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  • Writer's pictureDebbie DeMarais

Another Interior Color Palette Inspired by the Land of Enchantment

I recently shared a pro tip about how to derive interior color palettes from photos you’ve taken with your smartphone. I used a lovely adobe courtyard from my home town of Santa Fe, NM as my example and came up with a color palette I’d be thrilled to put in my own home.

In this post I’m going to expand on that concept of finding inspiration around you, but this time I’m also going to discuss:

  • Color trends and forecasting

  • When to go bold with color and when to keep it neutral

  • How to keep bold wall color from becoming overpowering

To begin, let’s focus for a moment on a sweet spot a little bit farther north of Santa Fe along the dramatic Rio Grande river:

Rio Grande river reflecting the sky and foliage of Cottonwood trees in autumn

Stunning, right?

The soft blue of the sky. The dramatic burst of yellow from the Rio Grande Cottonwoods. The silvery sage green of the chamisa plants. That line of sun-soaked grey river rocks splitting the channel into the faster rapids beyond and the deep reflective waters of the foreground. This is a fall color palette of serenity: dynamic, but balanced.

It also happens to be a color palette that has been incorporated into the 2021 color trends forecasting of one of the biggest paint manufacturers in the world!

And now a word about color trend forecasting

Before we go any further, let me just offer a thought about color forecasting because it’s a big business and a lot of thought, planning, and money are wrapped up in it.

Color forecasting is an exercise in reading the undercurrents of cultural popularity and then amplifying those findings back to a broader group. Or, to use an analogy, it is about discovering what’s already brewing and then helping ensure that it brews fully.

Does that mean that color forecasting is all self-fulfilling prophecy or not useful? Not at all.

But it’s value is in helping consumers discover colors they might love which they wouldn’t necessarily discover on their own. The brand providing the forecast essentially uses its authority to validate certain colors for consumers.

In some ways, this is what a good interior designer and color consultant would do for a person as well, it’s just that they aren’t applying a broad stroke prediction which might work for lots of people: they are seeking solutions just for you.

The ultimate trendsetter?

As a professional home stager and interior designer it is my job to stay up-to-date on color trends. But I also know that there are certain “timeless” colors that rise above trends.

I also know that most phenomenal color palettes have already been invented—by Nature!

So am I surprised that Sherwin-Williams Tapestry palette for their Colomix 2021 Forecast contains two tones that look like they could be lifted straight from my moment along the Rio Grande?


But let’s break it all down a bit more and see just why Sherwin-Williams and Mother Nature are so aligned in their thinking...

Seeing the color harmonies

The Tapestry palette includes a beautiful blue – Perfect Periwinkle SW9065, which reflects the blue of the Rio Grande sky nicely. Then there’s the Enjoyable Yellow SW6666 which, while not quite as zingy as the yellow-orange of the Cottonwood foliage and river grass tips, does still create a cheerful contrast with the blue.

A selection of three wall paint colors from Sherwin Williams Tapestry 2021 colors

Truthfully, I’d already chosen a color palette based on this inspiration photo prior to realizing how closely some of Sherwin-Williams’ Tapestry colors also aligned with the photo. My original selection was admittedly a palette I use in home staging frequently—and it is a bit bolder and higher contrast than the Tapestry selections:

Three wall paint color samples inspired by Rio Grande river in NM chosen by Debbie DeMarais

In traditional color theory a blue tone and an orange-yellow tone would be classified as a complimentary color contrast: essentially a very high-contrast relationship that has the potential to be a bit overwhelming.

Dramatic? You bet!

Suitable for everyday life? That depends on your personality.

As a general rule of thumb, more people will respond positively to strong color contrasts if they are softened by a neutral. Sherwin-Williams has selected their Greek Villa SW7551 for this task in their Tapestry palette, and I’d opted for the Crisp Linen SW6378 with my slightly higher contrast palette. Either could work equally well.

If you’re painting a room as part of a plan to sell a house, then dialing down the color intensity by prioritizing the neutral over the bold colors can be a very good plan. But if you’re painting a room to enjoy it yourself for years to come, then the level of drama provided by color is entirely subjective. Do what makes you happy!

Practical Color Considerations

So you’ve thought about it and decided you’re painting your living room a bold blue. Great!

Before you pick up that paint roller though, let’s just pause for a few important considerations.

It helps to have a visual, so let’s look at this fantastic blue-themed showroom at the always inspiring Reside Home in Santa Fe:

Blue themed showroom at Reside Home, an interior decor retailer in Santa Fe, NM

CONSIDERATION #1: Light and Dark

Color impacts how much light a wall absorbs or bounces. If you’re wanting to make an overly bright space cozier a darker color might work wonders, but if you want to brighten a space and paint walls with color you need to choose that color correctly.

Don’t just rely on gloss or satin finish to deal with bouncing light—those finishes aren’t right for every wall type.

CONSIDERATION #2: Walls + Ceiling?

Reside Home left their ceiling white. This is quite common actually and can help with a colored room feeling taller and brighter. If they’d painted the ceiling blue as well it could have started to feel too dark. Reserve the walls + ceiling treatment for when you either want to maximize the drama, or are painting a room with a bright neutral color.

CONSIDERATION #3: Don’t Neglect the Neutrals

See the neutral tones in the armchair, blanket, glass sculptures and the painting? Those whites and creams help brighten the blue room.

CONSIDERATIONS #4: Decor Matters

There’s a secondary color palette of rich greens used here too. Adding them really creates a feeling akin to being in a lush landscape. Interior designers and astute home decor stores like Reside Home know that the impact of wall color is enhanced by the things that occupy the room. Translucent objects on the coffee table (even the coffee table itself) allow light to move through them: a direct contrast to the walls which do the very opposite. Also, those green vases and the sheen of the upholstery are reflective—if the walls aren’t going to bounce light then other things in the room should!

Being Blue

Finally, I’m a person who loves digging deeper into how people perceive color. Since we’re looking so much at blue here it is worth noting that blue is believed to be the most popular color in the world.

In many cultures blue is associated with security and trust (just think about all the blue logos of banks and medical companies), but did you know it’s also a color that some folks equate with success? That’s one reason I like to use blue in so many of my home staging projects!

And on that note, I’ll leave you with an image from a recent staging project where I successfully employed a color palette that was directly inspired by my Rio Grande image:

Luxury living room in Santa Fe style home staged with yellow and blue accent colors
Rio Grande-inspired color palette in a recently staged luxury home in Santa Fe, NM. | Photo credit: Marshall Elias

If you’re considering a fresh coat of paint in 2021 then I encourage you to also think boldly, take inspiration from nature, and think deeply into how color can enrich your life.


DISCLAIMER: It is important to note that DeMarais HOME STAGING + DESIGN is an independently owned and operated business in Santa Fe, NM with no direct affiliation to any of the companies or services mentioned and/or linked above. References to specific companies, services, and/or products are unsolicited and offer DeMarais HOME STAGING + DESIGN no form of compensation, discount, or reward as a result of such references. The content above is provided to support others in their understanding of color options, ideas, and applications and does not constitute an endorsement of one company, service, or product line over another. Those interested in professional support with identifying color palettes suitable to their specific project/preferences are welcome to contact Debbie DeMarais directly. >


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