4 color swatches on the wall
Color is the most exciting element of design - not only because it can make the biggest impact, but because it's the easiest to change. A weekend spent with a brush and a gallon of paint can enliven a staid living room, update a bathroom or bring tranquility to a bedroom. "A home isn't just a house, it's a place of comfort and feeling," says Sara McLean, the color marketing manager for Dunn-Edwards Corp. "Color speaks to who you are, so you shouldn't be afraid of it," A veteran of studio design, McLean now tracks color trends as she develops consumer and trade-friendly tools for the California company. Dunn-Edwards offers nearly 1,700 custom colors, so the opportunities for creativity are virtually endless.

McLean notes that some people choose a palette because it represents a connection to a personal experience, ethnic heritage or even a social cause. For others searching for inspiration, she suggests experimenting with a color wheel, an artist's tool which shows the relationships among an array of hues. Then select analogous colors - those included within a pie-shaped slice of the wheel - to create a monochromatic, sophisticated scheme; and complementary, or opposing shades to evoke energy and visual excitement. And if a budding decorator is still feeling overwhelmed, McLean advises turning to nature. "Look at a landscape, pick a bunch of flowers. Then take what you like, what makes you happy, and create a color scheme around it.


" To help guide that process, McLean relies on the so-called 60-30-10 rule. Very simply, 60 percent of the d├ęcor is your primary color, usually the walls; 30 percent is a secondary hue, which can be used for furniture, window or floor coverings, or a focal wall; and the remaining 10 percent is an accent color that can be carried out with striking accessories.

Whatever, the hue, McLean adds, it's very important to carry it throughout the house. "If red is a favorite color, use shots of it in every room.
Red wall room
It may be a throw pillow or the mat in a picture frame, but it should feel like it's the same house," she says. "Color is an important element that helps create a unified whole."A member of the Color Marketing Group, which forecasts trends in the industry, McLean predicts that cream tones will face stiff competition from gray as the predominant neutral shade. Cool smoky pigments are coloring the walls in many contemporary homes, rich charcoal is warming more traditional spaces and deep slate is making a frequent appearance on shutters and front doors. However, beiges tones with hints of organic hues will continue to be a staple for creating sophistication and elegance.

Here is McLean's take on other trends for 2010:

Red: New colors are crisp, with blue undertones creating rich berries and crimsons. Don't rule out Russian red, which remains an iconic hue for conveying energy and drama, passion and femininity.

Orange: Considered a "social" color, orange is an attractive accent for neutral cream or gray, and also pairs well with purple, fuchsia and red. Look for shades in expressions of nature, such as citrus, melon, pumpkin and clay.

Yellow: The contemporary version of this optimistic color goes vibrant, with undertones of green, black and gold. Hues are reminiscent of faint candlelight, bright sunflowers and roasted squash.
Interior green wall

Green: The true colors of nature - think grass and clover - come to the forefront, with blue replacing yellow as the predominant undertone in the real "green" movement.

Blue: The most peaceful of all colors continues to evoke a feeling of tranquility. Pale blue-gray creates a classic neutral shade, with red-based berry colors coming in their own.

Purple: Monochromatic combinations of blue- and red-based purple create sophistication and romance and hearken back to the days when purple was the color of royalty.