How to deal with yellow walls

valzone5December 30, 2007

My husband and I are separating and I just signed the lease on my new apartment. It's gorgeous - hardwood floors, 10' ceilings, wide mouldings - except for one thing.... the walls are yellow. Not buttercream, not golden or creamy, but rather post-it note yellow. I really don't like yellow walls. I like brown/beige/ecru/off-white, greens and everything soft and muted. These walls just scream YELLOW!! Repainting is out of the question, as the place has been freshly painted by a professional painter and the landlady loves it.

Is there a way to minimize how loud the yellow is? Since the things that I will be moving are either white or off-white or can be painted, I can start over with a color palette.


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Sorry to hear that.

I think that once you are in with your furniture in place, you will feel a little differently about the colour. (Of course different could mean that you will feel even worse LOL)

Lots of white/off white stuff will help, I could only live with bright yellow walls if I had lots of white to take the edge off.

What colour are your drapes? Sofa? bedding?

Once you are moved in, can you post some pictures??

    Bookmark   December 30, 2007 at 4:22PM
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My walls are yellow on purpose. Most of my furniture is brown or wood, so the walls really provide a needed burst of color. We painted before we moved in, and we all thought we'd be painting again because it seemed so bright. But once the furniture was in, we fell in love with the color. In fact I repainted the walls the exact same color last year. I think earth tones do a great job of keeping bright walls from becoming overwhelming. I especially like mossy green with bright yellow. Your white and cream furniture may make the yellow seem really bright. If you can get more wood tones, and put a nice earth tone rug on the floor, it will help I think.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2007 at 4:31PM
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I'm sorry to hear about the separation. Your new apartment sounds beautiful, and I think it's very likely that you can get it to a warm, sunny, cheerful home, which you may well need in this time of transition and disruption.

Getting furniture and "things" into the rooms will definitely minimize the whap-upside-the-head effect of the bright yellow, simply because there will be other things to look at besides those walls! You can also cover up big swaths of wall with wall-hangings (if it suits your decor, quilts or rugs work beautifully for covering ugly walls) or large framed pictures/mirrors.

I agree with lots and lots of white; I found that off-white can sometimes look a little dingy with clear yellows. I found navy to work beautifully with the yellow in our old guest room - although I painted the walls lemon yellow, the quilt (which we'll be reusing in this house) is navy, white, and egg-yolk yellow and it's a lovely combination. The French Country folks also seem to like red with yellow and white, as well as rust, mossy greens, slatey blues which it sounds like are more to your liking; even if French Country is not quite to your liking there's no reason why you can't swipe their color schemes. :-)

    Bookmark   December 30, 2007 at 5:01PM
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Thanks for your responses! I will wait until my (mostly)white and off white furniture is in place and then start adding color from there.

I did an image search on yahoo for "yellow" and got this. I do like this combination of colors, so there's hope :O)

Here is a link that might be useful: Yellow House

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 8:42PM
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Sorry to hear that news. I do remember your username -- think I did some buffet lamp virtuals for you?

What I'm thinking is that a sharp, loud yellow is unsettling. They even say yellow can cause arguments and babies to cry -- I think they're referring to the saturated yellows. Certainly would be different for everyone and is just a generalization, but, I'd try to make your space more soothing, with lots of white and softness rather than high-contrast around sounds good. So that it'll be cheerful but not overly stimulating or agitating for you. That would make sense to me, anyway, while going through a stressful period.

Cheers for a better year!

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 8:56PM
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Here's a great link that ttodd provided a while back:

Here is a link that might be useful: Decorating in Yellow

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 8:59PM
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I have to wonder at a landlady painting a rental bright yellow. Why would she do that??

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 11:08PM
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Don't know what kind of a yellow you are dealing with over there, but here are some more pics from BH&G that are yellow but not loud. Notice how mixing in the ochres and browns, along with whites and other neutrals subdues things.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 11:52PM
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Squirrel, I was just looking at this BH&G decorating link also before the New Year's Rang and before I called two of my friends to wish them a Happy New Years and saw these pics and was amazed at how yellow rooms can look nice.

The picture with the crystal chandelier I printed since the lamp on the left of the bed is on a shorter smaller table that has a taller ivory and brass lamp on it with a bell shape fancy shade while the lamp on the right side small dresser ("Junior Chest") has a smaller crystal and brass lamp with a more traditional shade but the shade heights are very close and it looks nice. I think I like shade heights very close and lamps similar bulkness to one another like in that picture to look interesting and pretty despite the different looks and the different heights of the lamps but due to the table sizes the shade heights are the close. They have the brass in common.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 1:00AM
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Perhaps you can discreetly tone it down a bit and she won't notice it too much. If she says something, comment that it must have faded a bit...

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 5:56AM
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The photos Squirrelheaven posted are lovely, and fortunately, the colors you noted that you like will work well with yellow. I like soft grey with yellow as well.

After arranging your furniture, consider making fabric wall panels to cover large areas. Seems there are two main, easy ways: wood framing strips and foam core/adhesive.

Wall art

Small examples of fabric wall art

How to make fabric wall art

Snookums, I hope you're not serious. Valzone did say repainting was out of the question and the job was done by a pro. If a tenant painted my rental, the tenant would be in violation of the lease and out the door with no returned deposit.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 7:42AM
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Oh...I could think of many worse colors a landlady could've chosen for walls, lol! I think the yellow may end up pleasantly suprising you...especially considering the fact that much of your furniture is already white or off white.

DD's bedroom in our previous home was last painted "Wildflower Honey", a vibrant yellow, and with her creamy white bedroom furniture it was just a beautiful, cheery room.

I've seen so many great rooms with yellow walls in the magazines...actually I think I've got a new one right now with a home in FL in which the designer used yellow walls in the family room which stood out from the other rooms featured, and it looked so great it has stuck in my head. I'll have to page through the mags I got in my stocking and see if I can spot it again.

In the mean time here's a link to a blog pic I found which shows a great example of a yellow walled room:

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 10:09AM
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Can you take a picture of the walls, so we can see what shade of yellow you're working with?


    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 10:29AM
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I happen to love yellow walls! In fact, a yellow-gold palette runs throughout several rooms of my home. However, I also find yellow to be a particularly tricky color to work with. I cannot imagine being stuck with someone else's choice of yellow that is not my own. As most have pointed out, how this color contrasts with your furnishings and accessories will make all the difference in the end.

That said, I know you say that repainting is out of the question. Is that because it is a cost hurdle for you(sorry about the separation, I've been there myself!) or a decorating demand of your landlord? If the latter, are you making an assumption or have you actually asked the landlady if she will allow you to repaint? If you can afford it out of your own pocket, perhaps even using her painter for the task and negotiating her agreement on the color you choose, she may go along.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 11:55AM
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Lots of great suggestions above. There have also been suggestions in other posts about applying fabric to walls with starch (it does not damage the wall yet makes a big change). Perhaps an inexpensive white muslin you could take with you?

Best wishes.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 12:59PM
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Thanks for the suggestions and pictures. I am a visual person, so pictures are helping me a great deal.

I took some pictures of the apartment walls today. The yellow is more or less vibrant depending on the rooms/lighting of course, but this gives you an overall feel for the yellow.

The landlady is very attached to the yellow walls and is proud of the color (that she chose with care). In fact I am not to use any nails or screws in them - only Command Adhesive hooks - so as to preserve them. I didn't bother to ask if I could repaint, as I didn't want to offend her. This color isn't awful, in fact I would call it cheery, it's just not what I would have chosen and I am having a hard time visualizing a calming space with this color on the walls. I think there is a great deal of potential ... I just have to work with it instead of against it.

I cannot wait to be in a position to buy my own house!

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 2:02PM
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On my monitor, at least, that looks like an entirely liveable yellow. I was imagining something much worse. I could live there!

Can't wait to see once you have your furnishings in there. Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 2:53PM
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Oh, that is a lovely yellow, only one shade brighter than I used in my old guest room! I think once you get your white and off-white things, some pretty fabrics (Country Curtains has some curtains that would go just beautifully with that color) and rugs, in there you will have a very charming new home. Like homemaker I was expecting SCREAMING BLINDING YELLOW ;-) but I could live with that quite easily and I'm not even that fond of yellow - I had a yellow guest room in the last house because the bright, sunny room asked for it, and now I'm going to have a yellow guest room because I have all the bedding and curtains already and can't afford to just throw them out and buy new! LOL

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 4:08PM
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Do you like blue? Blue goes well with yellow and is a calming color. I have lots of blue, yellow, and red tones in my house. Good luck with your new place!

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 5:24PM
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Although there is always a gap between what we see in real life and what comes over a computer monitor, that color doesn't look anywhere near "post-it yellow" to me. :) In fact, from what I'm seeing, I say a hearty ditto to those who think that yellow is within the range of workable to pretty good-looking! Right now, this is a new and abstract conception for you. But, I bet once you start moving your own furniture in, your imagination will begin to work more for you than you against you. In fact, I'm looking forward to the photos of the creative, "new me" showplace you're going to produce!

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 6:09PM
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I love the bright white trim around the windows and once you add your furniture and accessories, I think you can make the rooms quite nice. But I feel for you, I would not want to live in a whole house of cheery yellow on the walls since in some rooms you want a calm color.

I would ask her if you can paint one room another color that she and you can choose or just put more pictures up and sheers going beyond the windows in white and I think you will be fine. It is a pretty shade of yellow and at least the landlady had White trim around the walls on top and on the bottom around the windows that will keep your apartment looking cheery and stylish.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 6:18PM
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Sorry about your separation. I'm sure with all the stress you've probably been through recently, you're probably still stressed when looking at that wall color. On my monitor it looks like a beautiful sunny color - not over the top, just cheerful. I hope when you move in with your furniture you'll find you love or at least like it and find it soothing.

When I first read your post I was thinking the worst - day glo acid yellow or really horrible dreary dirty looking golden yellow.


    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 7:21PM
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LOL!! I guess I did sort of set it up to be worse than it is. I think it's the stress - I just want it to be as homey and comfortable for my son and I as our current home is, and since I don't currently have any yellow walls, it makes it all the more far removed from what we are used to. I think I will put white sheers on the windows, with roller blinds behind for privacy. I'll post pictures once the furniture is in, and then I'll go from there. I am trying to get the whole place decorated before I even move in, but again I am trying so hard to make it a smooth transition. I brought some of my things over there tonight, and one thing is for certain - I need new lightbulbs! At night, the walls look screaming lemon yellow, LOL!

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 7:49PM
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Val, I'm sorry to see you're going through a rough time and I hope things soon smooth out for you.

Yellow is a great color in that it does go with a lot of other colors. I love yellow with white, black and green, specifically the green of lots of house plants. I really love yellow, but I painted my bedroom that color and found I just couldn't live with it in there. It made me feel agitated and keyed up.

How long are you going to be there? If only a short time, I'd just live with it. But if a long time, and if you decide you can't live with the yellow, I'd paint it a pretty beige -- something the landlady can't *hate* -- a nice neutral. I'd do a super good prep job so no paint gets anywhere it shouldn't be (baseboards, mouldings, handles, hinges, floors, drapes, etc.), just like a pro would do. If money is tight, look in the bargain paint bin at your local store for "rejects" you like. Then I'd keep my mouth shut about it in front of the landlady and hope by the time you move out she forgets it was yellow and is just happy it looks clean and not damaged. The worst thing she could possibly do is keep your damage deposit and if you really hate living with the yellow it will be worth it to you. Or, you could even re-paint it to yellow right before you move if you're scared of the landlady and desperately need your deposit back.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 8:12PM
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The worst thing she could possibly do is keep your damage deposit

The worst thing she could do is evict you the moment she discovers it. Laws in many places will allow this.

This fall I painted my dining room yellow, so I am probably biased, but I don't think it's hard to work with. Light yellow complements medium wood tones beautifully. White looks good with it, and for an accent color, soft greens, dark blues, or muted reds will all work, so that even if every room is yellow, they don't all have to have the same color scheme.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 8:20PM
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The yellow that is showing in the picture is a beautiful shade IMO. I have yellow walls in two homes--in Florida I have decorated yellow walls, white trim with white wood furniture and dark blue sofas, printed valances in patterns of dark blue white/yellow and in NY I have my yellow walls paired with red sofas and dark woods. I am pleased with both. I think once you get your things in it will look quite good.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 8:52PM
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I love your yellow! But, my walls are GOLD so I am biased. People walk in and typically comment on how they love it-- really cheers me up in the bleak midwinter, too.

I think you will find that the yellow is almost a neutral. Do you like blue, red, or green? Those would all work well, as would pastels. I think you have a lot of options!

I'm so sorry for your separation. Your son is lucky to have a strong mama!

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 9:01PM
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Here are a couple other pics. Not the one I was looking for which was French-y and had yellow walls and light blue and pale yellow and white accessories. Very light and airy, although maybe the walls were lighter.

I think this first shot is someone's house here, but didn't note where I got it! Quite yellow, but warm and enveloping. Comfy :)

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 9:28PM
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I like that yellow! Any idea what brand/color it is? I would seriously like to know. Not AT ALL what I was expecting to see. :)

The fact that most of your things are neutral--beige, off-white, etc.--makes it much easier. Once you move in and put your things in place--including rugs and accessories--the yellow will be considerably toned down, I'll bet--and you might even like it. My bedroom is a pale yellow--not much paler than your new apartment walls--and both dh and I love waking up in a bright and happy room: it makes all the difference! If you find, over time, that you simply aren't warming up to the yellow, you could always ask your landlady--by then, you will have established more of a relationship with her--if you could paint the LR, hallway and Master bedroom a neutral beige in the same tone family as the yellow. By then, she might be totally open to it. :)

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 11:17PM
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Was browsing my albums trying to find the soft blue and yellow dr. Still no luck, but did find this beauty :)

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 11:46PM
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Thanks for the pics, squirrel: I find these rooms to be so comforting.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2008 at 1:27AM
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Surprisingly, I actually find this last picture pretty and comforting also despite the bright walls and big vase of flowers (I usually like little vases and less bright walls) but I do love plums, lavenders and the other colors in this picture which may be why I like it. Thanks Squirrel for sharing it.

P.S. I still like that gold/yellow monochromatic room a lot (from a prior picture form the BH&G site) with the two different lamps of different sizes with different height bedside tables but the same height of the top of the lamp shades. I still think my pale yellow walls need to be a little bit deeper in color but now I like the color of blinds on my window since I have white lamp shades. It is amazing how the colors in a room affect one another.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2008 at 2:38AM
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Val, have you looked at the thread about yellows in our Gallery? There are some very pretty pictures there.

Here are some more for you...

    Bookmark   January 2, 2008 at 6:45AM
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I really like that dining room that squirrel posted! That I could live in. Thanks for the pictures!!

    Bookmark   January 2, 2008 at 9:25AM
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