General Color Guidelines for Decorating

It never fails- you’re ready to transform a room and you quickly get stuck just trying to figure out a color palette. What colors match? How do you choose a palette? Which colors then make good accents? It’s enough to make you throw down all those paint chips and swatches and forget about it. But, it doesn’t have to be that hard. A few guidelines will keep you on track when understanding color relationships and how that translates to your home decorating.

Meet the Wheel

Get to know the color wheel, originally created by Sir Isaac Newton, and you will be starting from a good place. There are 12 colors total. Three primary colors: red, yellow and blue; three secondary colors: orange, green and violet; and six tertiary colors that are a combination of a secondary color and a primary color next to it, like yellow-orange or blue-violet. It’s good to know these because colors work together based on where they lie on the wheel.

Analogous – Colors that live next to each other on the wheel are called analogous. Pick two to six colors that sit next to each other and you will have a happy color scheme. For instance a living room filled with spice tones all look put together with a distinct personality.

Monochromatic – When you’re just crazy about one color, consider a monochromatic look, where you simply choose varying intensities of one color from light to dark. Have you ever walked into a show home and been drawn to an all-white bedroom? There were many hues of white in there, from cream to bone to parchment, that complement each other.

High Contrast – Want a bold color scheme? Consider a complementary approach by choosing two colors that sit opposite each other on the color wheel. Even though they sit on opposite sides of the fence, they seem to always get along together beautifully. Ever notice how nicely pink and green go together? They are a great example of this approach.

Find Your Light

Take time to understand how the light enters your room throughout the day. This will affect your color choices. The light in north- and east-facing rooms tends to feel cooler than a room facing south or west. Depending on the mood you are going after, you may need to balance cool light with warm colors from the color wheel. Of if you want to reinforce the room’s natural light, be sure to select colors that match the warm or cool element.

Discover Your Muse

So now that you know more about the color wheel, where do you start? The best place is in that one piece that you absolutely adore and can’t imagine not having in the room. Maybe it’s a rug, or a painting or a favorite chair. Let the most dominant color in this piece be the main color in your room. The second most dominant color becomes your secondary color. And finally, choose an accent color. Follow the 60-30-10 rule to help you determine how much you let each color play a role in the final color scheme.

Color Wheel Relationships

Monochromatic Relationship
Colors that are shade or tint variations of the same hue.
Complementary Relationship
Those colors directly across from each other on a color wheel
Split-Complementary Relationship
One hue plus two others equally spaced from its complement.
Double-Complementary Relationship
Two complementary color sets; the distance between selected complementary pairs will effect the overall contrast of the final composition.
Analogous Relationship
Those colors located adjacent to each other on a color wheel.
Triad Relationship
Three hues equally positioned on a color wheel.

Find Your Color Palette

If a few photos are just what you need to help get started in seeing where on the color wheel you want to begin, then stop by our Inspiring Room Ideas for some inspiration.