blue and white cabinet

Photo: Elsie Larson

Play Peekaboo
If you're not quite ready to commit a room or a piece of furniture to shades of blue, start off small, with strategically placed jolts of color. These kitchen cabinets add polish, with a coat of white paint on the doors that hides a playful splash of brightness inside.

To keep things practical, A Beautiful Mess co-creator and blogger Elsie Larson used satin paint for a glossy and easy-to-clean finish.

Although the interior color can work well alongside assorted, or bolder-hued, dinnerware, Larson kept it simple: "The white dishes made the look cohesive while really popping against the [bright background]."
Blue-and-white coastal-inspired bedroom

Photo: Noah Webb

When in Doubt, Go for the Shore Thing
There’s no need to panic when choosing a color scheme for a room: An easy rule of thumb is that if the colors go well together in nature, they'll look great in your home. Foam-capped waves served as designer Tim Clarke's inspiration in this space. To get a similar effect, he recommends incorporating objects into the room that are inspired by the sea.

"Whether sculptural coral or a collection of shells, [adding sea-inspired details] evokes the spirit of the coastline, even if you live in the middle of the country," he says.
Blue-and-white bathroom

Photo: Courtesy of Bertch Cabinet Manufacturing, Inc.

Flirt with Your Dark Side
A deep midnight blue paint is a statement color, but when it covers a small space—like a bathroom—it can feel more like a whisper. To prevent that walls-are-closing-in-on-us feeling, paint only the top two-thirds of the room in your bold, dark blue. Bright white wainscoting and other details bring in light so the room doesn't appear smaller than it really is.
Large painting above sofa in blue-and-white living room

Photo: Eric Piasecki

Don't Let One Wall Do All the Talking
As tempting as it is to play it safe with a bright accent wall—you can just paint it again if you hate it, right?—doing so throws off the architecture of a room. The end result can look disjointed, as if everything doesn't quite fit together.

"Keep the background pure with the same color on all four walls and add unexpected pops of color using pillows," designer Steven Gambrel recommends. Here, aqua paint is just a supporting character; the real conversation pieces are the cerulean sofa and powder-blue-and-white patterned rug.
Pops of blue in a neutral kitchen

Photo: Ngoc Minh Ngo

Guide People's Eyes Where You Want Them
Using the same shade of white makes this country-style table a match with these ultramodern dining chairs. Similarly, the sky blue in the poster is reflected in the overhead lamp and vase, drawing your eye to the center of the room—pulling you right to where the action is.
Pale-blue-and-white bathroom

Photo: Eric Piasecki

Let Your Bathroom Shine
Blue and white may often be associated with French country homes, but when they have silvery undertones—like these icy blue walls and gray-streaked marble accents—the result is anything but rustic. Designer Phoebe Howard takes things a step further by paying extra attention to the sheen on the walls. "I like to paint them with high-gloss paint, which not only makes an impact but is easy to wipe down when you need to clean," she says.
Turquoise-and-tan bedroom with starburst rug

Photo: Thinkstock

Defeat the Blahs with...White?
It may sound counterintuitive, but a crisp, bright white can add a powerful punch to the bedroom, especially when contrasted with dark, decadent colors, like the teal headboard and starburst rug seen here. Warm, sandy curtains serve as the soothing neutral, keeping the room from looking too dramatic.
Blue-and-white room with pops of fuchsia

Rethink Neutral Colors
A pale powder blue trimmed in white feels like a clean palette because it essentially is. It's soothing to the eye, which means you're free to inject some serious personality into the room. The fuchsia-trimmed mirror and stool in this bedroom are the "Hey, look at me!" details that elevate the room from the ordinary.
Powder blue bedroom with white bedding

Photo: Josh Gibson

Sleep on It
One low-commitment (and no-fail) way to incorporate blue and white into the bedroom is right where you rest your head. "Every spring, rip your bed apart and, step by step, make it as luxurious, comfortable and fabulous as it can be," says Howard, who chose light-blue-and-white linens here. "After all, we spend one-third of our lives in our beds."
Blue-and-white living room with orange accents

Photo: Douglas Friedman

Create Cloudless Skies Every Day
Blue walls, white ceiling—it's the color combination's most tried-and-true use. Why not turn that notion on its head? Cotton white walls and furniture feel beachy and relaxed, especially when paired with a first-sunny-day-of-spring ceiling and daring orange accents.

(And about those accents: "It's amazing what colorful pillows can do to a house," designer Jonathan Adler says. "They're like permanently fresh flowers.")

Next: How to decorate with the color green