A cool, neutral palette will always have a place in our hearts, but it’s hard to deny the allure of a room decked out in jewel tones. Shades of sapphire, ruby, and magnolia leaf green can make a space feel instantly editorial and interesting. “Jewel tones are just so easy on the eyes and easy to be around all the time,” says Westport, Connecticut-based designer Robin Henry. “They make you feel good!” Since decorating with splashes of jewel tones can make anyone feel a bit timid, we’ve mined our top sources, (including Robin!), for the best tips out there. Get some ground rules for working with jewel tones, plus nine easy ways to integrate them into your home.
A Few Ground Rules
Seasoned designers often turn to jewel tones when trying to camouflage tricky architecture—hint: they’re really good at hiding flaws—but that doesn’t mean they’re foolproof. Hit a room with too many competing jewel tones, or the wrong color combo, and you can end up with a room that feels more cartoonish than chic. To stave off any such associations, consider these three ground rules.
Just Jewel It
It’s rare you’ll see a designer drop a single jewel tone lamp or chair into a room and stop there. An isolated pop of saturated color in an otherwise neutral space can sometimes feel incongruous, attracting a disproportionate amount of attention. “I usually think that you DO need even the barest complement to any single color to set it off,” says Robin. “It doesn’t have to be a huge gesture, although I can’t usually stop myself!”
Use a Color Wheel
Jewel tones hold nothing back, which means if you pair together two shades that clash, the effect will be magnified. To make sure you’re pairing up two jewel tones that can make nice, don’t be shy about breaking out the trusty color wheel. Remember: harmonious color combinations consist of any two colors situated opposite of each other on the color wheel.
Look for the Right Textures
Jewel tones have a reputation for looking sumptuous, and there’s a reason for that—they’re often used on materials that radiate light and sheen. Silk, velvet, glass, and lacquer all take jewel tones beautifully. When asked what fabrics to avoid when using jewel tones, Robin notes, “With a fabric like linen, that color depth and saturation is harder to achieve.”
9 Ways to Try Jewel Tones
Ready to give decorating with jewel tones a try? Here are nine ways to integrate them into your home, from renovation-worthy splurges to quick, one-and-done moments.
Give built-in cabinets a spruce by coating them in a jewel tone-colored lacquer. Yes, any paint job can give lackluster cabinets a new lease on life, but opting for a jewel tone lacquer can make them feel like they’ve undergone a Vogue-level makeover. Try a cool-toned jewel hue like sapphire or turquoise for a main living space. Or go wild with a shade like plum in a more private room like an office.
If you’re in the “so-over-white-subway-tile” camp, consider using a jewel tone artisan tile to bring new life to your backsplash or bathroom walls. Emerald or turquoise-colored tiles are perfect for punching up a kitchen or bath. They also work beautifully with both more modern and traditional-type designs. As per ground rule #3, look for tiles with a high gloss finish to ensure the look doesn’t fall flat.
If you have a tiny room (hi there, powder room!) that you’re looking to turn into a legitimate jewel box, jewel tone wallpaper can make easy work of it. Wrapping a room in a jewel tone paper will make it feel like a soothing cocoon—not to mention incredibly avant-garde. Just remember to consider lighting when you’re wallpapering with dark colors. Sconces can make all the difference when it comes to making sure your one-of-a-kind paper is visible.
While it’s true lustrous surfaces give jewel tones a kick, there are occasions when matte surfaces work too. Among those times? Matte walls. As Robin says, “I’m really partial to very flat matte finishes in saturated colors, this I think of as being a very English thing to do. The color ends up reading like velvet, almost like pure pigment applied to the walls or trim. It’s deeply satisfying and beautiful.”
Chances are that if you’re considering decorating with jewel tones it’s because you saw a killer sapphire velvet sofa or a to die for chaise draped in topaz velvet. There’s something about jewel tone velvet that immediately perks up furniture silhouettes. Because furniture tends to be bigger in size, jewel tone velvet furniture also looks like less of an anomaly if dropped in an otherwise neutral room.
Art Deco Rugs
For those who want jewel tones in an instant, it’s definitely worth considering an Art Deco rug. Adapted from ancient Chinese carpets which mimicked silk design, Chinese Art Deco rugs feature deep, saturated jewel tones like fuchsia, sapphire, emerald, and topaz. As a bonus, these rugs come with built-in color palettes, making them perfect for those who are timid about mixing and matching jewel tones solo.
If you’re looking for jewel tone decor that emulates actual jewels, point your arrow in the direction of Murano glass lighing. The porousness of Murano glass makes it especially good at holding color, resulting in jewel tone chandeliers and lamps that are a dead ringer for real gems. If you’re technically a fan of neutrals but wanting to try out jewel tones in moderation, try incorporating a few pieces of jewel tone Murano lighting in a room. It can be an easy way to try out saturated color without needing to commit to an all-out decor overhaul.
Perhaps the most obvious—or not!—way to incorporate jewel tones? Real gemstones. While procuring actual sapphires and emeralds might not be in the cards, there are plenty of less-precious specimens that possess similarly deep hues. Malachite, for instance, has a deep green hue comparable to emeralds. It’s often turned into boxes, animal figurines, or oblesiks. The same goes for lapis (deep blue), amethyst (purple) and cinnabar (dark red).
Bohemia Cut-to-Clear Crystal
Whether you’re only in the market for jewel tones to dress up an event, or a room just needs a touch of jewel tone magic, a set of bohemia cut-to-clear crystal is an easy way to bling things up without going overboard. Look for goblets in cranberry, amber, cobalt, and emerald, as well as decanters, vases, and crystal boxes.
Lead photo by Photo by Eric Piasecki / OTTO / Design by Robin Henry Interiors