Off Topic: Neutral Paint Colors. What Is in Your House?

Updated on July 06, 2012
A.S. asks from Lone Tree, IA
30 answers

My mom got me a subscription to a home decor themed magazine. I've received a few of the magazines in the mail and in each issue there is some mention of neutral paint colors in one's home (have a neutral base and add a pop of color, etc.). Which got me to many people actually have neutral colors in their homes? My living room is a cream color (more like cream with a few drops of coffee) with a "spring green" accent wall. My entry is turquoise with the same cream color. One child's room is yellow and the other child's room is a pale, pale purple. My kitchen is a pale green. My bathroom is periwinkle. The other bathroom is white. The family room is white. White because I haven't done anything with those places since moving in. My bedroom is a medium blue.

My in-laws have everything beige or white except their kitchen has some dark red. My parents have colors everywhere. Most friends rent so they are stuck with whatever the landlord used (usually white).

Do you walk into someone's house and think oh how boring beige everywhere or what a lovely pallet they have going on. What horrible orange or wow that orange kitchen looks great?

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

I found some light grey paint in my storage room. I have no idea why I bought this paint but I'm thinking about painting my bedroom grey. I just can't come up with another color to go with it for the bedding, curtains, etc. We are going to be redoing the kitchen this winter or spring but I love my light green so I may just repaint with the same color. It flows well into the living room. The entry is going to get the same spring green as the living room when I'm feeling ambitious and when it isn't so stinkin' hot.

I love those all white rooms with accents of blue but I have two kids, two dogs and two cats so white furnishings would quickly turn into something that looked like tie-dye, I'm afraid.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I tend to muted tones--golds, olives, tans, mochas, those are neutral, I guess, but not white/cream all over.

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answers from Missoula on

I don't really do neutrals, I prefer some color. My dining room and upstairs family room are red (Benjamin Moore Raspberry Truffle) and my kitchen is a sunny yellow. My bedroom is light grey with dark plum and the downstairs living room is several shades of brown. I have one dark blue wall in the "library" (teeny-tiny room where we stashed all the bookshelves) and my boys' rooms are various shades of lighter blue.

Paint is a cheap (relatively) and fairly easy way to change up a room, so I don't mind trying something bold.

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answers from Columbia on

My house is beautiful colors: Creamy sand in the living room, lovely torquoise in the bath, butter yellow in the kitchen. All are light enough so they don't make the house look like a pit.

I ALWAYS walk into people's homes and "redecorate" in my head.

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answers from Boston on

I have lots of neutrals with some accents. But nice neutrals. The bedrooms are all Benjamin Moore Navajo White (a warm, creamy off-white). My kitchen and the adjacent hallway are BM Buttercream with very pale green accent walls. My family room is BM Barley (a yellow) with a BM Spanish Red accent wall. My finished basement is Navajo on the walls and Shenandoah Taupe (a light brown) on the ceilings to make them disappear and hide the pipes.

Our trim is all stained wood, and kind of warm, orange-y in tone, so it's hard to pick colors that don't clash with the woodwork. I would probably go a little bolder if I had white woodwork and more time. In our old house, we had a green family room, yellow kitchen, pumpkin pantry, neutral dining room and playroom, blue stairwell, gray bathroom, a neutral bedroom and a blue bedroom. It was fun to have more color, but it fit the kookiness of that house.

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answers from Dallas on

Ha, my daughter calls our house boring because I have cream walls and stark white trim.

We did paint her room at her request and it is pepto bismol pink with gold shimmers in the paint.

I am ok with my white boring colors and hubby would have nothing but what we currently have. For me, it is just one battle not worth fighting.

My bathrooms and kitchen are wallpapered. Kitchen is a light toupe color and it looks kindof like rice paper. I have a splash of eggplant color in the kitchen.

My flooring is all travertine tile, wood and carpet in the bedrooms.

I'm thankful for my very nice big house so I can be ok with the colors.

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answers from Boise on

My first home, I did paint my bathroom pink-actually Pepto Bismol pink. Not long after, I went ewww! Later I studied design and I painted my walls and dabbled in colors more times than i would like to recall. My husband would come home from a business trip and the whole house would be a new color. I tried taupe walls but they always looked slightly pink to me in a certain light. If you keep the paint base in the yellow base tones(golds) instead of the browns/red base(taupe) you avoid that pink tinge. A month after the taupe paint was dry, I repainted them a medium gold.When i was in CA I painted my walls a very light gold, with a parchment wash over the top. That was absolutley beautiful and I kept that for years. That was a perfect backdrop color for my french honey colored furniture.

I personally like the whole house painted in the same color. There is something natural and flowing about it. (Perhaps an accent wall in one room could be in a slightly darker tone but still same color range...for example in my dining room or behind the full wall bookcase.) The home will seem larger in all one color, and less chopped up. And there are no sudden 'blasts' of color from room to room. It is more restful to the eye. The eye will always want to go to color first, so I use a neutral on the wall, and use color for the focal point area. I don't want people looking at my wall first, I want the walls to recede and dissapear, and all my beautiful accents and furnishings to come forward. I like warm colors so I use burgundies with my golds, then throw in a complimentary color of sage green, and finally black as another neutral to anchor it down.

You can also look at the concept the same as you would when you put your wardrobe together. You wouldn't wear a purple hat, a blue dress, a red coat, and yellow shoes. Or in your car, you have the same upolstery color on the floors, ceilng, dash...with the same color seats or perhaps a complementary neutral colored seat, but never a melange of lots of colors.
Blue is reported to be a restful, serene color. My mom's house was painted blue(and blue carpet.)and she loved it. All through my growing years I found that color to be anxiety filled and depressing. I couldn't figure out why this supposed restful color made me feel so bad.
In my studies I came across the design book called "comfort colors". I finally realized that a cool color looked best to me when it was balanced in a warm color- it keeps it from looking depressing. Too much warm color without cool color accenting it can be unrestful as well.

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answers from Eugene on

Neutrals in the main living spaces, sometimes on adjacent walls:
Ashley Grey (has purple undertones and makes a great backdrop for black or dark wood furniture)

Bleaker Beige
Off White lighter version of the beige.

Kids chose their own bedroom colors: Periwinkle Blue, Denim Blue, Sage green.

My furniture has washable slipcovers: khaki and off whilte in the living room, red and blue upstairs. I use alot of red and blue accents around the rest of the house, too.

I like seeing how others decorate and usually take mental notes if someone does something creative with colors I don't normally choose. The only time I've thought something was horrible was when I was house hunting and wondering how many coats of paint it would take to cover that dark red/orange with something that matched my decor.

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answers from Washington DC on

every room in my house is eggshell white. We moved into our house Thanksgiving weekend of 2010 and the plan was to paint summer of 2011, but Jan 29 of 2011 I broke my ankle really badly and didn't finish rehab on it till summer was over.

We haven't done the paint thing yet this summer, but I have a gift card to Lowes and it's on my list. Gotta take the kiddos to the store to pick out paint colors for their rooms. I want a deep deep red accent wall in my family room to make the stark white fireplace pop ... plus I LOVE the color red. I want to paint the wall behind the tv in the basement black so the TV itself blends in with the wall for the most part and make it more like a movie theatre :) Need to mount the surround sound also.

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answers from Chicago on

Okay, we have been stuck with white for a looong time (renters), but his parents have a bold red accent in the one room the actually decorated. My mom has a small place so she keeps the walls warm (Ralph Lauren's Mushroom) and the rest of the house has bold items for color splash like flowers, pictures, pillows etc. I do however like to keep a neutral base when painting/papering etc, trust me I have painted each place we have lived in mentally. Oh, and yes, I do look at people's homes and think about their choices in decor, I think it is part of the environment and everyone questions the environment they are in at the moment.

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answers from Salinas on

I am in the process of picking out paint colors. As Jane mentioned many houses look like hodge-podge (my currently does thanks to the last owner). They put 'McDonald's Hot mustard' yellow in the family room (including the ceiling) with high gloss wainscoting with a light teal in the attached room and the trim was also painted teal just at add extra hodge-podge effect. None of the trim matches nor do the outlets(at least they could of had some continuity somewhere).

Grey shades are really popular right now. I am debating if it is right for my house. I am thinking of Horizon Grey or Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore with a shade of white trim. I will have large art pieces with pops of color along with throw pillows and other accent pieces.

The house i just sold was painted by the owner before me and it must have been professionally coordinated. The shades of colors seem to go together so i found no reason to paint over (they left the old paint cans with the colors and rooms so we could touch up). That house had pale yellow (not sure the Kelly Moore color) with a pale green master bedroom and a Purple powder room. I noticed the kitchen had one wall a few shades darker than the rest of the pale yellow wall along with the kids' bathroom wall.

I have a few friends who are really good at picking out paint colors. One was joking that her new house was 'hospital white' and painted it Apache tan (i think by Sherwin -William). It looks nice in pictures (i have not been there in person).

edit: If you go on pinterest and search 'grey paint' you will see a lot of examples of rooms.

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answers from Chicago on

I'm like those friends of yours...stuck with whatever comes with the apartment. But let me dream on. I'd like to have 'neutral' muted light colors (beige, cream, off-white, pearl, whatever of those shades) in my living, family, dining and even bedrooms, with one or two accent walls (or ceilings) in a slightly bold shade.
Kitchen - bright white, and shades of yellow and orange and green.
Kids room - er....I think that's totally going to be out of my decision..I pray she's blessed with a good sense of color! :D

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answers from Los Angeles on

Yes, I analyze the paint colors. Can't help it, am a designer. I totally dissect and scrutinize what people have done with paint. Sometimes I do find beige boring, especially if the furnishings are also beige. Frankly, I don't mind an all white house, it refreshing, so long as there are interesting colors or play with value in the furnishing and accents. What ever people are doing rest assured it will be old and tired in about 7 years, thats the cycle of most color trends. But for me the main thing is does it all work together? I think thats were most people fall short. They don't think of a color pallet for the whole house. They tackle one room at a time and the end result is usually the same -hodge podge. I think its good to have one default color (wether that be Swiss Coffee, or some other complex white, grey, taupe, beige, yellow, or tan... and add about 2-5 coordinating colors to it for your accent walls and rooms to be painted a different color or tone. Ideally, All colors should work together in the house. Think of all the colors on a color board speaking to one another. (I think its okay to make exception to this rule for kids rooms). I notice that people could have done better job with the exact shade of their accents. I notice when people do a crappy job of painting when they use bold colors (every mistake shows). I have taupe walls and i have had taupe walls in all three homes I have lived in for 8 years. I will not have taupe walls in my next home. There is nothing wrong with it, my eyes are just tired of it.

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answers from Hartford on

We're so done with neutral colors for a while. My dining room is a lovely wine color. My living room is a beautiful forest-y but lush green. My sun room is lavender. The front foyer is white and blah, but I plan to change it to something bright and colorful too. My kitchen counters are wine, and I have light oak floors and cabinets in the kitchen, so the plan there is to get some tiling on the walls with some splashes of wine. All of our trim is in cream.

Upstairs the girls have some color, and my bedroom is white but awaiting a soft blue.

We did the neutral sandstone colors for a while, but they end up looking yellow to me and need to be freshened up every year or two. They also get very dirty very easily.

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answers from Dallas on

Our kitchen and my office are the only rooms with neutral colors.
Den and hallway -- light brown
Formal area -- light and dark green
Master BR light brown and maroon
Master bath --light brown and cream
Gameroom -- black and red geometric shapes
One son's bedroom is dark blue and white, the other is yellow and blue in a pattern.

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answers from Duluth on

My mom and mother-in-law both think that i need to liven things up, both in my wardrobe and in my house. But...I like neutrals. I like clean lines, I like not having to worry too much about matching. My life is chaotic enough with three very lively energetic kids who are quite loud, and i like coming into my home, feeling like it's a refuge, a quiet place. i dont' want red walls that make my kids bounce off them. :) I like it when people do bright colors--I love to come to mty mom's house to see what she's changed--but it's not right for our lives, right now.

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answers from Minneapolis on

When we moved we used the lady who staged our first house to help me pick colors for our new home.

My living room is sage - ish green... so is the upstairs hall and our master bedroom.

The kitchen and entry are blue, and go with the stone floor and the counters in our kitchen.

Guest room is light blue and the boys room a darker blue. Daughters room is yellow.

I don't like beige... the whole house had been painted freshly in beige when we bought it. We only the family room and powder room left to paint. The powder room is being remodeled right now and will be a beautiful eggplant color when done :)

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answers from San Francisco on

Yes, I notice people's decor. I personally have a LOT of color in my house, but can handle a neutral home if the design is modern. I have so much color in my rugs, art and furnishings, that it's appropriate (and a needed break) to have more neutral wall colors. However, I have an apple/avocado green in my hallway that I love.

Elle Decor is the best design mag.

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answers from Houston on

I love this question! My kitchen is off white, I know boring but I couldn't decide on what color until I got the tile up. Family room is a blue green brown color. The entry way and upstairs is a green brown. The game room is the same color and on the bottom is a dark green brown. My daughter's room and bathroom are sage. Son's room and bathroom are a dark blue and the dining room is clay color.

I love color so having an off white kitchen is driving me nuts! If I had the money, I would gut the stupid thing and start from scratch. =)

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answers from Portland on

I believe 'neutral' should be used for clinics (walls) or Switzerland.

I am a huge fan of color. In fact, when I first began dating my husband,he was painting the living room/dining room areas a lemon chiffon (walls) /deep raspberry purple (ceiling) --this was for the living room and reversed it for the dining area, with a pretty seafoam sort of green for the trim and built-in bookshelves. Can I tell you that I was even more smitten when I saw how this guy wasn't afraid of color? It looks gorgeous. Our old bedroom (now den) is deep reddish-orange with dark blue ceiling and copper trim; our attic bedroom now is a lovely robin's egg blue/turquoise color which changes to a bluey-emerald green in the evening light... also copper trim. Kiddo's room is a warm and mellow yellow with a dreamsicle orange trim. Bathroom is yellow and purple. The kitchen will eventually have yellow in the kitchen area proper and a bright rose pinky-red color in the nook. Yes, we are a little color-crazy, but it all works together. It's not too much, nor is it a mess.

And yeah, I hate to say it, but unless you've got some really great art on the walls (we do too), the all-white thing just doesn't cut it for me.

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answers from New York on

When I was renting I was always able to negotiate being able to paint the place the color of my choice. I'm a negotiating queen.

I have had beige walls, eggshell, deep red, chocolate brown, fudge, navy blue, light blue, butter yellow, big bird yellow, pea green, olive green, taupe, and ultra pure white.

I'm not afraid of color at all. I've been in the homes of family and friends and wondered about the color selections. One friend of mine had large horizontal striped pattern on her walls but the colors didn't go particularly well together. It was a shade of brown, yellow or was that green couldn't really tell due to poor lighting and blue..

Ultimately I could care less about the colors in anothers home. I don't have to live with it so it isn't that serious for me. I've had people make comments about the green livingroom and diningroom I currenly hold but I choose green because it was one of my mom's favorite colors and most of my furniture is black and a dark cherry wood. I think it is beautiful and so does hubby. We love it.

Great question

Just read your SWH. I had a friend who's New York City apartment was battleship grey with black accents. The paint was flat so it had no sheen at all. Her space felt like a galery. Her artwork where framed in black but they had bold colors. Grey is great if your room gets tons of light or if you are going for that sultry sexy feeling. My current bedroom walls are fudge brown but the ceiling is ultra pure white. The frames around the windows, doorways and the entry door are all white. It's such a sexy space. We love it. In our apartment we had a slightly lighter shade of the same brown. It didn't really have the feeling of coziness as our current room.

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answers from Cincinnati on

I don't have neutral but I did do light colors with dark accents. Living room is seafoam with Blue and green and brown accents. Kitchen is light green with bright yellow and purple accents.

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answers from Atlanta on

Oooo I like this question. all down stairs, except the front room, are painted "almond". it's a light brownish tan. It's boring. The one wall in the front room is very tall, and it's painted "avocado" green. It's great. I don't know what anyone else would think, but I like it. :) Going upstairs, the hallway is the same almond. Going into the first room on the right it's almond, but there is a little inset that is painted burnt orange. Going into the second room, my daughters room, two walls are robin egg blue and two walls are tangerine orange. I hand painted 4 zoo animals on the walls. We didn't know her gender before she was born so I went with zoo theme. :) Since then I've painted a few butterflies on the walls too. :) Now, to the master bedroom... darker almond walls (a touch of goldish yellow hue) on 3 walls and the same burnt orange on one wall like in the inset in room 1. The master bathroom is painted grayish lavender purple. We just painted that one. I love it. ... we have a second bathroom that is near my daughters room that is mint green. We've found a fun owl themed pink/orange/yellow/brown/green brand from Target that is girly and fun. That is all around the bathroom so it matches the paint well. ugh. so no. I tried neutral but it's boring. As the painting continued over the years I broke out into color mode. :)

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answers from Washington DC on

My mom's house is off white everywhere, except the bedrooms, in which she has wallpaper. In our old house that we are trying to sell, we used to have a light green in the living room, yellow in the dining room, kitchen and hallways, and red in the basement. we needed to paint anyways and the realtor told us that we should be putting it in a neutral color so it would sell (several realtors told us that). So boring beige it was. A month later and no one has interest in the house. I think it looks like a run of the mill boring house now. In our new house, because I don't want to paint again, I have a cream in the kitchen, family room, living room, with an accent wall of blue in the family room that is blue, and top half of dining room that is blue (using as a study though), basement cream. All of the bedrooms are a color of the occupants choosing because I need some color in my life, and bathrooms are light colors.

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answers from Los Angeles on

We have the neutral beige throughout the house and accent with color in our furniture and accessories, so everything bright always pops. This style works better for us since there's three small families living together and we can't agree on other colors in the common rooms to save our lives, my sister and I would like to paint one wall of the living room a warm red and we got looks of disgust and disbelief when we suggested it ; )

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answers from San Francisco on

I would consider my walls neutral, but they ARE colors--brown, blue, green and yellow, some deeper and some lighter. They are just very soft and muted (think Pottery Barn.)
I think SOME people can pull off bright colors very well, but most people don't. I am a chronic "open house goer" and I am frequently mortified with some peoples' color choices, even in very expensive homes!
Re your SWH, I have seen deep purple look really, really good with gray, you might consider that. Keep the trim white so it stays crisp and doesn't get too heavy :)

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answers from Jacksonville on

I think doing the walls ALL neutral, like the magazines "suggest" with "a pop of color" only works when EVERYTHING is a neutral with a pop of color. Not just the walls, but the rugs, carpet, sofa, chairs, etc.. And if you really pay attention to the magazines, the pictures they show seem to look that way to me. The photos that really look "together" have lots of white (not just on the walls, but the sofa, the carpet, the painted wood surfaces, EVERYTHING)... and then a few pieces with "a pop of color" that matches in a few places (some sky blue hues in a pattern on one chair, in a framed piece of art, a pillow, the blue in the base of a lamp... while EVERYTHING else is white).

Those kinds of decor look fantastic, but to me, are not very realistic and not very livable.

My home has some neutral walls (biscuit) in the family room, breakfast and kitchen and hallways. The rest, each room is a color. Some more bang than others. Dining is a warm cinnamon color. Son's room is similar but a deeper red tone. Daughter wanted violet, so her room is a softer hot pink that has purplish undertones (the name is something or other with violet in it), our bedroom is a mossy relaxing green. Our bathroom and guest room are shades of mocha, with cream or white accent colors. Which is nice in the bath, b/c it goes with the limestone floors/shower and marble countertops with those same natural tones rippling through the stone. The other bathrooms and the living room are a golden shade.. almost mustard, but not yellow, more gold. So is the inside of our garage.
Nothing says "bland" faster to me than white walls. UNLESS, you have deep dark hardwood floors and white furniture "with a pop of color", lol.

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answers from Colorado Springs on

I understand the value of neutrals... but I'm sort of a color gal myself. I finally learned (after years and years) to pick a wall shade that's much lighter than I think I really want, and it'll be just about right. I just painted my bedroom a soft yellow that looked orange at first, but is just fine now that it's all over the room. It picks up a minor color in my bed quilt.

My family room is white, because it's in the basement and needs all the light it can get.

I can see a rented home - or even a just-purchased home - being a neutral color, because then you can move right in with almost any decor. Whether it's boring or not depends on what else goes on in the room. If the walls are going to be "supporting cast," what will be the principal players - the things in the room that command the eye? I find that boredom comes when the commanding things aren't there. That's playing it too safe.

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answers from Seattle on

I have a TINY house (1032sq feet)... So color is really important to tie together. I do visual arts, so also it's kind of a necessity.

It was painted by a Stager before we bought it... So they PHOTOGRAPH well... But living in it has been neck crinkling.

Was / Is follows

Ceilings & trim : No idea. A cool grey ish white
Ceilings & trim : Navajo White (in flat & semigloss)

Bathroom : Electric Peacock Blue
Bathroom : Tiffany blue
(blue metallic slate floor)

Laundry room : White /Stark
Laundry room : Chocolate Brown & Navajo White

Bedroom 1: Baby poop yellow
Bedroom 1: Warm Grey (neutral) w/ dark purple plum bedding.

Bedroom 2: Dusky teal
Bedroom 2: Black walls w/ teal stencils of snowboarder, binary code, and a few video game icons. Navajo white ceilings (angled), with glow in the dark stencils of the constellations (invisible during day). Ahem. Can you tell this is my son's room???

Living/dining : A yellowy coffe & cream color
Living/dining : A neutral coffee & cream
Accent wall (kept) : whitehouse style dusky slate green (kept. Love)

Kitchen: Eye cringing hospital mint green
Kitchen: Warm grey (Benjamin Moore Worldly Grey) w Navajo white cabs

LOL... So, yes. A lot of neutral. And one totally crazy tween/teen techie room.

I use flat paint on my walls, and do the black frames w white matting thing for photographs. My furniture is very masculine/ love the English club look/ lots of blacks and browns and leather. Filmy white curtains. Where I get color otherwise tends to be from our STUFF. Snowboards in keeeerazy graphics, guitars, my sons art, holiday decorations, a kimono thrown over a chair, etc.

I'm such a high energy person I need a VERY neutral backdrop.

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answers from Austin on

My home was completely boring beige with white trim for 10 years. Then about 5 years ago we painted one wall in our bedroom a chocolate milk color, and the family room a light yellow. My husband didn't think he'd like the yellow, but it's similar to the beige with a little hint of sunshine.
We've always talked about adding more color to the walls, but instead we've added area rugs, etc.

My son was reading over my shoulder, and he says wouldn't it be cool to have a room painted black with highlighter yellow squares around the light switches, highlighter orange squares around the plugs, and a white border around the doors.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Most of my house has white walls (of course, they are not truly white, they are one of the 47 versions of 'white' out there). My office/guest room has coral walls, one bathroom has 3 chocolate walls (pink tiles on the 4th, 1950s vintage and not yet redone) and my son's bedroom is 'sunflower fields' golden yellow. We have wood floors with lots of oriental rugs and paintings on the walls so I see plenty of color. I personally painted every room in the house and am perfectly happy with 'white' were we have white.

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