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7 ways to add a pop of color to a room without painting the walls

Design New England
Even if your kitchen is completely white, you can add some color to it to brighten up the space.
Even if your kitchen is completely white, you can add some color to it to brighten up the space. Anthony Crisafulli

Adding color to a predominantly white or gray room can be tricky. You might not be confident enough to make a permanent change, like painting the walls or changing cabinets. If you’re renting an apartment or home, you might not even be allowed to paint.

But it turns out there are lots of temporary ways to brighten up a space that can still look great. We spoke with Kristina Crestin, an interior designer, to get tips for homeowners and apartment dwellers looking to add some color into their lives.

Buy a rug and/or some pillows. 

Crestin is currently working on a project where everything in the room is white.

“We are putting in a colorful Moroccan rug and some Indian pillows for a window seat,” she said. “Let those be the items that have a lot of color and let everything else be white.”

Add some wall art.

Art can be a great addition to a room because it is easy to transport if you decide to move, Crestin noted. For one client, she’s putting a large abstract piece of art in a dining space with white walls.

Get some colorful bowls.

Along with the wall art, Crestin added some decorative bowls on an open shelf. A great way to add a pop of color to a white kitchen is to use colorful bowls to store fruit.

Take your gallery wall to the next level.

Gallery walls – or walls filled with frames – are in right now, according to Crestin. One of her clients wants to add family photos to a white stair landing.

“We are tinting the photos with a subtle blue-green,” she said. “All the halls are white and the ceilings are white, but we are taking 25 photos with colors and black frames so we have a gallery wall to bring color in.”

She added that this can be an easy DIY project, too. You can adjust the color of the photos on your computer, print them out, and then put them in frames.

Drapes, drapes, drapes.

Whether you are living in a home or an apartment, drapes can be a perfect way to add in some color, for cheap.

“Color drapes work really well,” Crestin said. “[They are] really transformative.”

In a couple of years when the color you chose is out and a different one is in, you won’t feel as badly changing them out for new ones, since it wasn’t a major investment to start.

Be bold with your bar stools.

“My kitchen has all white cabinetry and I have lime green bar stools,” Crestin said.

She said this works well for clients who play it safe by designing their kitchens in grey and white. Adding a runner for the table or the island can also be a great way to bring in a little color.

Can’t paint the walls? Paint the furniture.

If you have a piece of furniture that can be painted, that’s add a great option to add vibrant color, Crestin said. If you are in the market for new furniture, you can also buy some colorful pieces, like vivid dining room chairs.

Another good option: Buy colorful light fixtures.

Design New England, the magazine of splendid homes and gardens, celebrates the region’s best interior design, architecture, and landscape design.
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