Whether in the form of textiles, furnishings, or a coat of paint, color creates atmosphere in an interior. Deep blues can evoke moody sophistication, shades of white can communicate a clean, breezy look, and a patchwork of multi-colored hues can elicit excitement. The power of a palette can’t be underestimated, which is exactly why deciding on one can be a daunting task. To take the pressure off, we’re revealing a few go-to tips and tricks for selecting the perfect palette for your next project!

Martin Young Design opted for a color scheme of greys, navy blues and, neutral and a pop of accent colors in the form of a rocking side chair, floor lamp, and contemporary art piece
Design by Martin Young Design / Photo by Matthew Millman

Study the Color Wheel

Color wheels are tried-and-true tools to learning about the aesthetic relationships between colors. Reds, blue, and yellows are primary colors. By combining two primary colors, you get oranges, greens, and purple — hence the name, secondary colors. Finally, tertiary colors are unique combinations of secondary and primary colors.

A monochromatic color scheme sticks within the realm of a single color. Because filling an expansive interior with a single color (say, red) can feel one-note, consider saving homogenous palettes for small spaces. In spaces like nooks and bathrooms, monochromatic color schemes can make for exciting and enveloping interiors.

Analogous color schemes — scheme composed of colors that touch on the color wheel — feel natural and calming. Partnerships like blue and green or orange and red aren’t as jarring as cross-wheel hook-ups, making them perfect for restful bedrooms. On the other hand, contrasting color combinations, like red-green or yellow-purple add tension and dynamism to a space. Use them to add an extra oomph into a living room color palette!

Brockschmidt and Coleman used a purple round sofa foyer or lobby seating in this entryway paired with mauve walls
Design by Brockschmidt & Coleman, LLC. / Photo by George Ross

60-30-10 Rule

Time-tested and reliable, the 60-30-10 rule of design states that when decorating a space, divide the room into three separate color components. A dominant color, usually splashed onto walls, should take up around 60 percent of a space. Secondary hues, which visually support the main color, should fill up about 30 percent of a room, while 10 percent is dedicated to an accent color. Employ these pops of color in areas like art, decorative pillows, and accents and accessories. The 60-30-10 rule is relatively easy to follow and ensures design interest!

Take Note of Light

Natural and artificial light can dramatically impact that way an interior design color palette looks. Bold colors, especially when selected as paint colors, may feel excessively bright when natural light is hitting them. Similarly, white shades will reflect surrounding colors from the carpet, ceiling, and furniture when cast in natural light. On the other hand, fluorescent lighting shines a blue, cool tone, while incandescent light provides more red, warm light.

Hendricks Churchill used a floral textile, which brings in a striped rug and a table lamp, grey loveseat, and wingback chair to add in more subdued colors in this living room
Design by Hendricks Churchill / Photo by John Gruen

Furnish First, Paint Last

Because paint requires commitment, it can be wise to select furniture prior to painting your walls. Furniture can help solidify your color scheme, lowering the chances you’ll need to repaint. Integrate your favorite furniture finds, play with the 60-30-10 rule, and figure out what color schemes call to you.

Work With What You’ve Got

Lean into your home’s architectural features like exposed brick, fireplaces, tiles, and terracotta walls. To tell a compelling color story, riff off of these pre-existing details. Depending on the context of your space, try integrating those inherent shades into an overall color scheme.

Lead image: Design by Crystal Blackshaw Interiors / Photo by Dustin Forest


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June 29, 2022

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