Interior Consultant Kristy Starring, one of the four Helm siblings who own and run Helm Paint, works with color decisions daily. That requires staying abreast of national and local color trends. And for the record, Starring says there is a difference between the two. While color and pattern are making a comeback across much of the country, Starring’s customers, many whose families have been coming to Helm since it opened in 1970, tend to adhere to a more neutral palette and use color as an accent. 

“Our store sees true New Orleans,” she said. “Shades of white, cream and gray are always popular.”

The exceptions, according to Starring, are the Bywater and the Marigny, which she says have become “more funky, less traditional.” 

To meet the tastes of the entire local market, Helm carries hundreds of whites, an endless rainbow of colors made from paint chip formulas or custom mixed, window treatments, wallpaper, fabrics, and some accessories.

“Every customer I have comes in with some inspiration,” said Starring, who guides customers by asking what they like and what is existing in the room – for instance a granite or quartz countertop.  Starring asks to see samples of those things as photos are not always accurate. She also helps clients determine how to use their color choices. For example, using the same color on walls, trim and ceiling (in different finishes) creates a seamless, more spacious look. Colors can be cut for subtle variation. Light colors highlight trim and decorative details; dark colors mute them.

For touches of color, she counsels painting a limited area – a fireplace wall, a ceiling, the lower part of a kitchen island, a powder room, or behind bookshelves, or bringing in color with upholstered pieces, bedding, pillows or drapery. She says color trends at market include electric colors such as cobalt, citrine and orange, as well as pale pinks and blushes, navy and metallics. You can treat color as a neutral by using a muted shade (soft greens and gray-blues work well) and sticking to a monochromatic palette. 

“As a color specialist I have to think outside of the box,” Starring said.

At the same time, she says it’s helpful to follow some general guidelines – for example some colors pair better than others – she suggests trying vibrant orange with greens; cobalt against white, gray or yellow; and citrine with blues, oranges, beiges, medium khakis, greiges or greens. 

Her final word on the matter: 

“What do you like?” she asked. “You have to live with it.”
Easy ways to add pops of color to your interior: Upholster an accent piece of furniture with a colorful fabric.
Paint the lower portion of a kitchen island.
Use a dramatic paint color behind bookshelves.
Use extra yardage from other projects to make custom pillows.
Add colorful artwork to neutral walls.


About the Designer

The youngest of the five Helm siblings, whose father started Helm Paint, Kristy Starring is the Interior Consultant at Helm’s Earhart store. She is well aquainted with the city’s love of whites and neutrals but often changes the colors of her bedroom, which is currently decorated with navy and beige.