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Heidi Tetzman Roepke, Published June 28 2012

What hue are you? How to find the right colors for your home

FARGO - Interior decorator Reed Malm has seen it all – harmonious walls that flow effortlessly through the home or “visual indigestion” that jumps too drastically from room to room.

“I have done, at gunpoint, a Pepto Bismol-pink room,” admits the certified interior decorator at Total Picture-Interior Design in Fargo.

Whether you’re planning on painting one room or several, you’ll find a dizzying array of color choices available.

When it comes to transforming a room, paint gives you the most bang for your buck. But where do you start, much less decide between granite boulder and smoky slate?

There are no laws, Malm says, but the rules of thumb are based on common sense, educated eyes and experience.

Ole Arneson, a paint associate at Fargo’s Home Depot, says most people are looking for a warm, inviting color for their dining room or living room.

“Something that soothes the eye, and isn’t too dark or too bright. Right now the market is leaning toward lighter earth tones.”

People sometimes approach their decision based on their carpet or their furniture, Arneson says, or they might bring in an item looking for a color to match or complement it.

“I’ve matched pillowcases, scarves, and even a purse.”

Malm cautions against looking toward bold, bright hues for wall-color inspiration, which can be “a disaster.”

When we see all the paint choices at once, we are drawn to rich, jewel tones – “They are like candy” to our eyes, he explains – but using too-bright colors on walls is a common amateur mistake.

“Look at walls as the biggest piece of furniture in a room. The larger the object, the more neutral and less intense the color,” he says.

For example, instead of a Pepto Bismol-pink girl’s room, Malm says he would go with a very light reddish brown.

“When it’s not compared to other colors, the mind reads it as a pink,” Malm says.

Walls are a backdrop to the play, not the play itself, he says.

“Framed color, accents such as pillows, objects and tablescapes – that is where you bring in brighter color,” he says.

Malm suggests looking to nature for inspiration.

“Think minerals, not flowers,” he says.

And that doesn’t mean settling for an expected beige.

Malm offers this tip: Look at rocks, or even a patch of gravel. Wet it down. A palette will emerge of putties, ochers and grays. Those are the hues to go after, he says.

Arneson at Home Depot suggests staying toward the lighter end of the color chip or swatch.

And if someone has their heart set on red?

“An entire room in lipstick red is going to be appalling,” Malm says.

Instead he suggests you “go with something more of the earth, like a terra cotta or an eggplant. These are reds, just more blended.”

Another common pitfall is using a different color in every room “and jumping around like an upset stomach,” Malm says. He recommends choosing one hue and using different shades on the same strip or swatch in different rooms.

“The more you continue with the same color, the more unified and harmonious your interior becomes,” he says.

Both Arneson and Malm recommend bringing a sample size home and trying it on your wall before committing.

“Live with it, see how light affects it,” Arneson says. “What a color looks like in the store isn’t necessarily what it’s going to look like at home.”