Whether you're adventurous and ready to splash the walls with bold colors or you prefer the low-risk look of neutral tones, the basics of selecting colors for walls, furnishings, and accessories are the same. Begin by finding the best color scheme for your tastes, your rooms and your life.
Select colors that appeal to you
What colors catch your eye when you are shopping, selecting clothing from the closet, or looking at decorating magazines? Chances are your favorite colors are also the ones with which you're most comfortable, which means they're great options for your home. Once you've identified a favorite color, begin building color schemes and finding compatible accents.
Some palettes infuse spaces and, by extension, their occupants with energy. Others calm or soothe. Why? Different colors are considered either active, passive or neutral and evoke varying responses in people. Active colors such as yellow and red tend to wake up a room, which may be ideal for offices or kitchens. Passive colors, like blue, green, and purple, create a calming backdrop ideal for bedrooms. Neutral colors, such as browns, beiges, grays, whites and blacks, neither energize nor pacify. They're terrific for bringing rooms together and creating a natural palette that mimics hues found in nature, or toning down other colors.
Change your room
Every room has certain features that can't be overlooked, such as its size, wood flooring, or wainscoting. Rather than working against these features, consider how you can enhance them with color. For instance, passive colors tend to recede visually, which helps small spaces seem larger, while active colors make a large room appear warmer and more intimate. Use white paint on a ceiling to increase the impression of height or on architectural details such as elaborate trim work to make them pop.
Look beyond paint
Remember that a room's color scheme involves more than the paint on the walls. The shades and patterns of furnishings, artwork and accessories impact whether your color scheme comes off as masterfully integrated or a messy combination of disparate elements. Most importantly, take pains to ensure must-have items, such as furnishings, support the color scheme. Complementary accessories can come later, once the basics are in place.
Use the color wheel
How do you pick a color scheme? By combining colors on the wheel. Start with your favorite color - blue, for example - and build possible schemes around it. The basic choice is various shades and tints of blue, a monochromatic color scheme. Or you can combine blue with its opposite on the wheel (orange) for a complementary scheme. When you bring the other primary colors into the scheme, you create a triad, because all three are equidistant from each other. Blue also goes well with blue-violet and blue-green, the analogous colors on either side of it. Add a color from the opposite side, such as orange, and you have a complementary accent.
Hue, tone and intensity
When designers begin to pick a color scheme, they consider three color variables: hue, tone and intensity. Subtle changes in one or more of these variables create big impact throughout a room. Here are some handy definitions:
- Hue: A simple way to describe color is hue. The three primary hues of red, yellow and blue are enhanced by the secondary hues of green, orange and violet. These six hues can be mixed to produce an infinite number of tertiary shades.
- Tone: A tint or shade of a color is commonly referred to as its tone. Decorating with colors within the same tonal range is common. Because colors that appear wildly different may have the same tone, tonal unity isn't boring. It allows you to be adventurous. As with any color rule, remember that too much may be bad. If the tone in a room is too similar, the overall effect may be heavy or bland.
- Intensity: Intensity refers to the saturation of a color and specifies clearness or brightness. Pure, primary hues are neutralized or softened by adding white; one or more secondary hues can be added to heighten the effect. Add a darker hue to intensify color.
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- primary colors