Behind the Before & After: The Simple Concepts that Informed This Bold-Yet-Homey Makeover

published Jul 13, 2023
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Credit: Photo: Jeff Davis; Props: Kate Worth

For artist and musician Raquel Lily, their home is an extension of their creative life. Raquel loves bold colors and big design statements, but they weren’t sure what hue to choose for their living room. As the first place visitors see, and the location of band rehearsals and other work projects, the room needed a shot of fresh energy.

There’s nothing like a good “after” — but when you know what decisions went into the “during,” the end result is even more satisfying. To help Raquel find the right shade for a revamp, we deployed some some smart questioning and took a fun foray into color theory. Here’s how you can do the same.

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Credit: Photo: Jeff Davis; Props: Kate Worth, Photo: Jeff Davis; Props: Kate Worth

Consider This Question First

Before you pick up a single paint swatch, ask yourself: How do I want this room to feel? It’s a prompt that transcends decor styles and square footage. Do you want a sense of coziness or spaciousness? City penthouse vibes or desert casita? And how do you want to feel in the room — energized, relaxed, comforted? When you spend a minute reflecting on what the space means to you, you’ll immediately narrow down your color options.

Raquel wanted their space to feel cozy, warm, and welcoming. Designer and visual artist Sara Weissler knew just the color for this vibe: Sienna Clay 104 by Benjamin Moore. It’s a grounding, earthy terracotta that will make friends, family, and creative collaborators feel right at home.

“There’s a great deal of warmth and heart that’s been added to the living room,” Raquel says. “The new color adds to the homey experience.” And to keep it looking its best through all their rehearsals, recording sessions, and friendly gatherings, Raquel opted for Benjamin Moore Regal Select Interior Paint. The formula’s superior washability and durability means stains have met their match.

Credit: Photo: Jeff Davis; Props: Kate Worth

Consult a Color Wheel

We all know that some colors just look “right” together, even if we don’t know why. But the color wheel does know why! This handy reference guide takes the guesswork out of combining colors. In Raquel’s project, it helped us choose a paint that would play well with their living room’s showpiece: a gorgeous teal sectional.

“Sienna Clay is an unexpected color to pair with a jewel-tone sofa,” Sara says. “But it works beautifully because orange and blue are complementary on the color wheel.”

The color wheel holds endless insights, but here are the basics: Two colors directly across from each other are complementary (aka the perfect pair). Three side by side are analogous (a harmonious palette of primary and accent colors). Three evenly spaced apart are triadic (ripe for bold contrasts). When you want to play off existing decor — especially dominant pieces like Raquel’s sectional — let the color wheel be your compass.

Credit: Photo: Jeff Davis; Props: Kate Worth

Work With Your Layout

Before their paint makeover, Raquel’s open layout made the living room feel like an extension of the dining area and kitchen (and vice versa). “Now that there’s a distinct color in the living room, it feels like a completely separate room,” Raquel says. But when you have an open layout, how do you decide where one room ends and another begins?

Use your space’s layout and architectural details as a guide. “Raquel’s open plan has a definite break in the wall that separates the living and dining rooms,” Sara says. “This makes it easy to decide where the color should end.”

Even if your own space isn’t so clear cut, you can use architectural details, wall decor, or even outlets as an invisible border between your “rooms.” Whatever you decide, keep any continuous trim and molding the same color throughout. It will create a cleaner, more cohesive effect.