Room Color Trend: Divide and Conquer

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Can’t agree on room colors? Now you don’t have to choose.

You want bright yellow. He prefers grey. Your favorite color is blue. She likes neutrals. According to the Paint Quality Institute’s Debbie Zimmer, couples don’t have to fight over room colors anymore. This season’s hottest make-over trend calls for multi-color paint schemes using three, four, or even five accent colors in a single room.

“Say you’re gravitating toward designer shades and he’s fixated on the colors of his high school alma mater,” says Zimmer, color expert, and director of the Paint Quality Institute. “With multi-color paint schemes, you can create a room that satisfies both preferences.”

Unlike the ubiquitous one-color ‘accent wall’ of the 1980s, multi-color paint schemes encompass all four walls and take advantage of architectural features like molding, soffits, and doorways.  “These are natural dividing lines that can increase the color potential of any wall,” says Zimmer. A simple chair rail can double a room’s color potential.  The same goes for a half wall, an alcove, or a mantel. According to Zimmer, any architectural element is an opportunity to introduce a new and different color.

altStaring at four walls bereft of molding or trim? No problem says, Zimmer. With some imagination and painter’s tape, DIY’ers can create individual color spaces with strategically placed horizontal and vertical lines.

For best results, Zimmer says multi-color paint schemes should build on one predominant color. “This is the anchor that pulls your room together, so make sure it’s a color you really love,” says Zimmer. Whether it’s a favorite shade from childhood or one of 2013’s new hues, the anchor should cover about 40% of a room’s wall space.  Use a secondary color on 25% and two to four colors for the remaining space.

If this is your first foray into the world of multi-color paint schemes, there’s plenty of free “color counseling” available and easily accessible through your local paint store, big-box retailer or the internet.  Paint stores and websites offer interactive color visualizers that upload pictures of your room. With a few keystrokes and mouse clicks, you can apply different color schemes to your virtual walls until you find the one you like best.

If you don’t have web access, you can still experiment with different color configurations the old-fashioned way: with paint color cards available at most paint stores and paint departments. View your wall at different times of day to account for changes in lighting, and shuffle the location of the cards until you’re completely happy with your plan.

Still unsure about your color scheme? Before you invest in gallons of paint, buy sample sizes of your selected colors. Paint a two-foot section of wall with your anchor and fill in with secondary and accent colors to get a foolproof preview. Once you’ve settled on your color palette, the rest is easy and rewarding.

With multi-color paint schemes, do-it-yourselfers can choose their favorite colors and paint them too. To learn more about color and decorating, or to download the Paint Quality Institute’s free color app, visit More advice on interior paint color can be found at

The Paint Quality Institute was formed in 1989 to educate people on the advantages of using quality interior and exterior paints and coatings. The Paint Quality Institute’s goal is to provide information on the virtues of quality paint as well as color trends and decorating with paint through a variety of vehicles, including television appearances, newspaper and magazine articles, and instructional literature. Please be sure to visit the Paint Quality Institute at PAINT QUALITY INSTITUTE and PAINTQUALITY.COM are trademarks of The Dow Chemical Company (“Dow”) or an affiliated company of Dow.

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