By adding splash accents to any neutral room, you bring energy and depth to your home, and turn it into a place worth celebrating.

I’ve always been the type to look for any occasion to celebrate. So when the Honolulu Star-Advertiser asked me to write this column for its publication Hawaii Renovation and I started thinking about a name for it, the answer wasn’t at all difficult.

To me, celebrating style means celebrating your home, your office, your space — and doing it with your style. I want this column to be all about fun, approachable ways to design and decorate those spaces so that they reflect your style in ways that will make you want to, well, celebrate!

In this first column, I’ll talk about some tips to liven up your space and bring a smile to your face with quick, simple touches.


Probably the No. 1 issue I run into when giving workshops or designing for clients is color phobia. You know the scenario: rooms that are beige, boring and blah simply because neutrals are safe and easy to match.

So how do you liven up a neutral room? Two words: splash accents.

Splash accents are the pops and sprinkles of color that contrast with your dominant colors to add depth, drama and interest. They’re also one of the most effective ways to make a room look put-together and give it a designer touch.

What goes great with taupes, browns and creams? Vibrant colors that stand out from those neutrals. To really give a neutral room impact and style, try adding some chocolates to those taupes and creams, and fill in with bold, vibrant accents.

Accents don’t always have to be bold, however. You can create interesting, relaxing spaces by adding lavender, powder blue or apricot to neutral rooms. We’ll talk more about calming spaces later.


It’s also important to remember that if you add that splash in a painting or new rug, don’t just leave it there by itself! Repeat it in a few other elements by adding cushions, vases or drapes in the same shade as your accent color. This will carry the color throughout the space and create a more cohesive look.

In rooms that already have a lot of color, splash accents can introduce energy. For maximum impact, determine the dominant color in your space, then find a color wheel, either online or in a decorating book, and go to that color’s direct opposite. This will be your complementary, or contrasting, color. For example, if your main color is blue, you’ll get a dramatic pairing by choosing oranges like persimmon or tangerine.

If you want just a little more energy without the drama, go to the color wheel and find the colors on either side of your dominant color. Harmonious color schemes look good because all the colors are close to each other. So for your blue room, you could add a little green or yellow to get some subtle ripples of energy going — or try adding both.

And a final easy tip: Let’s say you already have a focal piece like a sofa or rug with a color that you want to repeat as your splash accent. Take a cushion from that sofa, or get paint swatches or a fan deck and try to match that color.

Reds and oranges, for example, are great to work into an island-style home, but there are hundreds of shades of red, from cherry to brick to rose. If you only guess at the right shade, you might go shopping for new accents, only to find when you come home that they’re not cohesive with your space. To save yourself some time and headaches, it’s great to have your color samples with you while you’re shopping.


Have fun adding color! You’ll be amazed how splash accents can add the look and energy that will give you a space worth celebrating.

Cathy Lee is president and designer of Cathy Lee Style and Cathy’s Marketplace, a furniture and accessories showroom with design services at 1110 University Ave. in Moiliili. Lee’s interior design work has been featured in local and national publications, on HGTV and in her DIY design workshops that teach homeowners the basics of style. To find out more, go to


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