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Colorful Backdrops

In the past 18 months, I've managed to build up quite the collection of virtual tear sheets -- rooms and vignettes that have caught my eye as I've embarked in the past year or so on my design self-education. Looking back over my many images (and trying to organize them in some useful way), I've begun to notice themes emerging, perhaps my own elements of style. Colors, patterns, styles and ideas that I've found attractive over and over again. One of the biggest recurring elements is my love of bookshelves and built-ins with colorful interiors (particularly in bold/high contrast colors). Perhaps these are the interior design equivalent of colorful linings in coats and bags, but I love how this simple trick can highlight art or beloved objects and tie together a room.

Getting this look yourself is an easy enough DIY for a weekend when you've got some extra time and some extra paint (and how often can that honestly be said about much of what we see in shelter magazines?!). I know that as soon as I get the funds to have my own built-ins installed I'll be in hot pursuit of the perfect background color to really make them pop. That said though, as many of these images show, there's absolutely no need to limit yourself to built-ins. Bookshelves, curios, china cabinets, entertainment centers (indeed just about all casegoods) can benefit from this easy upgrade.

Here, a chocolate brown serves as a wonderfully rich backdrop for the owners' collection of white pitchers. The rich tone works equally well with the pale blue vases in the bedroom designed by Mary McDonald at the beginning of this post.

In this dining room, designer Mary McDonald uses a bold apple green to highlight the beauty of the historical built-in. This sole shot of color in an otherwise neutral space is a great modern touch in a traditional room.

The blush pink backdrop in these slender bookcases is a nice shot of femininity in this office space and ties in to the pale pink accessories and rug.

Canadian House & Home, October 2009

Four IKEA Billy shelves were given a built-in look with inexpensive moldings painted the same color white. The royal blue backs give them added weight and are a fun contrast to the chartreuse walls.

I actually don't subscribe to Elle Decor but when this living room appeared on the cover earlier this year, I instantly bought the issue off the newsstand. The rest of the house didn't disappoint but the gorgeous gray walls and muted blue in the bookcases is still my favorite moment in the house.

Like chocolate brown, black is a great choice if you have a lot of white or light colored objects or china to show off.

Erin Gates from Elements of Style

The peacock blue (especially with the orange upholstery and curtains) is utterly bananas. I want.

I love the turquoise in these kitchen cabinets. Sure, with the backsplash and countertops, it's all a bit "matchy-matchy", but I'd argue that this is mid century modern at its best and most exuberant. That said, with less colorful countertops and backsplash, this would be a great way to bring a shot of color into a white kitchen.

As far as bold color choices go, I think coral might just be my favorite for the backs of bookcases. It's also a wonderfully warm contrast to cool blues and grays.

If you've got open-backed shelves a similar effect can be achieved by simply painting out the wall behind the units. I also like how Nisbet extended the bold pink to the area behind the sofa, creating a nook of sorts. This would work wonderfully in a loft or large great room where you're trying to delineate smaller, more intimate areas.

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