Hear It From The Pros: How To Use Color To Make Accents Pop


From subtle to bold, accent colors can distinguish design elements and provide a sense of continuity throughout a home. We tapped industry powerhouses to share their mantras for approaching millwork, cabinetry and walls to make a lasting impression.

gray bathroom with trim in Iris 2 by The Paint Lab

Designer Josh Greene opts for Iris 2 by The Paint Lab for the trim in this bathroom project. (Photo: Genevieve Garruppo)

Josh Greene

Josh Greene Design, New York City

Don’t stress about being matchy-matchy. 

“Pull out another color from one of the other elements in the room—a wallpaper, a fabric, a tile. But don’t do the most obvious one and most importantly: Don’t get caught up trying to match it exactly; nuance creates depth and interest.”

nina magon lounge in sea green by benjamin moore

Bringing in texture in a matching hue elevates an accent color even further, as evident in The Nina Magon Lounge in Texas, which features Deep Sea Green by Benjamin Moore. (Photo: Julie Soefer)

Nina Magon

Nina Magon Studio, Houston

Consider matching material. 

“Coordinate colors based on their complimentary colors on the color wheel. Also, featuring the color in textures and patterns creates an eye-catching moment.”

black cabinetry in space black by benjamin moore

Designer Marie Flanigan’s new office features Space Black by Benjamin Moore on the cabinetry. “I love the color’s inky saturation which is beautifully contrasted by unlacquered brass pulls and Calacatta viola marble,” she says. (Photo courtesy Marie Flanigan Interiors)

Marie Flanigan

Marie Flanigan Interiors, Houston

Don’t overdo it.

“Identify what beautiful details should be accented and stick to the plan. It’s always easier to add more color than take it away.”

courtney mcleod colorful living room with teal trim

“Pull the smallest color from a pattern or design element and create movement in the room by adding it to the largest surface areas; doors, molding, baseboards, trim, and even window casings,” says designer Courtney McLeod, whose featured project uses Teal Ocean by Benjamin Moore as an accent hue. (Photo: John Neitzel)

Courtney McLeod

Right Meets Left Interior Design, New York City

Strike a perfect balance. 

“There should always be moments of relative quiet in any design scheme, whether you’re using bright and bold, elegant and moody, or subdued paint colors. The trick is to create a hierarchy of color. Select a primary paint color, a secondary color, and accent colors that will coordinate and pop but won’t overwhelm a space. This will create a cohesive space where you will catch the subtleties of the accent colors without overwhelming the design.”

modern living room in farrow & ball's all white

In a modern Denver home, designer Katie Leede opts for Farrow & Ball’s All White on the walls to let the details speak for themselves. (Photo: Max Kim-Bee)

Katie Leede

Katie Leede & Co., New York City

Be mindful of the style. 

“With modern homes, I like to either stick to a natural palette (ivorys, charcoals, blush pinks) combined with interesting textures and finishes such as plaster and lacquer. You can’t go wrong with a clean, clear white in a contemporary setting and leave the color to the artwork.”

gray kitchen with accent color on cabinetry Lead Gray by Benjamin Moore

Lead Gray by Benjamin Moore is featured on the kitchen cabinetry in a recent project by San Francisco designer Jay Jeffers. (Photo: Matthew Millman)

Jay Jeffers

Jay Jeffers, San Francisco

Expertly weave color throughout the home.

“I often establish a language throughout a house using color. I like to pick one shade that acts as the underlying shade throughout the home, whether it’s a neutral taupe or white. I then use coordinating pops of color throughout each room to create personality and contrast, while ensuring that the rooms are still cohesive overall.”

black and white striped living room

“When I think of an accent color, I automatically think of something on the dark side, because the goal is to enhance the other elements of the space,” says Los Angeles designer Jeff Andrews. (Photo: Grey Crawford)

Jeff Andrews

Jeff Andrews Design, Los Angeles

Make your mark in a fun way. 

“I love a stripe, such as a striped wall or a striped ceiling. It’s the easiest way to add a graphic punch to any room. Plus, they really do work in any style of architecture or era.”

neutral gray living room with built ins in Van Courtland Blue by Benjamin Moore

Cheryl Luckett’s top tip when it comes to accent colors is simple: “Be fearless, because if you’re scared and noncommittal it will show.” Here, the Charlotte designer uses Jasper Stone by Sherwin Williams & Van Courtland Blue by Benjamin Moore. (Photo: Laura Sumrak)

Cheryl Luckett

Dwell by Cheryl Interiors, Charlotte

Continuity is key.

“Continuity is important when it comes to color. For a less jarring approach, I utilize repetition when using paint color as an accent feature.  Repeating the color in the space helps to provide a connection that is visually pleasing.”

teal lacquered entryway with botanical wallpaper

“I love to use wallpaper and often pull out an accent color from there,” says Kati Curtis, whose featured project uses Custom Color by KCD for Fine Paints of Europe. (Photo: Thomas Loof)

Kati Curtis

Kati Curtis, New York City

Your color inspiration is already around you. 

“Use accent colors to highlight built-in elements, like a molding or trim detail. As long as the colors are integrated into the other elements in the room—rugs, wallpaper, etc.—there are really no limits to what you can do!”