IF YOU RENT an apartment or buy an older home, you might have to live with colors you despise.
Sure, you can paint the walls and change the draperies, but what do you do with a salmon pink bathtub or a turquoise refrigerator? What about green tile edged in lavender -- or a maroon toilet?
You learn to live with them, say several interior designers and owners of older homes who have had the experience of coping with peach-colored tile or a seafoam lavatory.
These bath and kitchen colors were popular in the '20s, '30s and '40s. Some of the colors are Art Deco-ish, a style that's enjoying a renaissance at the moment. You can have fun with those colors you hate, just as Camille Lehman did with her Nile green tile walls bordered in white.
One of six bathrooms in a 52-year-old Miami Beach house she and her designer husband, Charles, bought a few years ago, this Nile-green number was spruced up with white enamel paint above the tile and accessorized with navy blue towels.
"I made a point of the Nile green and the results look as though I meant it," Camille said.
"The most important thing about colors you dislkike is to make a point of them. Go with them," Camille advised. "Chinese red works with any color, even turquoise. And when in doubt, white looks smashing with everything."
If, for example, you find yourself stuck with pale violet tile with Nile-green gorders, Camile suggests using English country garden colors, "like those the Impressionists painted."
"Make a shower curtain from a beautiful floral sheet, paint the walls above the tile pale pink, and you have yourself a garden," she said.
For apartment dwellers, Camille suggests hanging one good picture in the bathroom. 'It will distract you from the color you hate and you can take the picture with you when you move."
What if you are one of the lucky ones coping with maroon bath fixtures? Why not make an Art Deco-flavored room with silver, mirrored walls, gray or black accents, suggests designer Anita Breslow.
A couple who bought an older home 11 years ago learned to live happily with a lavender and lettuce green bath that surely must have surprised their eyes the first time they saw it.
The wall tile and fixtures are lavender while the floor and border are lettuce green. The two colors are combined in a tile frieze near the ceiling.
"It's a tiny, decorative band of flowers all around the bath. It's sort of cute," said the wife, who is an artist. "I decided not to disguise the colors, but repeat them and deepen the lavender and add scarlet red and white for variety. I meant it to be somewhat amusing and lively."
She repeated the lavender by painting the walls above the tile a deep shade. Then she hung a lavender burlap curtain floor-to-ceiling at the bathtub. The curtain is edged in scarlet ball fringe and tied back with a white rope. White shutters hang at the winder and a purple rug covers the green floor. In a corner stands a white vase with huge red and purple Mexican paper flowers.
The artist also replaced the ordinary medicine cabinet mirror with a large plate glass mirror in an elaborately carved and gilded frame. The towels are deep purple, scarlet, lavender and white. On the walls hang seven of her collages, not made especially for the bathroom but chosen to hang there because they repeat the colors of the room.
"There are so many solutions to these strange bathrooms," she said. "You just find a solution that suits you and have some fun with it."
Gary McKinstry works with color every day in his career as home furnishings-fashion director at Jordan Marsh-Omni in Miami. But he was just as puzzled as anyone else would be when he bought a 1940s house with two semi-strange baths.
"One bath has bright yellow and baby blue tile," he said. "Talk about cute. I decided to laugh it along. I put a yellow vinyl roll up shade at the window and found a fabric shower curtain in tones of gray that goes with the blue side. I painted the walls above the tile white.
"The other bath has beige-pink tile with a rust-brown border. I pulled out that brown with the shower curtain and used towels in a deeper brown. There's a bit of red in the shower curtain and I pulled that out for accessories."
For baths with pink or maroon fixtures, McKinstry suggests painting the walls above the tile white or "mellow it out" with pink, gray or beige. "Maroon also works with hunter green, and it's the coming color for fall," he added. "Another striking combination is maroon with gray."
Designer Suzanne Moss thinks "silver" when decorating around oddball colors in older bathrooms. "Silver goes with most colors. Salmon pink and powder blue go great with silver," she said.
"You can always use a neutral bone or beige and add touches of color with towels," she said. "If you bring another strong color into a room your eye doesn't see the offensive color so quickly.
"As for maroon fixtures, I love them. The color is chic. I'd use a mirror and bring in some aqua green. You either have to go all out and work with the colors or try to camouflage them, which can turn out to be dull."
You have a good chance of making lemonade out of a lemon of a bath or; kitchen today because of the great variety of colors available in all sorts of home furnishings. Towels, for instance. The next time you are in a department store, check out the stacks of colorful towels, sometimes arranged like a rainbow. There's bound to be a color that will work with your bath's or kitchen's vintage colors.
House & Garden magazine is a help to the shopper when it comes to color because of its 35-year-old Color Program. This program researches and predicts upcoming color trends in the broadest range of home-related products, including floor and wallcoverings, housewares, building materials, paint, furniture, linens, bath products and appliances.
Publishing these color trends annually helps designers and manufacturers coordinate colors in their products. This in turn helps the do-it-yourself decorator because the color of a soap dish, for instance, can be perfectly matched with a towel or shower curtain.
And there are definitely more colors in the Consumer Palette, which is updated annually, than in the rainbow. In 1981 there are 56 colors, up from 53 this year.
Here's a list of possible color schemes to help you decorate around old bath and kitchen fixtures:
Peach bath fixtures -- Use a chocolate brown rug and towels, paint walls above tile white.
Salmon pink tile edged in black -- Use burgundy or black towels.
White fixtures with white tile edged in black -- Use black-and-white-striped towels or any vivid solid, such as red, hot pink, yellow or blue.
Seafoam or aquamarine fixtures -- Use navy blue towels or deep forest green. Paper walls above green tile in a silver Mylar print.
Lavender tile -- Use deep purple towels and rug, add hot pink or red accessories.
Maroon tile and fixtures -- Use dusty pink or white towels, black or silver accessories.
Powder blue fixtures -- Navy or red towels.
For kitchens with dated colors, try these combinations:
Harvest gold appliances -- Use a brown or beige color scheme.
Avocado appliances -- Beige, white or yellow can make them look a bit less drab.
Turquoise appliances -- Use white and yellow.
Pink appliances -- Try black and white or dusty rose accessories.