6 tricks with color designer Summer Thornton uses in her interiors

The interiors design star Summer Thornton creates are full of wonder – just look at these imaginative schemes

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(Image credit: Thomas Loof / Rizzoli)

If you're a fan of color, you might be looking for new, inventive and adventurous ways to use it in your home. Step forward Summer Thornton, a Chicago-based interior designer known for her fearlessly colorful interior design schemes. Summer's work features in her new book, Wonderland: Adventures in Decorating. This inspired a sumptuous feature in July's Homes & Gardens magazine, not to mention the issue's iconic cover.

Here, we bring you our pick of Summer's best room color ideas featured in the book, alongside interior design tips from the lady herself. If you scroll down, you can find out where to get the book for yourself.

1. Create a technicolor dream scheme

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(Image credit: Thomas Loof / Rizzoli)

Blue room ideas are traditionally classic, but you can super-charge them with a bold color. 

'When it comes to color, I believe the more experimental, the more arresting, the better. The trick is not to hesitate and never be formulaic. 

'Luckily, the couple behind this renovation are my boldest clients. The original 19th-century boiserie wood wall panelling, though glorious, was far too serious. It needed levity and playfulness. We decided to be very theatrical and paint the walls a spectacular hue. My mind jumped to the sacred Blue City of Jodhpur in India. If a whole city can be swathed in blue, why not just one room?'

2. Be light-hearted and fancy-free

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(Image credit: Thomas Loof / Rizzoli)

In a monochromatic color scheme, using different tones of the same shade is key.

'Through the blue-panelled living room, we can see into the dining room, where a beautifully busy pattern is introduced on the walls. I needed a wallpaper that could hold its own against the uniquely concentrated color in the living room. 

'The pretty flora and fauna of this Schumacher (opens in new tab) paper provided the perfect respite. With it, I was able to segue from blues to bluish greens. 

'The dining chairs used here are intentionally less formal than the mahogany Regency table they surround. They add a whimsical and light-hearted touch to the space.'

3. Always choose a scene stealer

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(Image credit: Thomas Loof / Rizzoli)

Colorful wall mural ideas can be used for drama. 'A secret garden waits for you inside this apartment. My whole design concept started in the living room, with an enchanting, hand-painted Japanese mountain-scape wallpaper covered in a riot of cherry blossom. 

'This apartment is one of my all-time favorite projects, in part because I was able to work with a palette of super-saturated greens. My design relies on shades that are a little off. Every color I used here is powerful: jades, teals, aquas, cinnamons, citrons and ochres. I want people to be enchanted at every turn.'

4. Create a rhapsody in blue

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(Image credit: Thomas Loof / Rizzoli)

'For a little role reversal, unlike the colorful walls in the rest of this apartment, the
walls here in this teenage boy’s bedroom are white and the casings and mouldings are blue. 

'The rest of the apartment has a sexy 1940s appeal, but we wanted to switch gears for this room. Burnt-orange accents and pattern make the blue and white sing.'

5. Be absolutely fabulous

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(Image credit: Thomas Loof / Rizzoli)

It pays to invest in surprising bathroom ideas.

'With its stunning architectural details, this apartment ran the risk of being a little uptight – so I had to unwind the seriousness with something over the top and wild in the bathroom. 

'The birds are way too big for the space, and that’s why they are perfect here. Everything else is so meticulously done and incredibly polished that we needed the birds to ruffle a few feathers. The paper pushes the design to the edge – perhaps even over the edge!'

6. Choose decor that's seriously seductive

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(Image credit: Thomas Loof / Summer Thornton / Rizzoli)

Pink room ideas can create surprise and scandal.

'The lady of the house is a fair blonde and pinks look so pretty on her. I just had to use that color in her bedroom, but we added lots of red for a stronger hit that ties this whole house together. Now the room is more of a nod to Rothko than Sleeping Beauty. 

'Each shade of red is slightly different and none of them match exactly – it’s that kind of slightly off-kilter palette that invigorates me. This space gets great light and we wanted to take advantage of that by using super- saturated, feel-good shades.'

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Wonderland: Adventures in Decorating (opens in new tab) by Summer Thornton is published by Rizzoli and available at Amazon.

Emma Thomas

Emma Thomas is the Style Editor at Homes & Gardens and Livingetc magazines, looking after the decorating features. Before joining Homes & Gardens in 2014, Emma worked for over 25 years mainly as a freelance interior stylist and art director producing photo shoots for many editorial titles and commercial clients, including Elle Decoration, Livingetc (she worked on the launch issue back in 1998!), Habitat and The White Company, to name but a few. As well as overseeing and art directing the original photography we produce, Emma also leads on many of the decorating and design ideas and features you see in print and online.