If you want to perk up your decor but you still want to keep the look subtle, teal green may be the color you're looking for. It can add a note of interest without taking over the whole room, and adds light and a splash of special color.

Teal is one of those colors that rides between others. It isn't blue, and it isn't green; it inhabits the borderland between the two. It's darker than cyan blue, and has a greenish tinge to it. It's a color that is unusual enough to bring it some attention, and yet it won't scream out and take the spotlight away from the other furnishings in the room.

Where does the color teal come from? Novice birdwatchers looking for a duck called the Common Teal are often confused, because the duck with the name "teal" actually isn't teal at all, but is the speckled brownish color of most ducks. But tucked into the wing is a small stretch of color: teal. The word for the color comes from the name of the duck.

Teal was most likely first brought into the home as aquamarine gemstones. These stones were believed to keep seasickness and fear away, and so became popular among sailors, who probably brought the stones back to their waiting wives and sweethearts, who then thought, "Gee, this color would look great in the drawing room."

How can you use teal to its best advantage today? Many people think of "spring colors" when redecorating at this time of year, and too often this palette is limited to thoughts of pastels, with pale yellows, soft pinks, and light greens predominating.

But teal will also give a springtime lift to a room. It's light, and has several bright notes in it, without being cloying or too Easter-egg bright. When you're trying to make over a room in order to brighten it up, it's important not to over do it by adding a shade that's too bright in a room with predominant darker or more somber tones. Unless you're totally making over the room, the changes must be gradual.

Teal is an excellent choice for this, because it blends in with other colors so well. Other colors that work nicely with teal include anything in the beige or cream range, as seen in the photo of the tea cups, as well as dark winey reds, browns, and other sage-based greens.

Teal is a color that can be used as a note of modernity or as a note of old-world charm in your home decor. Here, the photograph shows us elegant teal china cups and saucers, set on a linen table cloth. Investing in a set of teal china cups such as these will give your dining table an old-fashioned, elegant look that's sure to please lovers of retro as well as your Aunt Margie.

Could teal work as a wall color? Splendidly. A room with teal walls will look both modern and elegant. Anchored with a maroon velvet sofa, you'll get an early 20th-centuray look; used with a sleek, black sofa, the room will be on the cutting edge of the latest in design.

In this photo of limestone, you can get an idea of what a larger swath of teal would look like. By hiring a specialist in wall color and trompe l'oil, you could even achieve teal walls that appear to be made of limestone, which would make a striking design statement in a living room or hallway.

Teal is used in both contemporary design and in retro looks, and it blends well with existing colors and decor, making it a terrific choice for quick springtime pick-me-up.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design.

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