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Interior Design Colors – Brilliant Yellow

By Sarah Van Arsdale on February 27, 2007

Color. Our world is saturated with it, from the bright yellow of fresh daffodils to the dark rusty red of an exposed brick wall; color can change the whole look of a room.

In Designer Monthly's The Magic of Color, we look at a different color each month. As you learn in the first Unit of the NYIAD Complete Course in Interior Design, the designer has available an infinite range of hues, both natural and man-made. When painting, you can combine colors to form other colors, in an endless array of shades. Manufacturers of everything from throw pillows to lampshades can also produce this vast palette. And then you must also consider the artwork that will hang in the rooms you design.

Welcome to the world of color. Everywhere we turn, there it is the deep indigo blue of a favorite old sweater, the glossy green of rhododendron leaves in a rainstorm, the rich brown of the soil as you begin to plant your spring flowers. We hope you'll join us each month on this exciting journey, as we take a close look at a color we love.

As decorators who have worked with dark basement apartments and homes surrounded by trees know, nothing perks up a dull room like brilliant yellow. This color brings a shot of life to a room, whether it's used as a single bolt of lemon or a whole wall of sunlight.

yellow breakfast table

Here, we see first a traditional use of brilliant yellow, in a kitchen's breakfast nook, brightening up breakfast time. The yellow placemats and matching napkins give the perfect background to the glasses of orange juice waiting to welcome the sleepyheads to the table. The yellow orchids complete the table.

The yellow and white diamond pattern on the wall is in softer shades, but provides a nice echo to the colors of the table. The only thing we'd change here would be the chair cushions, which are a pale blue and pink pattern; a yellow pattern would further pull this look together.

A less traditional use of the shade of brilliant yellow is this bathroom, found in a home in central Mexico. Here, we see the designer has gone all out with bright yellow tiles, holding back nothing. The tub enclosure is prevented from being monotonous with the inclusion of a strip of white and yellow patterned tiles, which only serve to play up the solid yellow surrounding it. The glossy finish of the tiles further brightens the room.

yellow bathroom

The tiles are matched by the yellow lampshade and the wooden shelves painted brilliant yellow. The white shower curtain, tub, and bath mat continue the classic white and yellow theme, and the white adds even more light to the room.

As you can see in these photos, both these rooms making good use of brilliant yellow are small, and could appear cramped with the wrong color choice.

The kitchen table is in a corner of a tight apartment kitchen. This space is made to look less crowded by using a glass-topped table and open-backed white wrought-iron chairs. If the designer had used a wooden table and chairs, the breakfast nook would appear much darker and more crowded. The use of yellow as well fools the eye into believing there is more space than there is.

This bathroom is likewise small, and narrow. It has just one window which opens onto a shady courtyard, so it is a very dark room. But with tiles in brilliant yellow, with those bright white accents, and that yellow lampshade, it becomes the brightest room in the house, and a pleasure to bathe in.


You can also use brilliant yellow to brighten up a room just by painting one wall in the shade. A brilliant yellow wall that catches the morning sun will appear to light up, and a wall that gets no direct light will start providing its own.