Podcast, Ep. 38: Color 101 with Maria Killam

Color expert Maria Killam joins the How to Decorate podcast


We’ve been waiting to get color expert Maria Killam on the podcast ever since we heard about her October color workshop here in Atlanta. She captivated us on day one of her workshop, and afterwards, we sat down to talk paint, color, undertones, and timeless interior design. This is an episode you won’t want to miss!

What You’ll Hear on This Show:

  • Maria gives us a rundown of paint undertones and why they’re important
  • What makes a decor choice timeless
  • We talk about paint swatches, why you need big ones, and how fan decks are made
  • We ask how you know which paint color to shoot for?
  • We talk about why choosing a paint color should be an easy choice
  • What’s the difference between a ‘clean’ versus a ‘dirty’ color?
  • Why mixing your own custom color isn’t necessarily the best strategy
  • We talk about choosing exterior paint colors and why you should approach them differently
  • We talk about choosing colors in adjacent rooms
  • Why the right wallpaper can totally transform outdated fixtures and finishes
  • Why styling and decorating can solve a ton of problems before you renovate
  • Why you should look to your closet when searching for color inspiration
  • We ask Maria what the biggest mistake is that people make when it comes to color?
  • We talk about why it’s so important to use large swatches of fixtures and finishes when you’re renovating

Decorating Dilemmas:

Hi Caroline,
What types of rooms should have an accent wall? Then provide tips on how to decorate rooms that have them.


In terms of tips, Maria suggests repeating the color of the accent wall multiple times around the room, otherwise the color will feel haphazard. Make sure the accent is a strong color or contrast, otherwise it won’t feel intentional.

Before painting an accent wall, think long and hard about what the goal of that accent wall is. Do you want to test out a color that maybe you’re too afraid to try? Are you trying to create drama where your room feels bare and uninteresting? There may be more successful ways to achieve that goal without using an accent wall.


If someone had only $500 to update a room what could they do to see the biggest impact/biggest bang for the buck? -Michelle

Lighting! Maria suggests overhauling your lighting because it can make the biggest impact in your space. Lots of different types of lighting — table lamps, floor lamps, sconces, overhead lighting, and even uplighting in corners.

One of the first things Maria suggests for her e-design clients is a pair of colorful gourd lamps. You’ll always be able to use them, plus they add color and symmetry to your space.

Show Notes:

Please send in your questions so we can answer them on our next episode! And of course, please subscribe to the podcast in iTunes so you never miss an episode. Of course, you can always check back here to see new episodes, but if you subscribe, it’ll automatically download to your phone.

Happy Decorating!

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Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply

    Jo chrobak

    November 10, 2023

    Fabulous podcast! I’m a newbie and totally converted!

    • Reply

      Kelley Bostian

      November 15, 2023

      Hey Jo,

      Welcome to the How to Decorate family! Be sure to reach out to us at podcast@ballarddesigns.net if you ever have a decorating dilemma you’d like to hear the ladies (and their guest) help answer, and be sure to check out the Ballard Designs YouTube channel for a few full-length video versions of the podcast.

      Happy Decorating,

    • Reply

      Kelley Bostian

      January 25, 2024


      Thanks for supporting the How to Decorate Podcast! Be sure to write in to podcast@ballarddesigns.net if you ever have any decorating dilemmas or general questions and the ladies would be happy to help!

      Happy Decorating,

  2. Reply

    Isidra Jackson

    November 3, 2020

    Thank you so much for saying what I knew. No grey wood flooring, always natural wood. The other touchpoint was the white bathroom, tiles, floors you can add color on the curtains, towels, and rugs.

  3. Reply


    February 25, 2019

    Is the pink upholstered chair available? It was what made me click!

  4. Reply


    December 24, 2017

    Please stop bashing builders. Builders hire designers to choose floor, tile, cupboards, paint colors etc. The designers pick what people want and will buy. Builders don’t care what color anything thing is as long as someone will buy it. People choose new homes because they like new, fresh and trendy. Builders are an easy target but a builder can be an important asset to an informed designer. If the buyer really loves their home or wants to customize it they often ask the builder for designer recommendations. This disfunctional relationship between designers and builders should stop. I think both would get more business.

    • Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      December 27, 2017

      That’s a such good point. Builders certainly aren’t the enemy, although it’s hard to name where some of those design ‘oops’ moments come from. Maybe we should do an episode where we talk about how to get the most out of your relationship with a builder and how to avoid those ‘oops’ moments if you’re building a new space!
      You’re right, some of that blame is misplaced and there are certainly builders who have excellent taste and do great work!
      Thanks for listening and for sending us your feedback.