Your own color scheme

Choosing your color scheme is the most fundamental part of home decorating. But because there's a huge choice, it can also be a major worry.

You can get lots of advice on how to select the 'right' color scheme for your home or individual room.

The problem with this approach is that there is no 'right' scheme!

If you are convinced that somewhere out there lies the perfect scheme for your particular needs and all you have to do is to 'discover' it, then I'm afraid you'll be disappointed.

If you want your home to be your home, then put in a little work at this stage. It's not difficult, and you'll quickly learn about color and you.

Find your likes and dislikes

One of the best things you can ever do is to discover your own likes and dislikes in both color and style. And there's a really simple way to do it.


Collect together as many illustrations as you can on interior design color. Books, magazines, brochures - as many as you can find. Magazines in particular are very useful, as you can cut out any interior color ideas which appeal to you.

Ask your friends, they may have stacks of magazines there are only too pleased to get rid of.

Once you have a good collection, make a note of all the illustrations which appeal to you. If you can, pull the pages out and put them in a folder. Don't analyze them at this stage; if you like a picture for whatever reason just put it to one side.

To make this exercise even more effective, put all the illustrations you like away for a day or two, then bring them all out and examine them. You'll probably find that there are some which really stand out. Ask yourself why you like these in particular.

You may notice that you tend to like certain colors, such as red or blue, and most of the pictures have variations of these colors in them. Or they may have contrasting colors, giving vibrant effects.

You should start to notice similarities in the illustrations you have chosen, giving you a good indication of the sort of interior color scheme you're most comfortable with.

It may be that you not only like the colors, but also the styles. The room settings may be traditional, or may have an eclectic look, with furnishings from a variety of periods cleverly mixed to give a complete and satisfying effect.

Just look at the illustrations and think about them. You'll find you begin to form your own opinion of what you like, and develop an interior color scheme you're happy with.


Many people ignore this exercise. Why?

They think it's too simple!

It's one of the best ways of discovering your own likes and dislikes for colors and styles. Don't you ignore it!

These exercises are easy to do, and great fun. You'll realize their value when you come to choose colors and styles for your home.


red and cream decor

The creams and red/pink of this room result in a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Notice how the soft red has been used on chairs, cushions, and curtain trims.

This is a classic way to arrange furniture for a living room. Everyone who sits here will be able to chat easily with others. Placing a few coasters on the central table will protect the surface if drinks are served and put on it.

If you have a plain sofa and you think it looks a bit boring, consider using pillows (cushions) as illustrated here. They are very useful if you want to being some color into the area.

You can find out more about the theory of color schemes here.


interior with blue rug

A compact apartment is given space and light by using soft blues, aquas and creams.

The interior color scheme is cool, and the use of black metal frames for the bar chairs and coffee table help to create a light and airy room.

Rugs are very useful in home decorating. Not only do they give interest and provide a soft surface to walk on, but they can also 'mark out' areas such as this one. If you were to walk into this room you would immediately assume the area where the rug is situated as a 'living room' space. You can use the same idea for dining areas.

You can find some practical color charts here.


Here are some other ideas to help you with your color choices.

  • Develop a habit of observing. Stop and think about a particular interior color scheme which appeals to you. It could involve a rug, painting or patterned fabric. Note the main color, then all the hues and tones which together make up the interior color scheme.
  • Learn from nature. Look at the colors of the countryside, especially in the fall. Look at the clouds on a blustery day; they are full of subtle color variations. In fact, you can do this with any scene which at first glance seems mundane and uninteresting. You'll start to see color everywhere, and how the varying tones all work well together.
  • Personal preferences. Some people simply hate green. Others love pink or coral. Go with your emotional reaction to color, and build on it.
  • Use sample boards. When you have chosen all your ingredients for the room - flooring, wall covering, fabrics etc - put samples of each of them together on a board. Stand back and look at the combination. It will then be easy to see if anything doesn't look right.




interior with orange sofa

A warm orange sets off these items of furniture against the dark brown carpet and soft walls. The cushions echo the carpet color, and the table and picture provide balance. Although you could say that the orange 'contrasts' with the brown, is it a 'contrasting' color scheme? What do you think?

If you look at a color wheel, you'll see that the deep browns are just a darker shade of the orange. In fact, this is a Monochromatic scheme, with a single orange hue having its tone and intensity varied.


Color schemes can be a bit daunting if you're not used to working with them. "What if I don't like how it looks? Will this color go ok with that one?"

There's a way to make sure you select the right ones. It's based on many years' experience of professional decorators. (Only suitable for residents of the USA and Canada.)

The Shortcut to Perfect Paint Colors - Paint Color Cheat Sheets


room with blue walls

A cool and restful room is achieved using muted blues, grays and browns.

It's often assumed that a minimalist scheme can only be done successfully in a modern interior. Actually, if you take your time and do it carefully, there's no reason why even a classic building such as this one can be used. Note the lack of carpet, rugs or drapes?


It's not an exam!

Don't ever feel that there's a right and wrong when you select your colors. Yes, there are a few guidelines, but it all boils down to what you like.

The more you look closely and observe different schemes, you'll soon come to know what your own preferences are.


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