Playing with color can be fun and have a huge payoff but only if it’s done well. If you find yourself in a tricky situation thanks to a color that’s just not working, it can be kind of a nightmare. This is especially true if you’re trying to incorporate a color you absolutely love, but just can’t make it work.
Rather than find out firsthand, we connected with the team from Magnet who talked us through some of the trickiest colors to style and asked if there are ever ways to make them work. According to their research, searches for all things color have been on the rise. The team conducted a study and found that search traffic for ‘how to choose a paint color’ is up 49% compared to this time last year, and perhaps most interestingly, on average, there are 60,500 searches a month for the ‘best interior color combinations.’
Here’s what we learned.
Bold colors are extremely tricky
If you love a bold color, you’re not alone! Unfortunately, Jen Nash, senior design lead at Magnet, says these are some of the most common colors that can be done badly. And when that happens, it often leads to an overwhelming room full of clashing colors.
Instead of opting for orange cabinetry or painting your walls bright red, Nash suggests starting small—this is especially true if you’re new to the world of color.
“Stick to a more neutral foundation on walls and experiment with bold colors in decor accents instead,” she says. Pillows, drapes, side tables, and stools are all great options, Nash tells us.
“This enables you to play with bold colors before committing heavily to them,” she says. “You can easily switch them out if you don’t like the feeling of the space or, if you do like them, you can then take the colors onto walls and more permanent fixtures.’’
Classic, reliable earth tones are a staple
In their study, the team at Magnet found that earth tones are some of the most searched-for shades when people want to know “What color goes with (X)?’’. Green wins the top spot with 49,500 searches, brown has 33,300 searches, and gray comes in third with 33,150 searches a month.
That’s because these hues are staples—but they can be tricky to pair in a way that makes them feel modern and fresh. If in doubt, Nash suggests keeping it simple.
“Off-whites offer a timeless aesthetic that completely transforms a space to make it look warm, welcoming, and cozy,” Nash says. “Beiges also work extremely well to offer an elegant and regal look to a space.”
But because these are more muted colors, accessories are your way to play with color. “Use more saturated colors and different textures to add more dimension and visual interest to the space,” Nash says.
Green is great but only in the right shade
If you’re now wondering what goes best with green, Nash says it all depends on the exact shade. If you're working with a saturated lime or neon hue, things might be trickier.
“Green is as varied as it is versatile, meaning you can get experimental with it and therefore create some surprising yet stunning color palettes,” says Nash, who notes that green is in the center of the color wheel, meaning it often works well with a range of warm and cool tones.
For Nash’s personal fave, though, go pink. “The subtle contrast between the sage green and pink creates an inviting sense of playful harmony and relaxation.’’
Blue is best when kept simple
If you’re one of the 27,300 monthly searches wondering what color to pair with blue, then Nash suggests looking to a versatile combo that’s never boring: blue and white.
Nash points out that this pairing often evokes a coastal theme, but it always leads to calmness and serenity. That’s why is a great option for a bedroom or bathroom, where you’re probably looking for more of a sanctuary feel.
Avoid pairing warm with cool
Most people who turn to Google for help are struggling to find a solution on their own—and that’s why the internet can be such a powerful tool. But Nash says there are a few things you can assess first.
“Warm and cool colors in the same room can be difficult to pull off,” she says. “Pairing warm tones like yellows with cool tones like blues and purples can create visual discord that may not be to some people’s taste.”
Rules are made to be broken
Of course, if you’re looking for a textbook way to pair colors, you’re not going to find it. As Nash points out, some rules are made to be broken. Red and green, for example, are technically complementary on the color wheel but, outside of the holiday season, it’s probably not a duo you need in your everyday life.
On the other hand, Nash says there are surprises to be found. “Teal blue and purple offer a sophisticated and chic aesthetic,” she says, despite the fact that these colors shouldn’t work together. “Purple brings warmth while the teal blue brings vibrancy and dimension.”
“With careful thought, skillful execution, and the right balance of hues, the most challenging of color combinations can be saved and be made to work successfully in a space,” Nash says.