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Color Ideas

7 Contemporary Takes on Classic Color Combinations

Produced by Architectural Digest with The Home Depot.
These updates on timeless palettes are anything but stuffy.

Whether you’re refreshing a bathroom or breathing new life into a living room, you’re going nowhere fast until you’ve decided on a color palette. But before you drown yourself in a million Benjamin Moore paint chips—or follow every Instagram wormhole in the known digital universe—consider the classics, those tried-and-true pairings that stand the test of time. Choose the one that’s right for you, then improvise a little, pumping up or toning down one or both hues to find your updated, of-the-moment color match made in heaven. To help you narrow down the options, we’ve identified seven iconic color combinations and their contemporary counterparts, the modern iterations that will yield the chromatic highs you seek without bringing on a rainbow of panic attacks.

The Icon: Pink and Green
The Update: Blush and Mint

The old school version of this preppy duo conjures images of ladies named Bunny and hydrangeas the size of your head. But the new class hails from the other coast—think hipster cacti and desert sunsets.

Don’t play matchmaker

The Icon: Blue and White
The Update: Navy and Gray

No nautical vibes here. Combining navy and gray strikes a moody tone that reads less beachy, more urban sophisticate. For a more nuanced look, work in steel blues to create contrast and interest.

Encourage variation.

The Icon: Blue and Green
The Update: Purple and Teal

Warm up these classic cool hues by adding a hint of their color-wheel counterparts (red and yellow, respectively) for a timeless look that has a flair for the exotic.

Create a palette.

The Icon: Black and White
The Update: Black and Charcoal

If you’re looking for a less dramatic take on an iconic black-and-white palette, substitute charcoal for the latter. It instantly tones down any art gallery vibes and adds coziness while still skewing elegant.

Consider multifunctionality.

The Icon: Tan and Beige
The Update: Orange and Camel

Orange as a neutral? Believe it. Pairing less expected colors like these creates a serene, earth-hued atmosphere that’s anything but boring.

Don’t be a wallflower.

The Icon: Blue and Pink
The Update: Aqua and Peach

Classic nursery hues get a coastal makeover that never goes out of style. To really play up the contrast, pair competing patterns with color-blocked accessories and keep it all from going overboard with white accents.

Design for durability.

The Icon: Yellow and Green
The Update: Ochre and Olive

While their bolder iterations read crisp and cheerful, more muted versions of yellow and green are both soothing and chic. Their warm tones pair well with metallic details and earthy grays.

Add a dash of the unexpected.
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