The Worst Colors to Use in a Home

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR(R) Magazine

Emerald may be this year’s color of the year and hot hue, but which colors should you avoid?

Color research tells us some colors to avoid. Colors that can be considered, as some researchers note, “eye irritants” and can even cause headaches or mess with your vision.

According to color research, the worst offending color:

Yellow as a “pure bright lemon.”

“More light is reflected by bright colors, resulting in excessive stimulation of the eyes,” researchers note. “Yellow is an eye irritant. Babies cry more in yellow rooms, husbands and wives fight more in yellow kitchens, and opera singers throw more tantrums in yellow dressing rooms.”

That said, yellow is the first color the human eye tends to notice so in small doses it may be effective. It can help you draw attention to an item when used as an accent color. Also, using yellow in softer tints or in small quantities may not be such a turn-off.

A recent article at (“Paint Color Trends to Avoid”) pinpointed trendy color combos that may have once been a turn-on that are now becoming a turn-off in home interiors. San Francisco color expert Kelly Berg recently weighed in at about some trendy color combinations to avoid, such as:

  • “Greige”: The gray and beige combo in a space to create a monochromatic effect. Instead, Berg recommends pulling in some accent colors, likegrassy greens, to make the space more warm and inviting. She also recommends mixing in reflective surfaces, such as glass and metal, to lighten up the room since gray tends to absorb more light than other hues.
  • Chocolate brown and blue: This trendy color combo of a chocolate brown and Tiffany’s blue may be growing tiresome in home interiors. Berg recommends freshening up the look by adding a third color to the mix, such as hot pink, coral, or metallics in silver or gold.
  • Red, Gold and Green: This go-to rustic color pattern also may be beginning to grow stale in interiors. Berg recommends avoiding using all three colors in equal portions when you have a tri-color scheme in a home. She also recommends keeping the saturation levels of the color similar, but not exactly the same to liven up the look.
  • The all white kitchen: A kitchen all in white can look fresh and clean, but the look may be getting overdone and growing dull. Liven it up by pulling in some color from an adjacent space or pull a color from the dishes, Berg says. For example, if the home owner has blue dishes, you might try using deep indigo as an accent color.

Have you found any color combos that are big turn-offs in a space? Weigh in on what you think works–and doesn’t–with color!

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

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  1. I agree – the real and chocolate combo has become tiresome. As has red in dining rooms, the shocking pink in girls’ rooms and deep blue in boys’ rooms.
    In all – white bathroom or kitchen, try black on the ceiling.

  2. Greige? That’s nuts.. my gf had it in her old apartment and all of her colorful items/furniture worked really well with it. We’re about to do it in our new house too, if you want to see how terrible it looks, check out the website I’m linking over the next few months. 🙂 (I don’t disagree with the whole post though)

  3. There are urban legends of color often mistaken for “color research”. Despite what the links on the www purport, there is no research that proves babies cry more in yellow rooms or that people fight more or any of that silly stuff. Here’s a podcast on yellow that might be useful:

  4. Shared on Facebook page. Thank you.

  5. I think this is a discussion about two different dynamics. Paint color when staging a home for sale may differ from that which may be used for decorating. The “Restoration Hardware” gray walls with white and linen furniture is hugely popular in both staging and decorating. If you search the word “kitchen” on, 99% of the pinned photos are of white kitchens. I would disagree with that prediction too, as we love to see our Builders using white kitchens! (look at Christopher Peacock kitchens) What is changing is the addition of reclaimed woods and metals. I think using color when staging your home is a balancing act and most of the time a neutral is always your best bet. Save your color preferences for your new home.

    Stayci Fast, MIRM
    New England Staging & Interiors, Boston, MA

  6. White kitchens, accented with bright colored curtains, throw rugs and artwork, work well in resort & second home markets, particularly here on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

    When you tire of the color of the accent pieces, it’s much less expensive to replace the curtains, throw rugs and artwork than to replace the kitchen cabinets.

  7. Shelly

    My friends and I differ on color preferences in our own homes. While attempting to find the right gray for my own bedroom, I have two “color expert” friends who insist on trying to change my mind about the color. I painted my kitchen “squash” and have never tired of the bold color….however, I would never suggest a client paint any of my personal color preferences in their homes…

  8. Excellent article. Color is the spice to our living spaces. The stronger the spice the less you use, least it be too over powering . I use neutrals in staging & accents of color to ‘drive’ & ‘control’ the visitors eye around the room and to entice them to enter the room and stay a few moments to appreciate the space. I call it visual carrots. Greige is fine for decorating as it is a good background to show off art & personality of the room – it’s color’s best mate, but it must be offset with painted trim. I don’t like it for staging as it has the opposite purpose.
    Some of the ‘tired’ color combos as mentioned depends on where you live. Parts of the Midwest will always be years behind the coasts. I do agree with adding the coral & metallic to the blue/brown scheme & have. Same for the classic red/green/gold trio – it’s all in proportion & moderation.

  9. Great post on colors! I ask my stagers to pick all of the colors and now I have a staged and well matched homes. some homes require specific colors to either highlight the amenities of the home or help to overcome a lack of certain upgrades.

  10. I still see those Greish colors in new construction, along with a lot of blue/grey colors in Fairfield County, CT. But we are a coastal community, so I would expect to see those colors – they complement the natural beachy colors seen all around us!

  11. Truth

    With all due respect, designers are like heath care “experts”. They all come up with ideas for a better way to do things, and they all contradict each other in terms of what’s in and what’s out. The bottom line is that they interject their own personal preferences. Other than playing safe by using more neutral colors, there is no fool proof, one-size-fits all way to paint your home that will enhance staging or guarantee a sale. Paint is a very cheap fix compared to other remodeling costs. A buyer would be dumber than dirt to avoid purchasing a great home simply because the paint colors did not suit them.