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Interior Design Color Palette Guide

Learn How to Pick the Best Interior Design Colors For Your Next Design Project!

Get design conscious!  Learn how to choose the perfect color palette over any other for your new interior design project.  This is a color palette guide to help you understand how a color wheel can help you achieve the perfect space to suit your lifestyle needs.  When you get the colors right for your individual personality and taste, it can be an uplifting, restful or rejuvenating space to want to come home to.

A.  Understanding the Design Color Basics

Learn the fundamentals of how colors work with design on the color wheel.  Then you will understand how colors make you feel and why.  This is the foundation that will enable you to interpret various interior design themes and how they function within color schemes.

Interior Design:

Primary Colors

When designing with the primary colors red, blue, and yellow, a room can feel very contemporary or modern.  They are opposites, and spread in equal distance on the color wheel.  An energizing, apple red refrigerator in your kitchen with warmer milk toned walls could be a lifestyle enhancing feature.  Or an illuminating ocean blue wall in your living room with whitewashed furniture might suit your lifestyle needs better.  Ask yourself how a color makes you feel and why, every step of the way.

Interior Design:

Secondary Colors

Designing any interior with the secondary color palette starts by mixing the primary colors.  Equal parts of yellow and blue make green.  Red and yellow make orange.  Blue and red make purple.  An audacious, contemporary orange tiled bathroom with quite, soft khaki-beige walls is a wonderful color palette if it makes you smile every morning.

A soft, romantic, neutral dining room may be more appealing to you than a lively dinner conversation in a contemporary yellow space.  What kind of mood do you want to create with your color palette?

Interior Design:

Tertiary Colors

If your interior design theme involves tertiary colors, these are made by mixing more color combinations.  An equal amount of a primary and secondary color will produce a tertiary color.  Blending blue and purple will create another hue and so on.  If you dream of waking up blissfully happy in a modern bedroom with streamlined white furniture and purple accents, it’s the right design scheme for you.  Choose color that enhances your mood rather than quickly agitate it.  Move towards color that you are naturally drawn to and consider if you will feel content coming home to them everyday.  If you’re a stylish dresser, you might think of dressing up your home the same way.  One wall in a milk chocolate color with the remaining walls in a pink shade could be a chic combination in a modern loft living room or small apartment bedroom.  Fashion and interior design trends often move in similar directions so don’t be afraid to use your best silk blouse or tweed skirt as your inspiration.  Equally focus on which interior design style you can see yourself living in.  Do you feel a pull towards traditional, contemporary, or vibrant modern trends?

Tints, Shades and Tones

Interior design with varying color strengths can be made by incorporating white or black to any color.  Adding white to a hue will create a specific tint.  Pink is a tint of red and white.  Add black to a specific color to make a shade.  Add bits of black and white when you want a different tone of any color.  Is a gothic inspired black living room with heavy medieval church like furniture going to set the right ambience for you?  Switch the medieval furniture for modern and that gothic room vanishes into a bold, contemporary space.  Or what could be more whimsical and modern than building a color palette from trendy strawberry shortcake colors for your child’s bedroom?

Now that you’ve become a little more acquainted with the color palette, learn about the basics of color psychology.  This will help illustrate how specific color palettes can mix with various interior design schemes.  With the knowledge of color on your side, you will have total control to design any atmosphere you want in your new space.

B.  Understanding the Basics of Color Psychology

When color is used in its undiluted state, a warmer color can feel very cool.  It depends which way it’s heading on the color wheel.  For instance, a deep, blood red can make the temperature of an entire room feel cooler and smaller.  This kind of red really wouldn’t be the best color choice for a cold basement family room with low ceilings.  The blood red might be an excellent color in a contemporary style bedroom for someone who is always feeling very hot.  While a blue that is supposed to be warm can feel cool in a deep blue green form making it a poor choice to anchor a warm traditional living room design scheme.  However, that particular shade of deep blue green could add an artistic flare to a modern den with a lot of natural light.  While green should have a restful effect, but in an acid or neon form it will make you feel agitated and uncomfortable.  It would be the wrong color for an insomniac’s bedroom, but it could be a playful, modern color sprinkled throughout a child’s bedroom design scheme.

Essentially, this is a general formula of what colors should make you feel, but the shade of any color can take your mood in a completely different direction.  The key is to ask yourself what you feel when you look at a color you think might be right for you.  Also ask yourself how you want the room to feel and function.

Warm Colors

Believe it or not, red, orange and yellow are the first three original warm colors on the color wheel.

Interior design with red adds heat, fire, energy, and passion.  It’s a versatile and easy to work with color that has character because it can be elegant, traditional, modern or contemporary.  Red can be seen in rich Victorian English sitting rooms to modern living room design.

Interior design with orange feels dynamic, active, adventurous, and vital.  Pure orange can be used in any contemporary room and it is supposed to have healing properties for the immune system.  A long bright orange couch would effortlessly launch any contemporary living room.

Yellow is often a designer’s favourite color because it’s happy and jolly, but it’s powerfully glaring in its purest form.  Use it sparingly in its undiluted form in a piece of art, throw or ceramic and it will still have maximum impact in any modern room.  As soon as you start toning yellow down, it becomes more versatile and you can use more of it.  Light yellow-cream walls with a huge yellow painting and white couch can look awesome in a contemporary living room design.

An analogous interior design color scheme is of hues that sit beside each other on the color wheel.  The best analogous color scheme will use all colors from the warm side or cool side.  There won’t be any colors crossing over to create a visually unified look.  An analogous room should feel very comforting and soothing with pattern and texture for interest.  Imagine a light beige wall, patterned pale burnt orange drapes, a yellow tufted couch, cream textured cushions and a rug or throw with the main colors.  This can be quite a lovely analogous color story in any new design project.  Robin’s egg blue walls, cream furniture and artwork or accents in blue and gold or blue and silver can look stunningly sophisticated in a contemporary room in any home.

A complimentary color scheme will feel flashy or a little attention seeking.  The complimentary color palette will have colors sitting opposite from each other on the color wheel.  The interplay of colors should feel complimentary and dramatic.  Tints of red and green are a popular theme.  Think of a punchy green wall with a thick strip of white running through the room like a chair rail.  A patterned red bedspread brings the dramatic, contemporary look together.  When achieved effectively, this color scheme will make you feel chic.  If you like the idea of one wall in a large vogue checker board effect, try a metallic color with a pastel yellow, mint or pink combination.  Or give 2, 3 or 4 rows of stripes in your color combo a thought.  Any of these modish color techniques will look incredible in a modern or contemporary room for a child or adult.

A split complementary color scheme is very similar to the complementary color scheme.  The split complementary theme is made of one main color and two hues from either side of that main color on the color wheel.  Envision a room with small, pale moss green botanical wallpaper, a red floral bedspread and a modern area carpet with geometric circles in bone white, red and green.  At a glance, this approach can almost feel a little busy with the wallpaper, but nothing is out of place.  It’s a provocative color scheme that will make you feel very clever and sophisticated.

Just think of English interiors and how well they marry wallpapers with fabric prints, furniture, accents and artwork.  If you want to be 100% sure you’re the only one with your interior, consider using wallpaper.  It’s making a huge comeback and it’s no wonder because of the endless design choices it can provide.  You will find anything from contemporary, graphic, and modern abstract patterns to genre landscape photographs.  If you want wallpaper, but feel hesitant to see it on every wall, do just one wall and paint the rest.  Then use your other hues to pull it all together with furniture and accessories.

Cool Colors

Interior design with purple is tranquil, rich and opulent.  A purple with more red undertones will be warmer and blue undertones will make it feel cooler.  A gold and purple velvet couch in a modern loft design concept will make you feel like you’re living in a luxurious home.

Blue in an interior design theme would mean calm, sensitive and trustworthy.  Blue is a color favourite because it marries well with others such as the timeless blue and white, blue and yellow or blue and green.  Blue is one of the most well know colors in the color palette.  Pick virtually any interior design magazine and you’ll find an example of this color scheme.  If blue is the path for you, but you’re not feeling confident enough to design a modern or contemporary space with it, consult with an interior design professional in your area or contact us at Cymax for assistance.

Interiors with green mean global, nature, rest and rehabilitation.  It can feel traditional in its purest form, modern in a forest tree shade or contemporary in an acid form.  Forest green can be a top contender for a modern library room with heavy dark wood furniture.

A triad color scheme is comprised of three colors found equally apart around the color wheel.  Primary yellow, red and blue colors are a common triad theme.  A huge patterned carpet or painting can contain all these colors and unify the entire scheme.  The furniture might be in a strong wine-red and walls in a shade of yellow.  Stone or bamboo will add texture, depth and interest.  The color scheme has a very sophisticated feel.

A monochromatic theme uses only one color in varying tints, tones, and shades.  Sometimes hits of black and white are seen with this approach.  A monochromatic theme requires serious tonal variation with the main color or it will look bland and feel dull.

Just the right degree of tonal variation will make you feel polished and affluent.  This color scheme can look stunning, illuminating and very contemporary in style.

Color Tones

The value or strength of tone is also important color psychology.  Lighter, more reflective tones make a space look larger.  Darker color tones are less reflective, so they make rooms feel smaller, but also more intimate.  Colors and tonal gradations are like magic when you discover just how many design flaws they can correct or disguise.  These are a few tricks that effective use of color and tone will prove useful in correcting your design problem.

If you are stuck with a long narrow room, paint a warm white on one wall.  The white wall will feel like it’s coming towards you, which will make the room appear shorter and smaller.

If your short, squat room bothers you, paint only one wall a cool color, but keep the other walls a warm color.  The cool coloured wall will feel like it is farther back and make the room feel longer.  A blue and yellow combination can be a perfect corrective color scheme in a space like this.

Most contemporary homes boast high ceilings, but if they are too high for you, paint the ceiling a darker color or paint the top part of the wall approximately 12″ with the same ceiling color.  If the ceiling is still too high for your taste, do both.  A darker taupe or grey can be good ceiling colors for this problem.

No one wants low ceilings, so take your wall color approximately 6′ onto the ceiling and stick with a light, fresh white or cream color for the ceiling.  Or make your walls seem higher by painting the baseboards the same color as the walls.  It will definitely make your ceilings feel higher.

Just paying attention to how a color makes you feel will help you achieve the design you want in the perfect color for you to suit your lifestyle needs.