Acme How To Logo Acme How To Logo
Related Articles on Acme

Home Decorating


Curtains & Drapes

Layout & Planning

DISCLOSURE: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links, we may receive a commission.


Sign up to receive our free Maintenance Reminder Newsletter

Learn More

Decorating with Color:
Learn How to Enhance your Home with Color

Color is a very subjective area, the perception of which changes according to cultural norms, individual interpretation and other factors. So it can seem like the natural conclusion that to increase the chance of successful decor, it would be safer to stay exclusively with neutrals. But in fact, choosing the most neutral, so called safest colors can result in generic, unappealing interior design that is lacking in style. Remember too that in any event, walls can be painted over at relatively low cost and effort. They are an ideal area of interior design with which to try out new ideas (as opposed to more expensive projects like wall-to-wall carpeting, cabinetry/countertops, upholstered furniture, etc). If you know your color basics, you can make bold color choices with confidence.

Color Basics

A color wheel is based on the primary colors (red, yellow, blue), and the colors that result from mixing these colors. if you imagine looking down at a pie, the wedges would range in color from red, through orange, to yellow, (as the proportion shifts from all red, to red and some yellow, to all yellow), then yellow, through green (as blue is added), to blue, through purple (as red is added), and finally back to pure red. In effect, the color of the wedges would follow the classic rainbow spectrum of ROYGBV. Color wedges that are adjacent to each other are considered analogous, while wedges that are across from each other are complementary colors.

Colors that are bright/light will have more white, darker colors will have more black. Vivid or saturated tones will have the most color, while desaturated colors will have more gray (a combination of white and black).

Choosing Your Palette

Once you have decided to be bold and use color, it becomes a question of which color or colors you will select. There are a number of approaches you can use. If you are familiar and comfortable with the color wheel, you can choose between analogous color schemes (ex: red, red-orange, orange or yellow, yellow-green, green, etc), or complementary (blue-orange).

The "seasonal" approach is still very popular. In this system, colors are traditionally assigned to a particular time of year : spring has cool, leafy tones with some bright floral colors, summer has warmer colors that communicate the idea of heat, fall has rich hues that mimic the turning leaves and autumn produce, winter has deep, jewel tones. Colors can also be themed by region. Look to regional textiles and other decorative works, or postcards of the local landscape to find color palettes that will echo the feel of a particular part of the globe. A similar approach can be used for historical periods, by looking at textiles, paintings, and decorative items from that time.

Alternatively, use colors that are found in your favorite painting or photograph to create a palette that you find personally appealing. There are even publicly accessible websites where you can upload a jpg, and automatically receive a computer generated color palette. You can also take your single favorite color and create a palette by adding various amounts of white to it. With this method you can have a rich and decisive use of color, without having to worry about mixing and matching. Many paint stores will even scan objects and samples and match the color for you. Note, however, that custom colors often cannot be returned, whereas surplus of mass-produced colors can be refunded as long as the individual cans have not been opened. it might be more convenient to choose your color palette and then find the commercially produced paint that is the closest match. Eggshell and semi-gloss paints are the most serviceable, durable finishes, and are easy to apply.

Placing the Color

Once you have selected your color palette, get small amounts of the paint and make "giant" paint chips by painting chipboard that is at least 1 ft square to help you visualize the colors on a wall or in a whole room. Temporarily affix the sample to the wall, and live with it a few days to help you imagine how you will respond to the color or colors over time.

Small Rooms

Don't be afraid to flout conventional wisdom by painting small rooms entirely in rich colors. Let the petite proportions of the space work for you by emphasizing the cozy feel. Another way to let color work for you in a small space is to keep the trim in a complimentary white or neutral tone, to help make your selected color pop and maintain a sense of dimension. You can also create a sense of perspective by only painting one or two walls in the selected color. When mixing a variety of colors in a smaller space, try to envision how they will all work together, since all the surfaces are likely to be simultaneously visible from every angle.

Larger Rooms

Painting a single wall in one color can also work in a larger space. in this case, the singular color can work as a focal point, and even as a substitute for decorative wall decor. In larger rooms, painting the entire space in a single color can be overwhelming if the color is especially rich. Consider toning the color down by mixing in white base and using the undiluted color on doors or trim.


Use color theory as a guideline, rather than considering it to be a set of inflexible rules. The interpretation of color will be affected by adjacent colors, environmental factors and the individual qualities of the observer. Follow your instincts to achieve a result that will be personally satisfying.

Search for Articles on Acme How To