Elegant ways to paint a room using two accent colors?
January 17, 2012 10:33 AM   Subscribe

What are some clean-looking and elegant ways to paint a room using two accent colors, but only painting the walls- not the ceiling or the trim?

I'd like to paint my bathroom. It currently looks like this. If I can find a way to pull it off, I'd like to use three colors-- one main neutral-ish color and two brighter accent colors. I'm looking for ideas about how I can use three colors but leave the ceiling and trim white. I like the crisp, clean contrast of the white trim and our white towels against the colors I'm currently thinking of using. Searching online (Apartment Therapy, paint manufacturer sites, etc.) hasn't yielded many ideas or examples, so I thought I'd ask you.

These are the colors (daylight only; lights on), though I'm not completely committed to them, but lets assume a warm-ish light gray/brown and two brighter colors that fall somewhere between pastel and neon, but aren't either.

The wall above the bathtub could be an accent/color block wall, but it's too much for the room to be all one bright color-- between the windows and the doors there's not a lot of wall in the rest of the room for the main color to be, well, main. I would like to somehow use both accent colors on this particular wall, but am open to other suggestions as to how I could use them throughout too.

Couple of things:

-- I like a very minimalist, clean style (joked about in my family as a reaction to my mother's tchotchke-filled house-- Hi Mom!). One thing I don't know how to do is to make this look warmer or cozier, but that's a question for another day.
-- I have painted a rectangle in my dining room that appears like a frame for a cherry-blossom tryptich (partial photo here). I really like it there, but I don't want to repeat that in the bathroom.
-- I don't want to paint circles-- I don't think that looks especially elegant. Varying size floating rectangles aren't terribly appealing either.
-- I would consider stripes of varying widths that go from one side of the wall to the other, but would need some guidelines as to how to pull this off without it looking like racing stripes.
-- If there's a way to carry one or more of the colors onto the other walls, that would be interesting as well.
-- I haven't received them yet, but I have ordered some clear rectangular wall vases that I could see filling with stones and water and water-plants and hanging partway up the wall (maybe three in a row, attached just under the halfway point up the wall. Depends on how they look when I get them. I've also thought about wall decals but since I've got that going on in the living room, it would likely be a bit much.
-- Another reason I don't want to paint the wall one solid accent color is that while the main color is more flattering when reflected upon the skin in a bathroom mirror (I held up a paint chip to find a nice one as per recommendations on design sites), a brighter yellow wall (for example) would reflect badly, and a turquoise color (for example, and according to my experience in a spare bedroom that I painted an antiqued blue) doesn't look nice to me with greenery in front of it, should I decide to use the vases.
-- The wall is very easy to see from the living room.
-- We own the house, so there are no restrictions as to what we can do.

I know this is very long and perhaps overly detailed but I wanted to try to answer as many questions as possible in advance. If using two accent colors in a clean presentation just isn't possible, please tell me so-- but if you can give me some ideas or even point me to images or sites with examples where it has worked, that would be much appreciated too.

Side/bonus question: I also really like the look of subway tile but I haven't the slightest idea how to incorporate it into a bathroom like this (new construction, really lovely but also without a lot of personality), so ideas about that would be welcome too.
posted by mireille to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Helpful painting tip: If you're using masking tape to mask off areas for accent painting, paint the edges of the masking tape with the existing color before you paint over it with the new color - that way, the paint that bleeds under the tape will match what's already on the wall there and you'll end up with a much cleaner line from the masking tape.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:45 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

How about a horizontal center line about 1/3rd of the way up all the walls that has the yellow and the turquoise on top of one another? Just a single stripe, like a racing stripe (I know) but just that one pop of color would be somewhat elegant and fun.
posted by xingcat at 10:56 AM on January 17, 2012

I like xingcat's suggestion.

What I did with three colors: Color 1 on the wall behind the bathtub/shower curtain. Then I have a tile horizontal stripe (chair rail?) along the one big full wall not covered by a counter. Below the "chair rail" is also Color 1. Colors 2 and 3 are alternating thick stripes above the "chair rail". The thick stripes are about the width of a paint roller (for easy painting). If I were to do this in your bathroom, I might have this "chair rail" the same height as the bottom of your window frame or the same height of the counter-top. Mine is right at the top of the counter-top so that the tile goes all the way around the room.

Looking at your photos, I could see the full wall above your bathtub (and the little chunk behind the faucet of the bathtub) all one accent color. Or have one of those walls one accent color and the other wall the other accent color. Then have the whole rest of your bathroom the "main" color.

One thing to keep in mind is what color will be behind the person looking into the mirror. That color will reflect on their face. Our wall used to be green and that caused odd complexion colorings in the mirror.
posted by jillithd at 11:25 AM on January 17, 2012

Honestly, I think three colors is pushing it for a space that small, with that many interruptions in it (window, mirror, door, tub, etc.). And technically it's four colors because you're keeping the white trim? Tough.

My opinion? Pick one color to be the main wall color. For me it would be the gray, but whatever. Then pick one color to be the zing color. For me it would be the yellow, but again, whatever. Paint the edge of the door yellow. Not the doorway, not the door, but the door edge, the edge you would need to plane if the door was sticking. Maybe pick one other place for it (the sides of the medicine cab/mirror? a thin line above the tub?). The key is: sparingly. Then, pick one or two "tchocke" type things in the room (basket for holding hand towels? box of q-tips? something like that), and paint it your third color. You may or may not like that third (i.e., fourth) color, but it will be easy to move it around or discard it if you want.
posted by cocoagirl at 12:00 PM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think to make it work you'll need to find something that incorporates several (preferably all three) of your colours and put that in the bathroom too to tie it all together. A piece of artwork, or a rug, or curtains or something. If you do that, I don't think it will matter too much how you end up using the colours on the walls.
posted by lollusc at 2:56 PM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, what about doing multiple stripes on that wall. Then it definitely won't look like a racing stripe, and you can use at least two of your colours.
posted by lollusc at 4:01 PM on January 17, 2012

I haven't quite decided how or if I can pull it off at all, but I'll post pics when I'm done. Could be a bit, though-- we've decided to finish the basement first. Thanks, everyone!
posted by mireille at 3:15 PM on January 27, 2012

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