Design Inspiration Color & Paint

Jenna Lyons Told Us What Her Go-To Paint Colors Are—And How to Maximize Their Effect

Plus the mistake she sees people make with rugs.
Jenna Lyons portrait
Photography by Alexandra Valenti

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For creative Jenna Lyons, joining the club of design pros at The Expert was no jump into the unknown: “It’s very similar to what I did at J.Crew, which was really helping demystify or resolve some questions of style, color, and visual communication,” she explains. Book a one-hour (or more) session on Zoom through the online platform and you’ll be able to show Lyons your space face-to-face. She’ll then offer her expertise on whatever you’re stuck on, from paint colors to furniture layout.

Even if you don’t feel quite ready to kick-start a renovation project, you can get some inspiration straight from Lyons right here. Below, she shares a few best-kept design secrets with us.

Go Monochromatic With Paint

view into gray room
Photography by Seth Smoot; Styling by Rosy Fridman

“Dark painted walls in rooms can be incredible but also tricky,” says Lyons. The reason? Moldings left white can read inexpensive and take away from the drama. Instead paint the trim to match. Two of her favorite shades: Coventry Gray by Benjamin Moore and Railings from Farrow & Ball.


Farrowu0026Ball Shop Now

Coventry Gray

Benjamin Moore Shop Now

Lower the Light

glorious kitchen with pink sofa
Photography by Simon Watson

“There’s not a dimmer I don’t like, and a beautiful light switch can really be an inexpensive upgrade,” says Lyons. Moody lighting has been part of the designer’s DNA for a while now, as we spotted on her HBO Max show, Stylish With Jenna Lyons.

When in Doubt, Go Big

modern bedroom
Photography by Simon Watson

“The number-one mistake I find people make with rugs is making them too small. The rug should hold the room and go under your furniture. Not kissing [it], but really getting in there,” says Lyons. Lately she has been “oddly attracted” to wall-to-wall carpeting.

Think Long-Term

old dining room
Photography by Skye Parrott

A huge chandelier, an unexpected color, and a dramatically scaled piece of furniture are Lyons’s longtime go-tos. In her Instagram series, “Rinse & Reuse,” she showed the evolution of her crystal fixture. It lived in her Brooklyn bedroom in 2005 and moved to her SoHo dining space in 2015. “Some of my best investments are still with me, and have been with me for 15-plus years,” says Lyons. “I have a Paul McCobb coffee table that I purchased 20-some-odd years ago, and I changed the top to a Fior di Bosco marble slab,” she adds.

Invest in Vintage Art…Books

blue library
Photography by Jessica Antola

And yes, books are considered art. “Good vintage art, architecture, and photography books often have more character and elegant spines,” notes Lyons. She also recommends taking postcards or images from old books and putting them in a quality frame. “It can really elevate the look of a piece,” she adds.

This story was originally published in October 2021. It has since been updated.