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!”

Categories: From the Magazine