How to Decorate with Color
Color is one of the most important elements of any room. Choosing a color palette need not be intimidating. Set a peaceful mood with whites and creams, or add energy to your decor with bright colors.
An ideal decorating color scheme will have two to four colors. One color should be the dominating hue. Repeat colors throughout the room by using pieces such as rugs
, vases, draperies
or covered books.
Color Wheel Basics
Don't settle for someone else's idea of what colors you should have in your home. Starting with a single color, you can create an impressive combination. Take advantage of the color wheel to choose hues that personalize your decor and decorate your space the way you like.
Simply put, the color wheel organizes all colors as primary, secondary or tertiary. Primary colors are red, blue and yellow. All other colors come from these.
Mixing equal parts of two primary colors creates secondary colors. These colors are violet (purple), green and orange.
Combining equal parts of a primary color with a secondary color creates tertiary colors. Their descriptions combine the primary and secondary names from which they were created: red-violet, blue-violet, blue-green, yellow-green, yellow-orange and red-orange.
Black and White, Dull and Bright Colors
Sir Isaac Newton proved that white is a combination of all colors. He used a prism to split white sunlight into different colors, then brought the colors back together to recreate white. Black is the absence of color.
How light or dark a color appears is called its value. Mixing a color with white creates a tint, like red mixed with white creates the tint of pink. A color mixed with black creates a shade. For example, navy is a shade of blue.
How bright or dull a color appears is its intensity. A high-intensity color is a pure hue. To create a low-intensity color, a color is mixed with its complement.
Decorating with Warm and Cool Colors
One side of the color wheel shows cool colors, and the other side warm. You need only to look at the sky, the ocean or distant mountains to understand the nature of cool colors. Violet, blue and green can create the illusion of distance in your home, too. These colors are great for making small areas seem more spacious.
We associate red, orange and yellow with heat - think of bright sunlight or a crackling campfire. Use warm colors to add comfort and energy to your living space. Warm hues can create more intimate areas in large rooms. If your windows face north, you can counteract the coolness by adding warm colors.
Selecting Color Palettes Using the Color Wheel
You can always play it safe by selecting tints and shades of the same color. The effect of this monochromatic color scheme can be stunning. Keep in mind that later on it may be difficult to find furnishings to coordinate with your room.
Complementary colors are directly opposite of each other on the color wheel. You can create bold, yet pleasing, color combinations. Nature provides some beautiful examples: the red rose with green foliage, a monarch butterfly against the blue sky, or a purple petunia with a yellow center.
Complementary colors create a sense of harmony - we find them interesting and pleasing. We ignore boring combinations like gray and white - they just don't hold our interest. Conversely, we reject over-stimulating combinations like neon orange and neon green.
Split Complementary Colors
A variation of the complementary scheme, it uses a base color and the two colors next to its complement. It provides strong visual contrast, but has less tension than the standard complementary palette. Consider using a color combination like green, red-violet and red-orange, or the grouping of yellow-orange, blue and violet.
Triad Color Schemes
Triad color schemes use colors that form a triangle on the color wheel. Each hue is an equal distance apart. Groupings such as red, blue and yellow can perk up any room. Triad color combinations are great for contemporary decor. Consider triads of orange, green and purple, or red-orange, yellow-orange and yellow-green.
Analogous color schemes use neighboring colors to create softer palettes. Picking two or three adjacent colors will always create pleasing groupings. Blue, blue-green and green is an analogous group that you might see in the ocean. Another harmonious group you may want to try is violet, red-violet and red. Unlike the monochromatic palette, it's easy to select colors within a range of hues.
Add a complementary hue to an analogous group to build an interesting palette. Choosing a complementary accent lets you add a splash of bold color to an otherwise soft color scheme. The color red-orange creates the perfect accent for the analogous group of blue, blue-green and green. Yellow-green will spice up a combination of violet, red-violet and red.
Lighting Effects on Color
Throughout the day, colors in your home appear differently. What looks soft and calm at noon might seem harsh at midnight. Fluorescent lighting can turn a warm red into a disturbing eyesore. When possible, get swatches of what appeals to you to see how they'll look at different times and under different types of lighting.
Since wall color plays a major role in your decor, give paint a trial run before you commit yourself. Purchase a small amount to cover only a section of your wall. For several days, check on how it appears in different lighting conditions.
Where to Begin Creating Your Personal Color Palette
If you have artwork or another furnishing that you wish to showcase, you've already begun your selection. Otherwise, you may want to begin with your favorite color. Experiment with creating different palettes using the color wheel.
Nature provides an infinite source of inspiration. Take a look at plants in your yard or neighborhood. Maybe you want to use the colors of a peacock or tropical fish as your decorating theme.
Select what pleases you and your family the most. Enjoy expressing yourself with color throughout your home.