FURNISHINGS : Don't Be Afraid to Show True Colors When Decorating

In the area of home design, the '90s might well be dubbed the Decade for Darwinism: Only the strong shall survive, reports Better Homes and Gardens Window & Wall Ideas magazine.

This holds especially true in the arena of color--one of the most crucial decorating elements.

With the home furnishings market up to its chair rails in newfangled products, fancy paint works, and a seemingly endless number of styles and ambiences, there's little room for the timid or insipid.

Playing it safe with neutrals or minimal color may well mean playing to an empty house: The audience's attention is being riveted to rooms infused with brilliant color.

Using color with confidence doesn't have to mean going from conservative beige and off-whites to rooms that are revitalized entirely in red, however.

The world of color can be entered with steps, not just leaps. Here are some suggestions for starters:

* Begin small, injecting shots of bold color with folk art, quilts, throw pillows, or area rugs.

* For maximum impact that won't strain the budget, paint entire walls a solid color of choice.

* Decide what emotional effect the family wants. Color magically communicates with us on a physical and emotional level, influencing not only the overall look of a room, but also the moods of the people within it.

Everyone responds to specific colors differently. To some, bold red may be energizing; to others, it's simply nerve-jangling. Some people may think of blue as cool and calming, but certain shades can be electrifying, too.

Yellow is usually thought of as a warm color, but it also invigorates, bolstering sagging spirits like sunshine. Generally speaking, bright hues fight "blue moods," while neutrals soothe the spirit.

Because the primary colors--red, yellow, and blue--are color in its purest form, they have the greatest emotional impact. Primary yellow, for example, creates a stronger sense of happiness and cheer than a yellow tone that's diluted with white.

* Remember, too, that different moods are desirable in different rooms: A quiet study or sitting room calls for one mood, a game or dining room another. Choose the color accordingly.

* White underscores every other color used in a room, so be sure to use its character judiciously.

* Consider natural and artificial lighting. Incandescent light tends to warm a space, while fluorescents visually cool it down.

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