COLOR 101: How to Make Your Home Project Go from “Nice” to “Wow”

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Gina Bonura is a Kitchen and Bath Designer at Alure Home Improvements

One of my biggest challenges as a designer is to get clients over their fear of color. Color is what makes the project go from nice to WOW. I think the fear of color comes mainly from three things:

  1. Commitment people fear that they will tire of the color in a few years
  2. Wrong color choice – they are afraid it will make the room look small, or won’t match
  3. Can’t picture it, they just can’t picture what it will look like.

Help is on the way – read on!


When doing a kitchen or bathroom remodel, color commitment is a valid concern. I feel, if you absolutely love a cabinet or granite color, then most likely, you will still at least like it in 10 years. If you don’t love something and just settle because you think it’s a safer choice, chances are you will hate it 10 years (or 10 minutes!). What if, like me, you suffer have a Color Attention Deficit and always feel the need to change? The best way to handle that is to use neutral colors for the main pieces that you will not redo as easily, then use paint as the punch of color. This way, you can change your mind every couple of years just by repainting and re-accessorizing! Sure beats ripping your bathroom tiles out.


Here’s where everyone wimps out and goes for Decorator’s White or some version of beige. White and beige suck the life out of beautiful cherry cabinets and even light cabinets! Color must be used to bring out the tones and richness of other colors. Even worse, clients tend to pick everything the same color so it matches. Then you end up with a matchy hum-drum space. Monotones can be very interesting spaces, but they are usually not by accident. Even then, monotone spaces need a shot of impact through texture or artwork.

Here is a simple guideline for colorizing a project:

    • Typically, you will get the best result with at least 3 colors. The first color is the main color, or what you will see the most of. The cabinets in a kitchen or the tile in the bathroom may be the main color.
    • Then use a color that compliments the main color. This will be the next largest amount of color, such as countertops or wall paint, if there is a lot of wall left showing.
    • Finally, use an accent color to make everything pop. This is the smallest amount of color you should use in your accessories or backsplash or even a wall if there is not a lot showing you’re comfortable with, trust the designer’s expertise. They chose this profession because they have a good coloreye. They can picture it and can turn the vision into reality.


If you have trouble picturing the space, use your resources. If you are working with a designer trust them, they’ve seen it all before! Look through magazines and pull out pages you like. Before you know it, you will have a good collection of pictures that depict what attracts you. Many times, this helps you to define your sense of style because you will start to see similarities in your selections. Another great resource is your computer. There are many virtual color websites that help you select color. I like to use painting sites such as and Sherwin Williams. Better Homes and Gardens has a nice virtual decorating tool. Even tile companies (for example Daltile) are making use of the technology on their websites for customers to play with different looks. At these sites you can upload pictures of your own project or use templates to try on different colors and styles. If you have any questions about color, please let me know in the comments below. I’d also love to hear your advice on how you approach color when doing a home project. -Gina

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