Color Comes to Town

Pittsburghers are embracing the nationwide trend toward using hotter, bolder shades.

Joyce Susick is seeing color everywhere. From living rooms and kitchens to bedrooms and baths, she’s finding that Pittsburghers are embracing brightly colored accent walls—and even whole rooms done in bold colors.

“People are very into color now,” says Susick, who visits hundreds of homes each year as an interior designer and the in-house design expert at Westmoreland Supply, a local paint retailer.

Chic 20-somethings within the city limits aren’t the only ones bringing vibrant colors into their homes. Many of Susick’s clients are suburban homeowners in their 40s, 50s and 60s who are opting for shades like plum and copper instead of traditional neutrals.

Some begin by experimenting with intense colors in their children’s rooms. Then, they embrace nontraditional color schemes in other rooms.

“We are in western Pennsylvania, and we don’t have a lot of sun all year,” she says. So warm, saturated colors are a perfect antidote to our cool, gray skies.

Where is all this passion for bold colors coming from, though? Susick credits networks like HGTV and glossy shelter magazines for opening up people’s minds about how expressive they can be with their homes. That influence, she says, has made Pittsburgh homeowners just as likely as anyone in New York or Los Angeles to decorate adventurously.

Thanks to these sources, Susick says, people in Pittsburgh “are more aware of what they can do.”

We’ve asked three celebrity designers who are helping fuel this nationwide trend to share their tips and tricks for making bold, unexpected colors work in any home.

Cortney Novogratz, co-star of the new HGTV series “Home by Novogratz”

Use unexpected colors in spaces like stairways and alcoves. “There are all types of areas that are kind of dead space that people don’t realize they can really dress up and have fun with to show a reflection of who they are as homeowners,” Novogratz says.

If you prefer neutral walls, bring in bold color through furniture or vibrant pieces of art in brightly colored frames.

Pink is not just for little girls’ bedrooms. If the right shade is selected, even men can live with it.

Want to go all out in one room? Rather than using contrasting colors, choose the same bold shade for wall paint and carpeting.

Betsy Burnham, founder of Southern California’s Burnham Design

Balance bold shades with the right wood tones. Burnham loves black wood finishes in rooms accented with intense colors. “You need something to neutralize a crazy color palette.  … If you go too far with it, it cheapens it,” she says.

If you want to use a color like teal, hot pink or chartreuse but are nervous, look for what she calls a “dusty” hue of these colors—one with a bit of gray mixed in.

Unexpected colors don’t have to be bright. In place of a basic neutral, she recently used a soft lavender on the walls of a Beverly Hills home to create subtle drama.

With paint, consider the size of the area you want to do in a nontraditional color. The larger the area, the more intense the effect.

Clients who think they don’t want nontraditional colors often love them when they see the finished room.

Brian Patrick Flynn, HGTV blogger and founder/editor of

Pair a bold color with a very dark and a very light one.

There are certain color schemes that surface over and over in home decorating. Turn these typical pairings upside down by bringing in a third color that no one would expect. If you really want classic chocolate-brown with pale blue, add a dash of a color like celery-green. “All of a sudden, it’s fresh and you’ve made it your own,” Flynn says.

Three shades that can be paired with even the wildest colors are silver, deep charcoal and dark black-brown; they’re incredibly versatile. For example, black-brown with a bold red has a masculine appeal, while black-brown with lavender is feminine and chic. Currently, his home contains a mix of black-brown, bronze, silver and violet.

Traditionally, people use two complementary colors located across from each other on the color wheel (red with green, blue with orange and so on). “I try to stay away from the complementary pairs,” he says, “and if I do use complementary colors that a client wants, I’ll throw in another unexpected color to mediate.”

One last piece of advice from Susick: Some homeowners assume that a neutral space will appeal to prospective buyers. But throughout her time in Pittsburgh, she finds that “houses with color sell more easily.”

So, indulge your inner artist, and use your home as a canvas. As Flynn points out, there’s little risk in being daring: “It is so not permanent,” he says. “It’s a gallon of paint that costs $30!”

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Proudly Made in Pittsburgh: Inside 10 Family Businesses

Proudly Made in Pittsburgh: Inside 10 Family Businesses

Many family-owned and operated businesses that have been around for generations still are thriving today in Pittsburgh. We take you behind the scenes of 10 companies that are carrying on their legacies close to home.
She is The Keeper of the Nations

She is The Keeper of the Nations

E. Maxine Bruhns has worked with the University of Pittsburgh's Nationality Rooms for 50 years -- and at age 91, she shows no sign of slowing down.
Pittsburgh Steeler Le'Veon Bell Has Record-Book Ambitions

Pittsburgh Steeler Le'Veon Bell Has Record-Book Ambitions

Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell doesn’t merely want to win in 2015. He wants to set marks few NFL players have reached.
Chengdu Gourmet in Squirrel Hill Brings the Heat

Chengdu Gourmet in Squirrel Hill Brings the Heat

It is the optimum place to try authentic Sichuan dishes in one of the city’s culturally diverse neighborhoods.
Sign of the Times: How to Make Pittsburgh Welcoming for All

Sign of the Times: How to Make Pittsburgh Welcoming for All

"Racism in Pittsburgh is real. Racial inequality is real. The playing field is not level."
Labor of Love - Courtney Brennan's Amazing Home Renovation

Labor of Love - Courtney Brennan's Amazing Home Renovation

The WPXI-TV reporter trades heels for a hard hat to renovate a Lawrenceville row house with her architect husband.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module