Dear Rosie : An Advice Post

Recently, I received this:

Dear Rosemary On The TV,

I have a couch nearly identical to the one on the attached link. When I got it five years ago, I went with red as my accent color. Now I’d like to branch out and maybe do navy and white, grays or even oranges (my two club chairs are a red/gold herringbone that looks rusty orange). My only hitch is that my walls are off white (apartment) and my floor-to-ceiling curtains (which I love) are red with a bold white square pattern. My wood pieces are pretty dark and are older/antique-ish. Do you have any brilliant ideas to incorporate different accent colors without making my living room look like a clown fart?

Signed,
Afraid to Mix it Up in Memphis

First of all, this is awesome. Second, it should be stated, for the record, that I DON’T actually know what I’m doing. I base most of my decisions on things that I think are pretty, not on design concepts or things I didn’t learn in design school. So no one should take me seriously.

That said, I love giving my opinion whether people ask for it or not, so here we go!

ATMIUIM sent this photo of her couch and these photos of her curtains:

From the sounds of it, this living room is sounding very….warm. Reds, rusty oranges, golden yellows and beige. It’s like an autumn harvest up in there. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m a firm believer in contrast. And when you’ve got all that warmth, you need something to cool it down. ATMIUIM mentioned the addition of grays, oranges or blues. Both grays and blues are cool colors, and can totally work with reds and yellows.

But if you want to avoid looking like a “clown fart” – aka having way too much/many primary colors so that your room looks like the ball pit at Chuck-E-Cheese – you don’t have to go All Neutrals All The Time.

Check out this room:

A few tips and tricks:

1. When you have a lot of different colors and you aren’t sure how to make them all work together, search for something like a rug, an upholstery fabric, throw pillows or artwork that incorporates all the colors you want to use. This will tie it all together.

In this case, the rug contains grays, reds, yellows and oranges and suddenly, this room looks like it was done “on purpose.”

2. Mix prints carefully. Florals, stripes and geometric patterns should be different colors and sizes so they don’t compete with each other.

Because the rug is an oversized floral print, I stuck with small graphic patterns and stripes on the throw pillows. The curtains contain a larger geometric pattern (ok – these don’t, but the photo of her curtains does).

3. Use contrast to escape any one genre of design.

Unless you’re actually going for “urban contemporary” or “country cottage,” you want to steer clear of a room feeling too theme-y. So stick a modern metal side table between the upholstered  chairs. The leather pouf and orange candle holder have a little bit of Asian influence, so offset that with abstract art. Just keep everything in the same color palette.

4. The easiest and most affordable way to change up your look is with accessories.

Adding a little color through pillows and blankets, art, knick knacks and books can totally change the look of a room without having to get new expensive stuff.

Don’t believe me? Check out this second options, where we kept the furniture and curtains:

It’s a totally different room! As you can see, it’s possible to mix reds, yellows, blues and greens without feeling like the circus vommed all over your living room.

The suzani fabric used in the small pillow and the abstract art contain all the colors in the room. The red pillow contains a small graphic print, the curtains will still have a large graphic print, and the blue velvet pillow adds texture.

5. The suzani fabric on the small pillow has lots of bright colors on a neutral backdrop, so do the same in your room to echo that.

Because all of ATMIUIM’s furniture and accessories are different colors, I anchored them all on a neutral backdrop – beige walls and a beige shag rug (the shag adds more texture!).

6. A good rule of thumb with pillows is to get two large pillows that match each other, then throw in a couple of pillows in different colors/fabrics/shapes/sizes to add contrast.

If you can make or buy a pillow in a fabric that’s used somewhere else in the room, or that contains all the colors used in the room, even better!

{Sources – Gray room: art, lamp, rug, side table, candle holder, pouf, gray pillows, orange pillow. Blue room: rug, abstract art, art print, blue pillow, suzani pillow, red pillow, lamp, sunburst mirror}

And there you have it – my totally unprofessional opinion. Hopefully this will be helpful in Memphis and maybe one or two of you will take something away from it as well.

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2 Responses to “Dear Rosie : An Advice Post”


  1. 1 nicole b. November 3, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Daaaang, girl, you’re good. I like option #1!

    Good luck, Miss Memphis. xo.

  2. 2 Jennifer Freeman November 7, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    YAY!! How am I just now seeing this? Thank you so much – love it all!


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