Bethesda-area residents are breaking out of the beige box and using bold color to personalize their homes, going way beyond a traditional red dining room or a blue-and-white kitchen. These rooms truly are different and pack a punch with shades of lime green, orange and purple.

“I don’t live a neutral life,” says Debbie Wiener of Designing Solutions in Silver Spring. “Why would I want a neutral home? Once you’ve found that fabulous fabric, ask yourself, does your wall color make it look better? It should. That’s what it’s there for. It’s where you finish, not where you start.”

Paints with more colorants and pigment— brands like C2—and a broader color palette “go on beautifully” and make it easy to find just the right shade, says Camille Saum of Camille Saum Interior Design LLC in Bethesda. And color can also personalize a room, enhancing favorite objects and moods, says H. Dawn Patrick-Wout of About Interiors in Beltsville. “We really want it to reflect who the clients really are,” she says.

A Dining Room that Glows

Camille Saum, a self-professed color guru, says “Color is like blood to me.… It excites me and I have such passion for it. One of the compliments that I got [about a client’s house] was ‘the house looks just like her.’” Saum tends to avoid trends and instead chooses colors that express a client’s personality and tries to pick shades to make them “look good”—using tones that complement their skin and hair.

But it’s not just about paint. Saum says that “the most important thing in your home is the lighting.… The way that I help select color in the home is truly by the light.”

In her own 1920s Bethesda carriage house, Saum’s elegant dining room showcases her flair for mixing eclectic pieces and fabrics as well as her effective use of light to enhance a room’s color. Saum wanted a sense of peacefulness, she says. Yellow walls tinged with a touch of apricot (Duron “Carmelite”) play off the sunny location of the room.


Though only the walls are yellow, Saum chose fabrics and accessories that intensify and reflect the color throughout the room. “When the sun comes in at four o’clock, that’s just breathtaking,” she says. “What I love most is the glow.”

The tables and chairs are a creative mix of new pieces, thrift-shop finds and family heirlooms. An urn on a pedestal provides a dramatic focal point against sheer window treatments. The centerpiece is a large round dining table that easily holds a group of family and friends—especially at Thanksgiving, when Saum pulls out all the stops. Leather-covered dining chairs surround the table.

Saum has covered pieces, such as her sideboard, with tailored linens that reflect the walls’ golden tones. The elements all come together to create a tranquil, glowing room. “It just gives a warm, elegant feeling to a very simple space,” Saum says.


Deep Purple

Loren Amdursky's dining-room walls have a ragged faux finish in purple, her favorite color.“I love color. I love all the various moods it evokes,” says psychiatrist Loren Amdursky, who lives with her husband, David, and their two teenage children in Bethesda’s Merrimack Park neighborhood. Amdursky painted her dining room a deep, rich purple—her favorite color. The adjoining living room is a bright, sunny gold. “The colors show different sides of my personality,” she explains.

It took multiple layers of paint and a faux finish called “ragging” (the paint is literally applied with a rag) to give the purple walls dramatic texture and richness. “The painters would look at it and then add another layer,” Amdursky says. “It really has depth. It is a thoughtful and warm color.” The color fits the mood of her dining room, a place for good conversation and good wine. Dinners with family and friends take place there at least once a week.

Designer Debbie Wiener of Designing Solutions in Silver Spring chose the “very bold, bright yellow” for the living room to make the purple in the dining room “pop.” She used a softer gold on the dining room ceiling.


“She loved those purple walls,” Wiener says about the dining room. “I had to find a way to make it work. It’s just not a common color. The ceiling, fabrics and rugs provide a frame for the grape walls.”

Two purple barrel chairs lead the eye from the dining room to the living room and provide continuity. “She really made it all come together,” Amdursky says.

Light purple accents painted on the fireplace dentil molding and trim and Amdursky’s whimsical figurines create a playful mood. “She really, really captured my style,” Amdursky says of her designer. “After 2 1/2 years, I still come in here and think, oh, this is so satisfying. It still looks new.”


Bright Teen Retreats

Adele Carnemark's yellow bedroom makes her feel like a princess. When Maddy Carnemark’s father, Jonas, redecorated her room for her 15th birthday, big sister Adele decided she wanted a redo, too. Adele moved into her older sister Callie’s room when she went off to college but Adele, 17, didn’t really feel it was “her” room. Her dad painted three of the white walls Adele’s favorite yellow. The fourth wall is accented in bold, bright pink. “It’s very me,” says Adele, a junior and field-hockey player at Walt Whitman High School. “I am very sporty and very athletic, but I have a very girly side.”

Adele loves cats, and a framed poster of Felix picks up some of the green, blue and yellow around the room. A comfortable spring green chair ties together the color scheme, as does a dresser Jonas painted the same fresh green.

Adele’s custom-painted room—and accompanying new accessories—makes her feel like a princess. The crystal light fixture and sheer canopy suspended over the bed add royal touches. “I really wanted [the canopy], and I love to have it pulled back…[or] you can close yourself in. It’s cool. You can be in your own little world,” Adele says.


Maddy spends a lot of time in Adele’s room, but she also likes to watch TV and hang out with friends in her own space, painted a vibrant turquoise blue with an accent wall the same pink as in Adele’s room. “I just love the color when you walk in. It’s so bright,” Maddy says. Little lights over the bed plug in when she wants just a bit of illumination to make the room cozy.

Though Maddy, a sophomore who plays softball at Whitman, loves pink, one wall is the perfect amount of the color. “I couldn’t handle a whole pink room,” she says.

Vibrant, Cozy Brights

Bethesdan Anu Dahiya radiates energy. Clad in workout gear, the petite Dahiya, a physician, greets visitors to her Maplewood home with a warm smile and chats while tending to her two young children. In keeping with her personality, Dahiya’s living and family rooms are vibrant colors— persimmon and yellowish lime green.


The colors are not traditionally used in homes with an open floor plan, but Dahiya manages to pull it off. She created warm, yet elegant rooms for her family. Attracted to rust and reds for their “cozy feel,” Dahiya chose the living room color before she selected any furniture. Eventually, she found a lime-green sofa for the room: “I really loved the color,” she says. “We had to see how to make it work.”

Interior designer H. Dawn Patrick-Wout of About Interiors in Beltsville helped Dahiya pull the look together. The most important thing to Dahiya was the “flow” of the rooms; although the living and family rooms were different colors, she wanted them to look unified. “They have to flow, so each room has to have something from the other room,” says Dahiya, who is married to a cosmetic surgeon, Ravi Dahiya.

Custom accessories and sophisticated furnishings in coordinating colors integrated the rooms while letting each remain a standout. Lavish, copper-colored silk draperies with gold sheers underneath hang in the dining and living rooms. The family room walls are the same shade as the yellow-green living room sofa; art, throw pillows and floral arrangements pick up the cinnamon tones in both rooms. A living room lamp with a striking geometric pattern and rich earth tones of green, brown and copper pull together colors found throughout the rooms.


The rust walls in the foyer are a deeper version of the living room walls. A patterned bench with blue provides visual relief from the more dominant tones and hints at the kitchen’s blue-gray tile and “Blue Opal” granite. Ravi, a gourmet cook, loves blue.

Though some may flinch at the idea of painting their formal living room orange and their family room lime green, Patrick- Wout advises, “It’s just a can of paint. Don’t be afraid.”

Organic, Earthy Terra Cotta

When Claire and David Maklan of Silver Spring were choosing the paint for their new kitchen, one of the first colors their designer suggested was rust. “I couldn’t imagine it,” Claire says. She took samples of her cabinets, countertop and tile to a sales associate at Luu Color Center Inc. in Rockville. “She basically pulled the same color,” Maklan says of the rich terra cotta paint on her kitchen walls.


“We were happy with the choice but it took a long time to figure it out. The room needed some tying together,” Claire says. The off-white walls in the kitchen and dark slate floors are complemented beautifully by the bright color. Designer Jonas Carnemark of Carnemark Systems+Design Inc. in Bethesda says he wanted a color that was “rich and organic, yet vibrant.”

The Maklans love their garden, and the bright kitchen lets in gorgeous views. The terra cotta complements the natural landscape outside and provides a backdrop for the room’s focal point—an authentic industrial- sized coffee bean bag that hangs on the wall as a giant poster. Terra cotta accessories— a teakettle, cups and canisters— sprinkle the color throughout the room.

The modern kitchen is part of an addition that includes a new sitting room which is tethered to the kitchen by a hallway. The kitchen color choice was complicated by the sitting room’s hue, a taupy gold. In one corner, the terra cotta of the kitchen and hallway and the gold merge. It was a “tricky transition where all those colors come together,” says Claire.


The Maklans created a hallway of windows to bring their garden inside and the terra cotta walls can be seen from outside. Claire points out that the color looks lovely From the yard. “It looks great. It picks up the brick color under the white paint.”

Karen A. Watkins is contributing editor of Bethesda Magazine.