Choosing Colors for Your Home

I have a confession to make.  I am absolutely crazy about color.  I love it on walls, on fabrics, on furniture, on floors, on accessories, on my clothes, and the list goes on.  As an interior designer, I have had to learn to reign in this color fascination a bit, so our house doesn’t end up looking like a rainbow exploded all over it.

Seriously though, one of the top questions I get asked over and over is how to choose the right colors for your home.  Many people are intimidated by the powerful impact color can have on the look of a room, and therefore don’t do anything.  I have a few suggestions that will help you get over your color phobia and move on to loving the space you live in.

First of all, decide on the function and feel you want for a room.  For example, you might want your bedroom to be relaxing and peaceful, so you will want to choose colors that are relaxing and peaceful to you. You might want a bright and cheery kitchen, or an energetic and lively family room.  Your color choices should reflect the mood you want to portray.  If you aren’t sure what moods a color will inspire, sit down with a bunch of swatches and write down the first words/feelings that each color makes you think of.  If orange makes you feel energetic, you might not want it for your bedroom, but it might be perfect for your bathroom or kitchen.

Next, find an inspiration that will help you get started.  This inspiration can be from anywhere, such as a piece of artwork that you love, a favorite possession, a memory of somewhere you have traveled, or from nature.  Picking colors from a piece of art or a loved possession is a pretty good guarantee that they will work together when it is all finished.  I usually don’t try to match colors exactly.  If you go a bit lighter or darker than the inspiration piece, you will add more depth and avoid the matchy-matchy look.  For example, I fell in love with this shower curtain and chose a complimentary gold color for the walls in our main bathroom.

photo from World Market

When I am helping a client create a stress-relieving space, I have them imagine a time when they felt completely relaxed and at peace.  Then I have them describe where they were, what the colors were, and even sounds they remember.  We then try to use color to recreate some of those memories and feelings in their home.

Once you are inspired, you will need to finalize a color palette.  Typically, you want to choose about four colors that work well together.  One will likely be your main color, and the other three will be accents.  You should also throw some neutrals (black, white, brown, tan, grey) in for balance.  In my living room, for example, I have big plans to paint the walls a light grey, and the accent colors will likely be ocean blue, tangerine orange, and golden-yellow.  Those accent colors could easily be replaced with eggplant, hot pink, and peacock blue. Or even cherry red, orange, and citron.  Use a color wheel, internet color sites like http://kuler.adobe.com, magazine photos, or a local interior designer to help you find colors that work well together.

When you have settled on your color palette, it is time to start adding it to the room.  Before you purchase any paint, bring sample cards home and tape them to the wall.  Check the colors in different lighting throughout the day, and on each wall in the room.  After you have picked one or two that you really like, take advantage of the little paint pot samples you can purchase at most paint supply stores.  They cover approximately four square feet, and give you a better idea of what the color will look like on the wall.  If the wall (or other surface to be painted) is small enough, you might find it to be less expensive to just get a couple small sample pots than to buy a whole quart or gallon of paint.

Whether you are painting walls or leaving them white (or another neutral color), you will want to layer your colors throughout the roomin fabrics, accessories, rugs, pillows, lighting, etc.  You should use each accent color several times, in different areas around the room, so it looks intentional and established.  One thing I always remind people is that if you decide you don’t like a color, it is so easy to change!  I hope this helps you take the color plunge.  I am off to dream up more color combinations…

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