How to Choose the Perfect Interior Color Palette


Whether you want to spruce up a tired room or to design an entirely new look for the whole house, getting the color scheme right is the first and most essential step. Creating a home atmosphere that is both comfortable and appealing requires thoughtful choices and some basic knowledge of the theory of color. A standard decorator's color wheel can be a huge help.

Since you will want your home to have some sense of consistency and flow, start with three or four bold colors and then narrow the choice down to your favorite two. If you are having a problem getting started, check out your own wardrobe. Do you spot any trends? Perhaps you see more sedate navy blues, cheery reds, warm browns, or soft pastels.

If the wardrobe does not present any answers, look around your home at pieces of art, patterned rugs and furniture, or floral arrangements. Chances are, you already own something whose color combination appeals to you. Check in magazines and online for sample styles and room designs. By collecting your favorites in a scrapbook, you should begin to see your own personal tastes emerge.

Don't be afraid of color. The wonderful thing about paint is that it can be a relatively inexpensive change-out. However, to avoid big, unwanted makeovers, consider the following interior color palette tips:

  • Follow the 60-30-10 rule. Sixty percent of the room should be one dominant, usually neutral, color; 30 percent will be a secondary color, and 10 percent will be pops of accent colors.
  • Don't overload your space with too many colors or you will create visual confusion.
  • Keep bright, trendy colors to use as accents, so that you can easily and inexpensively change them when their appeal passes.
  • Any color that brings balance to your two bold colors can be your neutral. Don't just think white or beige.
  • Consider how natural and artificial light will affect your color scheme. Some peach colors may become pink, and yellow can veer off to either the lemon-green or butter-yellow side under different lights.
  • Start out in the more formal living areas of your home. Let the colors you choose for the living room, dining room, and entry set the tone for the rest of the house. One decorator hangs identical curtains in adjoining rooms to maintain consistency and flow. Feel free to mix up the color ratios as long as you stay within your chosen color scheme.
  • As a general rule, use darkest colors on the floor, medium on the walls, and lightest on the ceilings.
  • Consider each room's intended use, architectural features, and the psychological effects of specific colors.
  • Add something black to every room as a defining agent.

Although Pantone chose the color Emerald as the color for 2013, interior decorators have been using an abundance of soft oranges, poppy reds, and variations of yellow this year. Sherwin-Williams' Kumquat, Behr's Mesa Sunrise, and Valspar's Sweet Melon are being featured in every room of the house, including the kitchen and the bedroom. Benjamin Moore's Poppy Red and Kelly's Salsa del Sol are powerful enough to create an impressive focal wall or to wake up a sleepy space. Mythic's soft Lemon Leaf and Valspar's delicate Lemon Twist can be lovely neutrals.

The bottom line is: Keep your interior color palette true to your personal tastes. If you are unsure, use a color wheel to help weave in appropriate accents. When your friends recognize your personality and interests in your new design, they will love what you have done, even if your color choices may be non-traditional.

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