and wee teal wall stood out as orphans in the center of the pastel walls that surrounded them.

Design is in the details. Note that we removed the attic fan and replaced it with drop down stairs leading to the attic. We also replaced all of the door knobs and door hinges with brushed nickel ones. Photo by Barbara Clare

I painted the left wall the teal. It looked fantastic. Now what to do with the watery pastel wall on the right?

I sampled a color that was similar to the guest room hue, but had more yellow in it. It wasn't strong enough and appeared drab. Then I tried a mid-tone straw hue that was in our adjoining den. It looked great with the teal, but its yellow undertone didn't flow well with the pink undertones of the wall colors in the two rooms off it - the guest bath and the guest room. Plus, Ray gave it an emphatic thumbs down.

What would harmonize with the teal, as well as the guest bath and guest room wall colors?


Terracotta's red base connects to the red undertone in the pink bath walls and the peaches and cream guest room walls. Plus, terracotta (red-orange) is opposite to teal (blue-green) on the color wheel. When used together, they create a complementary color scheme.

Placing complementary colors next to each other enhances them. In other words, both the teal and the terracotta appear stronger when they're next to each other.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if every time we sat next to someone, we enhanced them and they enhanced us?

I picked a terracotta, brushed it on the wall. Voila! The hallway came alive. You ask, why didn't I paint the entire hallway the teal? If I had, the hall would have become a dark teal cave. The terracotta provided a stronger background for our art, introduced warmth, and added an unexpected rhythm to the space.

As I was finishing the terracotta wall, Ray walked by and said, "You know, you need to round the corner with it." Ugh. Was there ever going to be an end to this painting project?

He was right, of course. Rounding the corner took me to a built-in shelf that stands at the back of our kitchen. I looked at the shelf and realized, if I painted the shelf, then I needed to paint the entire back wall. ...The knee bone is connected to the shin bone...

That wall is small, so it took little time.

It goes against conventional wisdom to paint a narrow, dimly lit space a deep color, but in this case the stronger hues woke up the space. Not only did the terracotta wake up the hallway, it woke up the kitchen too.

I loved it. And Ray did too.

Have you had any color surprises?

Send them on! I'd love to hear about them:


Enjoying my posts? please pass them on to friends.

During these stressful times,

we need all of the COLOR JOY we can get!

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