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Interior Design Color Palettes

Michelle Radcliff
Contemporary colors in living room

The key to a good color palette is harmony. You can achieve harmonious color palettes using the basics of color theory or with the help of a color wheel.

Get Inspired

Look for color inspiration in household items such as fabric patterns on pillows, rugs and blankets or pull from hues you admire in a piece of framed wall art. Natural environments, landscapes, and seasonal colors are also excellent resources for color palette inspiration.

Art inspired color palette

Art and Rug Inspired Palette

Analogous autumnal colors inspired by the room's accessories include:

  • Yellow - The dominate color from the rug becomes the primary hue on walls.
  • Brown - A dominant color in the wall art becomes a secondary hue for future.
  • Orange - This bright, standout hue makes an excellent accent color.
  • White - Neutrals create natural borders and give the eyes a place to rest.

Vary the Value

Monochromatic color schemes use different tints, tones and shades (referred to as value) of a single base color. It's one of the easiest ways to create a color palette or enhance a palette with depth. This technique is especially effective when decorating with tone-on-tone neutral colors or in open concept floor plans.

Unifying great room color palette

Unifying Great Room Palette

Three colors in varying value unify this space while also differentiating separate living areas.

  • Blue - Varying tones and shades of this accent color are sprinkled throughout the room.
  • Brown - Various shades and tints cover furniture and flooring.
  • White - A cool white primary hue with blue undertones unifies the walls while a lighter tint lifts the ceiling.

Create Balance With Complementary Colors

Complementary color schemes combine warm and cool color opposites. One way to pull off a complementary palette is to choose a neutral color for the primary background color. Then your complementary accent colors can be used in higher saturation for vivid contrast without overwhelming the room.

Complementary beach colors palette

Beach Hues Living Room Palette

An all-neutral background leaves room for a few extra accent colors, including the yellow-green end table and glass.

  • Brown - Neutral chocolate brown dominates the room on wall panels and wood flooring.
  • Light brown - Various tints from beige to caramel to mocha become secondary hues on furniture and rugs.
  • Aqua - Brilliant sheer curtains in this blue-green tint add a nice, cool aura around windows and on pillows.
  • Coral - Red-orange accent lamps and pillows stand out sharply from the aqua accents.
  • Yellow - A sunny shade of yellow plays well with the coral and aqua pillows.
  • White - Sheer white curtains allow ample natural light to keep the room from looking too dark.

Create a Mood

Color and value are key factors in enhancing the type of atmosphere you want in a room. Warm colors tend to be stimulating and uplifting, while cool colors tend to be soothing and relaxing. Consider the activities that will take place in a space when choosing a primary or dominant color - but also make sure you like it and can live with it.

Color value affects mood in the following ways:

  • Light or pastel colors feel casual, airy, calming and quiet.
  • Deep colors feel dramatic, rich, sophisticated, cozy.
  • Bright colors feel bold, daring, confident, outgoing or exciting.
  • Muted colors and neutrals feel comforting, natural and earthy.
Soothing, Restful Palette

Soothing Restful Bedroom Palette

Notice how color and value work together to help create the mood in this room.

  • Mint green - This light green tint makes a soothing, restful color for walls.
  • Teal - A darker blue-green accent color adds contrast.
  • White - White completes the look with a light, airy feel.

Be Daring in a Small or Personal Space

Use a bright or bold color you love in your bedroom. Glamorize the space by mixing in metallic hues such as gold, silver, copper or bronze. Metallic tiles or jewel toned paint colors used in a small guest bathroom can make a powerful impact without looking overdone.

Daring and glamorous color palette

Daring and Glamorous Bedroom Palette

Keep the background neutral when using bold hues on furniture and accessories.

  • Aubergine (red-violet) - Emphasize a focal point with bold colors.
  • Fuchsia (red-violet tint) - This shade makes a harmonious accent color.
  • Muted lilac - Varying values on analogous colors create depth.
  • Gold - Gold makes a glamorous accent color.
  • Silver - Metallic colors read like neutral colors; perfect for a sophisticated primary color.
  • Black - Black creates contrast with bright colors.

Make Your Colors Flow

Pay attention to what you can see from one room to the next. Take one of your secondary or accent colors from one room and use it as a primary color in the next room. Alternatively, use analogous or related color families from room to room, such as blues and greens for harmonious color flow.

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Interior Design Color Palettes