How to Turn Just One Color Into an Entire Room Palette

published Mar 4, 2018
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We’ve all see those rooms in Architectural Digest and House Beautiful bathed in a single color. They remind me of storybook interiors – playful, inviting and unexpected. They can seem unattainable because it’s a commitment to a bold statement. What if you don’t like that color in two years? What if you find an antique or an amazing piece of furniture but it’s not the same color? What if your friends come over and don’t like it? Actually that’s an easy fix. Get new friends.

I have faith that anyone can pull off this look as long as they’re willing to be a bit adventurous. And who doesn’t want a little more adventure in their life?

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(Image credit: One Kings Lane)

Pick Your Star Color

First things first: Pick a color. This will be one of the top five biggest decisions you make in your home life and I’m not exaggerating even a little bit. Obviously pick a color to which you are drawn and be honest about what you already own and love; let that drive your choice. Look to your closet, favorite art…whatever draws you for inspiration if you don’t know off the top of your head.

Personally, I love the idea of an all-blue room. I’d call it just that, my Blue Room (formally, of course). I’d drink bourbon cocktails and read classic novels there. Miles Redd, he loves to design a luscious red room like the library above (via One Kings Lane). But if you’re not comfortable with say, a room swathed in all green, just chose a neutral like off-white or grey. You can create a stunning space with just neutrals; they become the star of the room, not an inactive participant when you’re enveloped in them.

Create Your Palette

The key to one color dominating your palette is to use various shades of that specific color. The easiest way to do this is to go to your local paint store and grab their paint chips (the type that have a couple hues on them). This shows you the various tints of a color you love. Another way I like to choose color is by looking at the Benjamin Moore website’s Color By Family page. They separate their paints into all of the major colorways. Once you decide whether you want to do a green or pink room, you can look through all of their options in an easily digestible format. My advice is to chose three to five shades and tones of your color; this will keep your palette tight, but give you enough room to source.

Tend to Your Walls First

Painting is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to quickly transform a room. Before you douse your walls, test a couple sample patches in your space. You’ll want to buy a shade or two lighter and darker than what you think is your final choice. Whichever colors you end up not using on your walls can be used to repaint furniture you want to use in your monochrome dream room.

Wallpaper is another great way to get color on your walls. Look for patterns that are mostly in your palette (or go with a plain monochrome paper with texture like a grasscloth, which creates such depth).

Onto the Furnishings

When purchasing furniture and accessories for your monochrome haven, it’s important to focus in specifically on the texture and silhouette of a piece. Because everything is going to be a similar color, your eye will crave contrast and you can serve up that contrast with interesting shapes and luxurious materials and finishes.

In most rooms, the two elements that take up the majority of the visual space are the sofa or bed and the window treatments. Sure, it’s a bit scary to think of investing in a colorful sofa/bed/draperies, but trust me; it will prove to everyone in your life that you are a badass, fearless decorator (you know, if that’s something you want to put out there into the world). Now, if you’re doing a completely neutral room, purchasing white furniture is scary for its own reason (get it stain protected! and have a good cleaner on speed dial!), but your challenge will be minimizing pops of color. Look for fabrics (for pillows, side chairs, rugs) that have subtle pattern without any added color. Textiles with tons of texture (heavy tweeds and knits, for example) are another way to make sure a one-color room looks rich and purposeful, not just lazy.

All in the Details

In a monochrome room, your palette may be based on just one color with varying shades, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pepper in another finish through metallics and wood. Think about cabinet hardware, lamp shades, the feet of your sofa. These are small areas where you can bring in a bit of variety while staying true to your key color. . For example, I think gold or brass finishes are stunning against green, while blackened metal or wrought iron can read as rustic or modern against an all white interior.

To prove some of my points and give you a better (read: visual) example of what I mean, I put together my dream “Blue Room”. Brass hardware and wooden touches via seating legs and accent tables pop against a sea of rich navy. I want to note how important it is to vary your fabrics, as well. I chose a velvet sofa to stand apart from the linen drapes (plus, velvet catches light in a really lovely way, which helps in a moody room like this), and a subtle windowpane check on the armchair to break things up.

I hope this inspires you to go forth and be bold in your own design. As long as you love the color you’re working with, you’re likely to create a room you’ll be excited about (without having to fuss too much about what colors to pair together, because after all, blue will always go with blue, and green with green…).

(Image credit: Anita Shriver)


Sofa: Article
Rug: West Elm
Draperies: Pottery Barn
Armchair: CB2
Ottoman: West Elm
Floor Lamps: Target
Side Table: Target