Decorating your home using color can be an intimidating project for some, and an inspiring adventure for others. Whether it’s your first time working with more than just neutral beiges and creams, or you can’t remember the last time you painted a room’s walls white, interior designer Nick Olsen shares his decorating tips and tricks with Elliman Insider. You’ll never have to shy away from the rest of the color wheel again.
Elliman Insider: What are some interior design tips to keep in mind while working to incorporate color into your home?
Nick Olsen: Strong colors need room to breathe, so in my projects I make sure there are many neutral moments—black, white, beige (like a sisal carpet)—to ease the transition from color to color, room to room.
EI: How should one go about choosing a color scheme?
Nick Olsen: It’s easiest to choose one point of inspiration that already has several colors in a pleasing combination. This could be a vintage carpet, a favorite painting or even a favorite piece of clothing. Then the process becomes about assigning those specific shades to furniture and finishes around the room.
EI: For homeowners that might be afraid of all-over color, what are some more discrete ways to incorporate color in interior design?
Nick Olsen: Occasional chairs and throw pillows are my favorite way to introduce color into a neutral room. A Louis XVI-style armchair upholstered in glossy red or green leather always looks great next to a neutral, modern sofa. Same for a multicolor ikat throw pillow. Also, I love painting ceilings and doors a contrast color in white rooms—even if that color is a subtle pale blue. It gives contrast and life.
EI: What are your thoughts on painted ceilings? Is the trend here to stay?
Nick Olsen: To me that’s never been a trend! My friend and mentor, Miles Redd, taught me from day one to paint ceilings a contrast color. Blue is de rigueur because it looks like the sky, but pale pink is very flattering on the skin. And I love wallpapered ceilings as well.
EI: How do you create a flow of multiple color schemes under one roof?
Nick Olsen: I always want there to be one or two common threads throughout a home so it feels harmonious and that could be achieved with different shades in the same color family, or by repeating specific color combinations. For instance, the blue wall glaze of 278 Main Street, Sag Harbor’s living room relates to the blue water and sky in the dining room’s scenic wallpaper. A similar shade of blue is used in the kitchen’s nautical-inspired painted floors, yet the kitchen is a largely white room. The glossy white Greek Revival moldings and white painted floors give the spaces both a sense of relief and unity.
EI: How can someone confidently utilize both color and pattern in one space?
Nick Olsen: Although I love what I do and take it very seriously, I firmly believe in the adage “It’s just decorating.” If you see something colorful at a boutique, buy it without overthinking and try it in your home. Move that chair or pillow or throw blanket from room to room until it feels right. Maybe paint your doors the same color as the pillow. Paint is the single most transformative and inexpensive way to use color confidently and it’s reversible!
EI: What are some safe hues to experiment with?
Nick Olsen: I’m a Pisces and find the colors of water and sky soothing: blue, green, aqua, sometimes with a bit of gray mixed in so it doesn’t look straight from the Crayola box. Benjamin Moore has many historical shades like that I use over and over. However, painting your dining room walls a hot color like tangerine, for example, feels risky and you may tire of it sooner.
EI: Any other key decorating tips?
Nick Olsen: Color should be joyful and not intimidating! Treat decorating your home as an evolving process, not a pass/fail test you take once.