Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert with the Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institute, offers three fresh ideas to help bring the outdoors inside.

Today's versatile palettes of blues, greens and browns encompass colors inspired by the earth, sea and sky along with metallics and brights to add "pop" and excitement. Steadily gaining popularity in recent years, homeowners are taking this trend a step further by extending it to the type of paint they choose.

"Environmentally friendly, low-VOC paints are popular for a variety of reasons, most notably because they lack odor. This allows consumers to put recently painted rooms back into use almost immediately after being painted," Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert with the Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institute says. "Another added benefit according to health and environmental authorities is that low-VOC paints are not considered hazardous waste, so consumers can take pride in knowing that they are not impacting the environment when disposing of leftover paints." Zimmer offers three fresh ideas to help bring the outdoors inside.

Accent on Nature

Just as in nature, nothing looks more refreshing than a muted landscape punctuated with an unexpected burst of color. For inspiration, look to your backyard. A ripe tomato still on the vine, a bright yellow sunflower swaying in the breeze, even a blazing sunset, can offer inspiration for an eye-catching color scheme.

True Blue

Blue, in all its tints and hues, has long been a favorite. In previous seasons' trends, blue has been confined to the bedroom and bath. However, since blue is so prevalent in nature, it is now one of the important colors in home decor. The latest clear, true blues are being used through the house, both as an accent color and as a color scheme anchor. Blue's popularity is extending to other colors as well, particularly with the emerging popularity of blue-based greens. The most modern greens take their inspiration from moss, pine and the lush vegetation of the rainforest.

Down to Earth

Deep, dark chocolate brown, a popular color in recent season, will continue to factor into the earth tone palette. However, lighter tints such as beige, tan and other desert-toned hues offer a fresher take on the trend. They are an especially good choice for those that are color-shy and ideally suited to pair with a bright-colored accent wall or metallic trim.

Put Your Walls on a Diet!

Paint color and sheen can influence a person's perception on size and width of a room," Zimmer says. "By taking a cue from fashion, a person's living space can be viewed as larger or smaller or taller or shorter."

For instance, a light-colored paint will make a small room appear bigger while darker shades will make a large room appear more intimate. Persons can use types of paint-induced optical illusions in any space in their homes.

Zimmer recommends three easy tips to "adjust size" of living spaces:

Raise or Lower the Ceiling
If a ceiling feels too low, bright white can "raise" your perception of its height. By taking a cue from clothing designers, adventuresome homeowners can paint their walls with vertical stripes to enhance the sense of height.

On the other hand, dramatic high ceilings may cause a living space to feel cavernous. To visually lower ceiling height, add a mid to deep hue on the ceiling. Another alternative is to paint horizontal stripes on the walls.

Shrink or Expand Rooms
Just as a dark monochromatic outfit can visually "slim" an appearance, a monochromatic paint scheme can do the same in a large space. Choosing darker shade for the walls will reign in a large room and create a cozy and intimate space.

Is your room too narrow and long? Just widen it by painting the shorter walls a deeper color than the longer walls. If color alone is not enough to change the perceived dimensions, use color combinations to create visual breaks. Divide your wall space horizontally with a chair rail and paint the upper and lower portions different hues.

Don't Forget the Sheen
For both visual and practical reasons, selecting the right sheen of paint is just as important as the actual color. Glossier finishes lend greater warmth and depth to surfaces than do flat paints. For example, a room with white gloss paint on the ceiling will seem larger than a room whose ceiling is painted with a white flat paint.

For additional tips on choosing hues that can impact room dimensions, visit, where every great paint job begins.