Interior advice: What do I do about these yellow walls?
April 3, 2012 2:32 PM   Subscribe

My apartment has ugly yellow walls and I can't do anything about the color. How can I make them less bland?

I'm switching units in my building (from a studio to a 1-bedroom). The building is great: perfect location, affordable, well-maintained. I just HATE the color they've chosen for the walls of the suites. I've asked the landlord if there's a possibility of switching it up (painting to white or a light grey) but apparently the building owners are pretty adamant about the color. He said he could swing painting the kitchen white, but that's all.

The walls can look really nice when there's sunlight (here's a photo of my current apartment in sunlight), but they look dreary and washed out otherwise (not my apartment, but something like this). I live in Vancouver so sunlight isn't really a common phenomenon, plus this new suite has more shade.

SO: any advice? I was thinking I would just get some huge canvases and painting blocks of complementary colors to break up the yellow. Anything else you can recommend to make my apartment less bleak during the rainy seasons? Lighting/decorating/anything tips? I trust your taste and skills, MeFites.
posted by thebots to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Ochre,Hugh at 2:42 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

You could make acoustic paneling with canvas/fabric of your choice and some rudimentary carpentry. Doesn't even need the foam if you don't need it to be functional- but it'll look functional, and can be tailored to your size/color needs
posted by MangyCarface at 2:44 PM on April 3, 2012

posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:48 PM on April 3, 2012

You could try replacing your lightbulbs with ones at a cooler color temperature to make the walls look more than they do in sunlight. "Normal" light bulbs (i.e., incandescents and CFLs that are designed to mimic them) are already giving light on the yellowish end of the spectrum so they will make your yellow walls look even yellower. A full-spectrum CFL can potentially make the color look more natural.
posted by phoenixy at 2:51 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

They are kind of corny but I love wall clings. I have a giant radio tower one on the ugly wall behind my bed and it really makes you not notice the wall.
posted by jabes at 2:53 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I painted my walls peach, and I noticed that they seemed to look nicer when I contrasted them with blue accessories, since blue and orange are opposite on the color wheel. Could you work in purple to help your yellow walls pop more?
posted by christinetheslp at 2:54 PM on April 3, 2012

I love tapestries from Urban Outfitters. Maybe a little college-y but I just love having that bright, gorgeous stuff on my walls!
posted by GastrocNemesis at 3:05 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

See if they'd be ok with you painting the walls and then painting them back to the right color before you leave (get the paint brand and color from them)...or just do this anyway without asking. I've had many apartments where this is the case - they don't really care what you do, but they don't want to pay for the labor to fix it.
posted by melissasaurus at 3:07 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I actually really like the color of your walls! Here's a good Apartment Therapy roundup of yellow walls.

You just need to get the accenting colors right. Cooler accent colors, like blue and green, along with lot's of white, will make the yellow pop and appear sunnier, even for faded, meh, yellow.

- The rooms in this Apartment Therapy roundup all use a lot of white, cool grays and blues.
- This soft aqua sofa bring out the faded yellow walls so they feel light and airy.
- The kitchen in this house tour is another great example. There's lots of green (plants!) with pops of turquoise.

Your living room has a lot of lovely warm wood furniture...but I'm afraid those warm earthy tones are making your yellow walls look less vibrant than they are. Maybe get some brightly colored area rugs, or pale throws and pillows to cover some of the darker pieces. Or, if there is a piece of furniture you're not too attached to, or that needs a change, you could paint it!
posted by JuliaIglesias at 3:45 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was thinking I would just get some huge canvases and painting blocks of complementary colors to break up the yellow.

I think that would be lovely in either a deep wine color or a blue, depending on what sort of atmosphere you wanted to go with. You could even do black, or a mahogany tone, although that might be a bit too far. Maybe a series of three strategically placed.

In that second photo, part of the problem is the white table and the silver lamp. They disappear into the wall and don't provide enough contrast, and the print without a dark frame doesn't help enough. It's not so much the wall that's washing it out as what's in front of it.

In your room, swapping those drapes out for floor length drapes of some more dramatic color might help too, although I get that you wouldn't want to lose the gauziness and light that comes through. I think the big splashes of colors created by canvas or curtains (not necessarily both) would give it the impact you're looking for.

It looks like a pleasant, warm room though--and the light is lovely.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:01 PM on April 3, 2012

If you like white walls, you may find you can get the yellow to look more white by (counter-intuitively) incorporating more yellow into your decor. If you put a bright yellow next to a pale yellow, the pale yellow looks white by comparison. So if you were cool with hanging yellow drapes, or putting up bright yellow artwork, or similar, you might tone down the walls a bit.

But if you are worried the walls are too bland rather than too yellow, then I think decals and/or large canvases are a good solution.
posted by lollusc at 4:54 PM on April 3, 2012

Ok, scroll down here for some pictures of things to do with a room that aren't painting. Ok, I'll admit they're nursery makeovers. But I love those huge frames (you can just buy molding at the hardware store) propped up against a wall.
posted by bilabial at 5:20 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!! You have all been supremely helpful. I am now kind of looking forward to embracing the color and all of the fun that comes with new digs.

Just to mention - I already asked my landlord if I could paint the walls myself, or even hire someone else, but I guess that is a no-go as well. Both he and the building owners are kind of anal about this stuff, which admittedly comes in handy sometimes since the building is so well-maintained.

Anyway, thanks again everyone! Feel free to add more suggestions if they arise.
posted by thebots at 7:25 PM on April 3, 2012

Philips LivingColors, a LED lamp with adjustable color output, including white.

Slashgear review: "Philips’ press materials bill the LivingColors as a way of matching room to mood, or even brightening your day in a form of DIY color therapy. We didn’t feel any great mood enhancement, but tweaking the tones and generally playing with the light was surprisingly addictive."
posted by iviken at 12:36 AM on April 4, 2012

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