The ultimate guide to colour selection for your interior
The colour palette is one of the most important design decisions you’ll need to make when decorating a home. From paint colour to fabrics and finishes, colour can have a large effect on how your home looks and feels.
This guide helps you understand the basics of colour, how it will affect your interior and some tips to choosing the right colour palette for your space. We’ll also share the top 5 mistakes people make when choosing paint colours so you can avoid them at all cost.
Terms to get familiar with
When choosing colours for your interior, there are a few terms that you may want to get familiar with. These will help you while you research colours and speak to paint professionals:
Red, blue and yellow. Primary colours can’t be made by mixing colours together.
Green, orange and purple. Secondary colours can be made by mixing primary colours.
Six shades that can be made by mixing primary and secondary colours together. You can then add black, grey or white to change the tone, tint or shade.
Refers to the brightness or deepness of a colour. Mixing grey to the colour will affect its tone.
Refers to a shade of colour. Adding white to a colour will change the tint.
Refers to the lightness or darkness of a colour. The term is also used when referring to similar colours such as ‘shades of green’ or a ‘darker shade of blue’. Mixing black to a colour will alter the shade.
Understanding the basics of a colour wheel
In many ways, a colour wheel is a decorator’s best friend. Once you understand the basics, the tool can be very valuable when choosing colour for your home. Here are the key points you should know to help you work with colour without having to learn about colour theory.
There are several types of colour wheels from a simple version which only shows primary colours and the basic colours such as green, orange and purple, to the more complex with a boundless number of tints and shades.
One side of the colour wheel will display the warm colours such as reds, oranges and yellows.
Cool colours such as your blues, greens and purples will be on the opposite site.
Monochromatic colour schemes in interiors have become very popular as it’s hard to go wrong. An interior using a monochromatic palette will be using various shades of the same colour, such as blacks and greys. To find a monochromatic scheme, you’ll only be looking at one slice of the colour wheel.
To discover different colours that work well together you’ll want to look at the complimentary colours. You can find these by looking across the colour wheel. For example, blues on one side and yellows on the other.
Analogues colours will include several slices (typically three) of the colour wheel. These are colours that work well together without the contrast you’d experience by using a complimentary colour scheme. Looking at the colour wheel, you’ll see an analogous colour example such as green, blue and purple or yellow, yellow-green and green.
Understanding how colour affects your room
As you’re flicking through the colour wheel, it’s a good idea to consider how the colour affects the space and mood of your room. Different temperatures, tones and shades will also affect how a person feels in the interior.
Warm colours tend to be more vibrant and tend to inspire confidence. These colours typically work well in dining and entertaining spaces as they are inviting and promote intimacy. Cooler colours on the other hand are often used to create a relaxed mood and bring calm to a space. Natural colour tones can also achieve a relaxed, peaceful environment.
Colour can also be used to help enhance the feeling of space or make it feel smaller. Light colours for example, tend to feel more spacious and airy than darker tones. Whereas, warm colours typically make a small space feel even smaller and somewhat claustrophobic.
How to decorate with a monochromatic palette
A monochromatic interior is relatively easy to achieve and can be visually effective. However, it can also appear on the boring side if you simply just stick to the one colour. Unless you’re a devoted minimalist of course!
If you’re leaning towards a monochromatic colour scheme, use a selection of different tones and tints of the one colour throughout the space. To further add interest and depth, you can also look at incorporating prints, patterns and textures of the tones in elements such as furniture and fabrics.
How to decorate with a complimentary colour palette
If you like contrasting colours, an interior with a complimentary colour palette will likely appeal to you. Start by choosing colours on the opposite side of the colour wheel. While the two colours will bounce off each of their intensities, they can be balanced and soothing too.
You can also mix a warm colour with a cool colour. For example, a room painted in a cool, light blue can be brought to life with pops of bold orange. This is certainly not a colour scheme for minimalists, but it can be a great way to add interest in your home.
How to decorate with an analogous colour palette
A colour scheme that’s less contrasting than complimentary is the analogous palette where all the colours work in harmony with each other. With the help of the colour wheel this scheme can be easily achieved throughout your interior.
By selecting two or three slices of your colour wheel, you’ll be choosing hues that are from a similar family to achieve a cohesive look. For example, if you’ve selected blue as your main colour, you can continue the palette with teals and greens. Mixing in different textured fabrics and finishes will further enrich the colour palette. Remember to bring visual relief into the palette through neutrals and materials such as timber or stone.
Top tips when choosing a colour for your interior
Theory aside, there are a few valuable tips to help you ensure you’re choosing the right colour for your interior.
Seek inspiration far and wide
If you don’t have a colour wheel handy, the first step to choosing the right colours for your interior, before you even walk into a paint store, should be sourcing inspiration far and wide. Start with what you already have in the room. Look at the upholstery of your furnishings, the flooring and your accessories including artwork. Draw clues from your interior to help strengthen your colour palette.
Explore magazines, Pinterest, Houzz and other design blogs for colour inspiration. It may be helpful to put together a mood board to ensure your colour palette is coherent with the rest of your interior.
Keep selecting colours personal
Finding a complimentary colour palette is one thing, and liking it is another. Remember, you’re going to have to live with your colour choice for some time, unless you want to experience the expense of redecorating again soon.
Don’t get too hung up on the colour wheel or trends. Make sure your colour selection is in line with your personal tastes too.
Consider the architecture and interior finishes
Some interior design experts would suggest you choose the paint colour of your room last and consider the architecture and finishes first. That’s because there is such as extensive array of colours for paint and even fabrics, whereas in other design elements like flooring, the options are more limited. If you’re redecorating, think about the tones of your flooring material, cabinetry and existing furniture before you select your colour palette. Work these materials, finishes and colours into your mood board.
Also, think about the scale of your space and whether you want to emphasise the smaller size or make if feel bigger than it is. Consider how the architectural features of your interior will work with your chosen colour palette.
Reinforce your colour palette
Whether you’re choosing colours for your walls or for your furnishings, reinforcing your palette through other items in the room can help create a stronger aesthetic. Look back at your colour wheel and inspirational images and consider colours that work together.
For example, if you’ve chosen various shades of blue as your scheme, look for other colours that work well to enhance it. This may mean adding more neutrals, blacks or greys in the form of cushions, fabrics, linen or accessories to strengthen the overall appearance of your interior.
5 most common mistakes when choosing paint colour
There are times when paint colours in the interior can go wrong whether that may be a clash of colours or the way the space feels as a result of a poorly composed colour palette. Knowing some of the most common mistakes will help you avoid making them when you’re decorating your home.
1. Choosing the colour from a swatch
Paint swatches are a great way to explore different colour tones and narrow down colours based on your personal taste. And they’re free! However, how the paint looks on a small card can be very different to the end result. Choosing the colour from only a swatch is a common mistake as the scale and light will have an effect on the overall appearance.
Do this instead: Use the swatches as a starting point. Once you’ve chosen your favourite colour tones, buy small pots of the colour to make larger samples that you can place around the room and under different light conditions.
2. Following trends
When you follow the trends, you can often lose sight of your own personal tastes and what would suit your individual interior. A house that’s decorated to suit the current trend can appear more like an interior of a catalogue rather than a home.
Do this instead:
Before you jump on the latest trend, consider whether it’s going to make your home look dated in 12-months’ time and whether the colours are in line with your personal tastes.
3. Looking solely at one room
Decorating just one room in your home? Before you settle on a paint colour, think about how it relates to the other rooms. Without considering your home as a whole, you run the risk of disrupting the flow. This doesn’t mean you can’t have various colours throughout, but how the colour transitions from one room to the next will impact the overall feeling of your interior.
Do this instead:
When selecting colours, consider how the tones work with other areas of your home. If you have a small interior, it may also be worth connecting the spaces through soft furnishings rather painting too many colours throughout.
4. Selecting the wrong saturation
When selecting colours, there’s always a balance between choosing tones you love and what’s going to look good on a larger scale. Your favourite colour might be a bright teal green or cobalt blue which can look great on a cushion, occasional chair or smaller decorative items such as a vase or lamp. But a bright hue of deep saturation can appear too strong and overwhelming when painted on an expansive surface.
Do this instead:
Choosing a deeper tone of your favourite colour or a lighter shade will still meet your desired aesthetics without the strong impact. If you want to opt for a bright colour, consider keeping the rest of your decorative elements in a neutral colour palette. Remember, you need to live with this colour and it needs to work with the rest of your interior.
5. Playing it too safe
Ever walked into a room and thought it looked bland and felt a little unfinished? Playing it too safe with your paint colours and decorative elements is likely the main culprit. Sometimes begin brave and stepping out of your comfort zone really pays off.
Do this instead:
Most of the colour in your space typically comes from the walls. If you’re wanting to create more interest in your interior, try the 60/30/10 decorating rule. That’s 60% of your space is the walls, 30% upholstery, flooring and window treatments, and 10% decorative elements such as cushions, accessories and art.
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