Choosing Bold Paint Colors: Color Is Your Friend

modern kitchen bold colors

Choosing bold paint colors and using them well can be scary, but shouldn’t be avoided. Here are some home decor tips for bold colors to their best potential.


Yesterday I had the great privilege of touring one of the most incredible spaces I’ve ever seen, the Palacio Nacional de Pena. It was the summer home to the Portuguese royal family for over a century and stands today as a monument of design and architectural mastery.

Walking through the space and seeing all kinds of interior décor techniques blending to create a majestic palette had me literally whispering “Wow!” every 30 seconds, but could I see it in a home?

Bold design and colors

Well, yes. In parts. In a palace where no expenses were spared, I was blown away with one room recreating a palatial feel with just faux finished detailing all over the ceilings and walls. It mimicked cornices, pillars, stonework, and all kinds of regal touches that would be over-the-top anywhere but in an actual palace.

In other rooms, they combined elements of the “Orient” with Indian influences. The building itself smacked of Moorish-meets-Gothic and Romanesque design, replete with Portugal’s famous tiled exteriors punctuating bold punches of red and yellow against stark concrete and stone work.


“The Noble Room” in Pena National Palace, Portugal.

What can you, the lowly commoner, take away from the stunning interiors of this regal national palace?

Color is your friend

Bold paint colors have a bad rap for being loud and overpowering in a space, but this is unfounded. A lot of people think they shouldn’t use bold colors when they’re trying to have their art or furniture stand out, but the truth is that color helps it everything around it shine. If you’ve got metals, woods, or vibrant art in your home, then vibrant reds, yellows, blues, greens, and other jewel-tone colors can give your home a feel you’ll love.

When I had vibrant “Moulin Rouge” red walls, my artwork stood out more than it had ever done so before. It’s only paint! You can always undo it later if you’re having trouble adjusting to a bold life.

Contrast is beautiful

“Contrast” doesn’t just mean light versus dark. It means opposing patterns, opposite colors, varying fabrics, and more. Dark woods can look stunning next to soft, flowing fabrics such as with drapes, and stands out too against stone and tile.

brightly colored sitting room

Pieces from different influences can play well together, like a tea set from the West Indies on a dramatic Victorian marble-topped table. Display striped pillows next to a check or dotted throw blanket. Use a floral painted glass lamp next to a Moorish geometric wallpaper.

It’s your home, if it’s things you love, contrasting elements can work wonderfully together if you find some kind of unifying point between them like a background or border color that complements all the other elements. Play with it!

“Faux finishing” doesn’t mean looking cheap

Whether you’re talking about mimicking old world plaster wall finishes or you’re painting elaborate motifs to get a regal appeal on your ceiling, faux finishing is an art form and painting technique that deserves a lot of respect.

You can give new furniture old life with faux finishing and paint-distressing techniques. You can mimic expensive wood-finishing, plaster, metal finishes, and marbleized walls with paint too. By looking to faux finishing guides and books, you’ll find all kinds of techniques that can take your home from ordinary to old world.

Drama never gets old

I swooned and sighed when looking at so much of the furniture in the Pena Palace. It struck me that so much of it would work in many modern spaces. Who couldn’t put an antique chaise longue to work in their living room? What writer wouldn’t want a commanding wooden desk in their study?

Modern furniture is lovely, but not all of it will be able to stand the test of time. Lots of modern pieces tend to look dated in five years. Look to the 1960s as an example. There are many beautiful pieces that came out in the ‘60s that could really make a space sing today, like sofas and couches with sleek lines and stylish patterns, but then there are also gaudy pieces that can’t work anywhere now.

antique loveseat

Big antiques are a problem in the ever-smaller home, but tables, chairs, lamps, and so many more old pieces add drama and flair you won’t find at IKEA. Invest in quality, dramatic pieces and I guarantee you, they’ll stay timeless in the decades to come.

Interior design ideas everywhere

A palatial home like Pena, built for royalty entertaining visitors from around the world, is able to get away with so much more interior design style and pizzazz than we lowly commoners can put in one space, but that doesn’t mean we can’t draw on a few aspects to make our own homes resonate with a royal, noble feel.

Pick elements of over-the-top designs you love and bring things down a notch to work in your own home.

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