Colour can be found everywhere and selecting colours during a home renovation can pop up in more decisions than you may think. What stain should I use on this wood? What colour curtains would look best? Does this pattern pillow match my couch or what colour would look best on these walls? What colour grout should I use and is this colour of stone the best choice for my fireplace? Decorating a room comes with endless colour selections, and without proper knowledge, this can be very intimidating and overwhelming.
In home renovations and decorating projects, picking colours if often one of those areas that either is a last-minute, spontaneous decision, or one that is agonized over and contemplated endlessly about (such as my kitchen cabinet colour).
But I’m so glad you’re reading this because there is some simple information about colour that can help you embrace the colour picking process instead of shy away from it. So let me help provide some basic colour theory and suggestions to help you to get more colour confident:
Colour Basics & Terminology
Colour Wheel – A colour wheel is an organization of colours within a circle that displays the relationships and connections between them. An image of one can be found below:
Primary Colours – red, blue, yellow
Secondary Colours – When two primary colours are mixed together, it will create a secondary colour- green (yellow and blue), orange (red and yellow), and purple (red and blue).
Complimentary Colours – Colours opposite one another on the colour wheel are referred to as complimentary colours, example blue & orange. A complimentary colour scheme is often used in home décor to make something stand out or pop. Here is an image of room using the complimentary colour scheme of blue and orange:
Analogous Colours – Generally 3-5 colours beside each other on the colour wheel. Using a colour scheme with analogous colours creates for a harmonious and soothing space. See the example below that has used a violet blue, blue and blue-green colour scheme:
Monochromatic – Light and dark variations of the same colour. Monochromatic colour schemes are often used in home décor to create calm and soothing spaces, like this example of a peaceful nursery with many variations of yellow:
Hue – A colours main properties – or a colour more basically.
Tint –Mixing a colour with white
Shade – Mixing a colour with black
Tone – Mixing a colour with gray
Warm & Cool Colours – Usually we think of warm colours as being red, orange and yellow, and cool being blue, green and purple. But if we start getting specific, each of the basic colours have a warm and colour variation to it. You can have warm and cool versions of blue, green, purple, red, etc. Mixing warm and cool colours add variation and more depth to a space than just using all warm or all cool tones. Here is an example of warm and cool variations of red:
Neutrals –Also referred to as “Earth Tones”, neutral colours include black, white, gray and brown (and variations of those). This is one of the easiest ways to tone down a rooms colour palette or blend together many natural elements within a room. This dining space has layered many neutral colours allowing the textures of the materials and views from the windows to take more of the focus within the space:
Undertones – The underlying colour or undertone is most easily figured out by placing colour chips next to each other or referring up or down on a colour swatch. For example, some colours will pull more red, green, blue or yellow as you compare them next to one another. Check out the neutral colour swatches below and pick out which ones have blue undertones:
Meaning in colours
Throughout history, colour has and still does symbolize various meanings and feelings for people. Here are some of the most common meanings:
- Blue – blue often invokes a calm and relaxing feeling like the water and sky, and symbolizes truth, trust, stability and faith.
- Green – the colour of nature, green embodies fertility, growth and freshness. Green also is associated with safety and money.
- Purple – historically purple is a royal colour displaying wealth and bringing drama to spaces
- Red – associated with energy, strength, danger and love, red is an emotionally intense colour that invokes dramatic and passionate feelings
- Yellow – the colour of sunshine, happiness and energy
- Orange – orange is a fun and happy colour most often associated with the tropics, enthusiasm, creativity and attraction
- White – symbolizing innocence, purity and cleanliness, white is often used as a blank slate allowing other elements to take center stage
- Black – often represents mystery, power, elegance and death
Suggestions & tips for creating a colour scheme
Pick a feeling you want your room to have or invoke and start looking at tints, shades and tones of that colour.
Consider the undertones of a colour before selecting it for your walls. If you have even slightly orange wood floors, using a cool white with blue undertones will make the floor appear even more orange (complimentary colours).
Work off colours in elements that you already have in a space, example wood floors, furniture, architectural elements, etc. If you want that element to stand out, consider a complimentary colour, if you want it to blend, use a tint or shade of the colour.
Find a fabric, image or pattern you love and work off the colours found within that for your colour scheme.
Use a classic colour scheme such as complimentary, analogous or monochromatic for a safe and sure to work combination.
Making colours pop – The best way to make something stand out is to use complimentary colours. For example, if you have a beautiful collection of red teapots that you want to stand out in your dining room, paint your walls or back of the cabinet green to ensure the red really pops.
Add neutral colours to tone down a bold colour scheme.
What else to consider when selecting colour for a space
Natural light – colours can look different at different times of day and in rooms that receive different amounts of light. Generally, rooms that receive more natural light can handle a darker colour whereas rooms with less natural light will feel smaller and lighter colours should be considered.
Other light sources – even if a room has little or a lot of natural light, the type and amount of other light sources can alter colour in a room.
Size of space – dark colours make a room feel smaller and lighter colours help open up smaller rooms.
What’s going on outdoors – highlight your fantastic view by using light or neutral colours on your wall, or boldly frame out the view with a complimentary or dark surround. If your view is less than ideal, make your interior space steal the show by drawing the eye to interesting colour combinations or bold colours.
Surrounding spaces – even if you don’t use the same colour throughout your home, use a connecting colour in some way between adjacent rooms. For example, your entryway has light gray walls, a bold blue runner and gold accent pieces. Your connecting living room could include warm yellow walls and blue accents as a way to connect some of the same colours between rooms.
There are millions of choices of colour to pick from, but with understanding some basic colour theory, the decision doesn’t have to be so scary. Think about what you want the colour to accomplish, the feeling you want it to invoke as you also consider what else is going on in the space, as you are looking at your options.
Don’t be afraid to coordinate without matching everything. Think tints and shades of a colour as you layer a space and fill colour into your home. Start with a basic colour scheme and add your personality from there. Finally, don’t be afraid to try colour and take a risk in areas that are easy to change, and if it’s not working for you, pick another colour.