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Interior Design Colors: How to Choose the Right Ones

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We have all been working in one way, shape or form with color since childhood. It is one of the earliest memories I have; settling down on my grandmother’s living room floor with a big box of crayons and coloring in a book with my aunt. So who would think, as adults, we would struggle so much with color? But interior design colors CAN be a challenge for many of us.

There are SO many shades to choose from, which ones go well together, which ones make a room look bigger or smaller, which ones give a calming feel and which make us feel invigorated and awake? Oh how far we have come from a box of Crayolas!


So how do you choose interior design colors that bring your space to life or give you that calm, soothing sanctuary you desire?

Read on to learn how to use color in your home to make your space all you want it to be!

An image of sample colors catalog and text that says Interior Design Colors - How to Choose the Right One

Interior Design Colors: How They are Used

One of the most important tools in home design is color.

You can use it to establish mood and feel, from bright or dark spaces depending on your taste; dramatic versus serene–the list goes on!

We will teach you how using different shades creates impactful results that are sure not only make any space more vibrant but also alter its appearance for good too (especially if there are some issues with architecture).

The way you use your color palette can make or break the mood of a room.

For instance, expensive furniture and decor can actually look pretty shabby if a room is decorated in colors that don’t match. In contrast, the right colors with the right combinations can make even older furnishings come to life. So be sure to invest your time (and money) wisely when it comes to choosing the right paint and the right accessories.

The way you use color in your design is a big part of the overall impression. If people don’t know what they’re seeing or if it looks too chaotic, then it’s hard for them to feel comfortable in the space.

So how do we start to do that?

Let’s look at the color wheel and explore the relationships between colors – in particular, interior design colors.

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Interior Design Colors Using the Color Wheel

So let’s examine colors using this basic color wheel as we don’t want to get too deep in the weeds with color theory and will address this topic in more detail in later articles.

a color wheel for post on Interior Design Colors

For clarification, hue is the central element of a color and refers to any pure hue with no other attribute. The wheel is organized by hues that can be found all over our world, from spoons in your kitchen cupboard or paint brush on your wall; they’re everywhere!

So hue and color are often used when describing the same thing. But since you are most likely accustomed to the word “color”, we will use that word in this article.

Three Types of Color

There are three basic types of color:

  1. Primary Color
  2. Secondary Color
  3. Tertiary Color

Primary Colors

Primary colors or primary hues are colors that cannot be created by combining other colors. These are “base” colors in that they are the colors from which all other colors come from.

These colors are blue, yellow and red.

Secondary Colors

Secondary colors are those that are made by mixing two primary colors. On our color wheel these would be green, orange and violet. For instance, you probably remember from childhood that yellow and blue, when mixed together, make green. Green is therefore a secondary color or hue.

Tertiary Colors

Tertiary colors are made when you mix a secondary color with a primary color. For instance, combining blue and green makes…you guessed it…blue-green.

Complimentary and Adjacent Colors

So now that we know where our colors are on the color wheel, we can use that wheel (and for interior design and even for cosmetics, this “wheel” can extend quite a bit into a wide array of secondary and tertiary colors) to find colors that are either complimentary or adjacent or “analogous”.

In addition to having trained as an Interior Designer, I am also an Esthetician and Makeup Artist and one of the reasons I love makeup so much is that I get to play with color. I especially love playing with eyeshadow colors that make the eyes “pop” by bringing out their color.

To do that, I use complimentary colors or colors that are across from each other on the color wheel.

For example, my eyes are green. If I want my eye color to really “pop”, I will use colors that fall on the opposite side of the color wheel (and also greens as well). So I use orange shades, red shades and even pinks and purples.

If you have blue eyes, using brown shades or orange shades will make them stand out.

If you are a football fan and have ever seen the uniforms for the Minnesota Vikings, you will notice they are purple and yellow. These are complimentary colors and really help bring each other to life.

Their colors are similar to this image of beautiful purple and yellow asters! Nature is the best source of color combination, isn’t it?

purple and yellow asters for post on interior design colors

By contrast, adjacent colors are those next to each other on the color wheel, hence the word ‘adjacent’.

If you love the colors of autumn, you love adjacent colors with the warm reds, orange, browns and yellows.

To decide which to use is really a matter of what mood you want to achieve in your space. Do you want warm and restful or do you want bright and bold?

The way to get a good result from a bold primary color that seems a little too bright or too intense is to mix it with in equal parts with a complementary color.

The best thing about using these complimentary tones together in this way? It’s all up for grabs – nothing too strong or weak comes out- but rather it creates an interesting combination between both light and dark shades that leaves your room nicely balanced.

Interior Design Colors – Using Accessories

Using accessories is a great way to make your space come to life with interior design colors without being overwhelming.

When I was a teenager, I loved the color red. I loved it so much, I wanted to paint my walls red. My mother, in her wisdom, told me that it would be far too dark and would make my room look too small so she talked me into painting my room yellow and adding a carpet with red in it.

If you love a really bold color but don’t want to overwhelm the room with it, consider using that color in other parts of the room like carpets, curtains, or even accessories like vases or storage bins in a bookcase.

You might be a diehard NY Mets fan and love blue and orange and want to decorate your room with them. But you may not want those to be on your walls (or maybe you have a rental where you can’t change the paint or carpet). Use the colors in pillows on your couch and in accessories throughout the room (yes I DO know lots of people who decorate with their favorite sports team’s colors even if it is just a man cave).

Black and white farmhouse colors are beautiful in a room but you probably don’t want your walls painted black. So having white or even light gray walls with wall decor in black and white can add that same feel to your room. I do this in my own home which has a farmhouse decor. The walls are completely white and we added gray trim to the doorways and windows and then used furniture and accessories to implement the black and gray colors.

Farmhouse bedroom for post on Interior Design Colors

Using Colors in Your Decor

As with most things in life, balance is key! You don’t want to overwhelm yourself and others and you need a good balance of color in your space. To help you do that, I recommend watching the video below by thepaintpeople.com as James explains the 60-30-10 rule when incorporating interior design colors into your space!

We hope that you found this article helpful as a basic primer (no pun intended) on color and will be able to implement the information when choosing color schemes for your rooms.

Comment and let us know what ways you have used complimentary or adjacent colors in creative ways in your own home!

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