Bold yellow dining space
Dennis Welsh

1. Find your inspiration.

Take a cue from artist, author, and entrepreneur Carol Bass, who used everything from wildflowers to a bar of soap to find the perfect colors for her Maine cottage. Carol painted the walls of her dining room the color of sunflowers. "I enjoy developing spaces that surprise. That's the reason I painted the dining room yellow -- it's warm and rich and surprising," Carol says.

Why it works:
Beautiful colors can be found in the most unexpected places, but the people who come up with paint colors have yet to tap into them all. With today's technology, you can order paint in almost any color you can find; just bring a sample to your local paint store to get a match.

Contrasting colors
Dennis Welsh

2. Mix it up.

Don't be afraid to make unlikely color combinations. Carol Bass used poppy red as a backdrop for the blues, greens, and yellows found in a variety of vases around the fireplace in her living area. "Pulling things together and trying new ideas -- that's my pleasure," Carol says.

Red, red room
Dennis Welsh

3. Know when to overdo it.

Spacious rooms scream for a dramatic statement, and one of the best ways to make your favorite color more prominent is to utilize it repeatedly.

The brilliant red Carol Bass chose for her living room walls didn't intimidate her. "When I saw the red poppies blooming in my garden, I knew I had to try that same red on my living room walls," Carol says. But she didn't stop there; she used the same color on several pieces of furniture in the space. "Reds are bold, and they energize any room," she says.

Why it works:
Painting your walls to match the tone on your couch and incorporating smaller pieces of furniture in various shades of the same color will get your room the attention it deserves. When using a color repeatedly in a larger room, neutral tones on the ceiling and floor add dimension and depth. Contrasting colors or neutral shades on accessories keep the focal color from overwhelming the eye.

Yellow and blue kitchen
Dana Gallagher

4. Concentrate on details.

Georgia homeowner Jane Coslick gives sage advice for many cottage dwellers. "Frame rooms with white," she says. "It opens up cramped spaces and makes colorful doors, paintings and fabrics pop."

Why it works:
Small spaces need color, too, but a bold hue on every wall can be a bit much in compact quarters. Instead of painting her entire kitchen a brilliant blue, Jane used it on her cabinet doors and drawer faces. By choosing white for her counters, ceiling, and cabinet casings and using a bright yellow on the floor and backsplash to complement the blue, Jane created a lively kitchen without making the small space feel too cluttered.

Painted furniture
Dana Gallagher

5. Use intense colors.

Bored with your ho-hum, hand-me-down furniture? Tackling those tossed-around treasures with a can of eye-catching spray paint can mean a world of difference in your decor.

Why it works:
Painting an old wicker chair or flea market table a bold tint can thrust a once-loved item into its second heyday and bring an otherwise dull room to life.

Wrapped in texture
Dennis Welsh

6. Use walls as your canvas.

Carol Bass saturated her guest room with layers of color and texture. The base is spruce green followed by a glaze made from water, paint, and water-based polyurethane. She hand-painted swirls on top with complementary blues that match the bed and nightstand.

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