Pick Your (Im)perfect Color Palette

Pick Your (Im)perfect Color Palette

Dabney Frake
Oct 14, 2015
(Image credit: Tamara Gavin)
(Image credit: Lindsay Ribe)
Today's topic: Zero in on colors and combinations that both make you happy, and suit the space you’re working on.
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Color is a strong factor in any room, and bears thinking about early on in the process. It can either be the starting point for your design, or a strong consideration as your room takes shape. Regardless, choosing a color scheme isn't straightforward. It's an interesting blend of science, culture, trends, personal taste, and emotion. It's also very powerful. So, it's worth spending a little time to really examine color, get to know about it and about ourselves and then, apply that knowledge, skillfully, to your decorating projects for amazing results.

Step #1: Start With Your Heart

In the last lesson, you identified a few things you love and that you want to use as a jumping off point for the rest of the room. If that was an actual color or color combination, that's great! You're ahead of the game. Otherwise you can start with a color or scheme found in your "anchor item" — or the object you love most — and use that as a jumping off point. If it's a pattern, take a look at the colors you see there, and think about using them throughout the room.

(Image credit: Natalie Jeffcott)

Step #2: Choose Color According to Mood

Color changes the feel of a room, so think about what you want your atmosphere to be. As a general rule, cool colors (like green, blue, grey and purple) have a calming effect while warmer colors (red, orange, yellow) are more energizing. Given how you will use the space, think about what feeling you want to evoke. Is it a kitchen where you'll be moving around a lot, or a studio where you want to paint first thing in the morning? Or is it a bedroom where you want to retreat at the end of the day?

Tip: You can further amplify or temper the effects of a particular color by using more or less saturated versions of that hue.

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

Step #3: Use the Color Wheel with Confidence

The color wheel is a small but mighty tool, and can be your spirit guide through the maze of picking your palette. Use it, love it, and refer to it often if you need to.

If you want a calm and soothing effect, choose shades, tones and/or tints of the same color, with a little variation. Monochromatic schemes are more peaceful as a rule, as the eye can move easily around the room without interruption by other colors.

For a more vibrant and daring room choose two colors that are directly opposite each other on the wheel. The contrast creates interest and energy, yet still makes visual sense to the eye.

Step #4: When In Doubt, Use the 80/20 Rule

If you are a little unsure of your color choices, here's some simple advice: use strong colors sparingly. Allow them to punctuate a room, not define it. The room formula becomes 80 percent neutral and 20 percent strong colors. Small batches of color have a tremendous effect on the whole and will bring out the neutral colors around them, without the huge commitment that comes with painting your wall, say, orange.

Step #5: Don't Worry about Perfectly Matching Colors!

Sometimes an imperfect match gives your room a much more undecorated look that's more natural and less like a staged and impersonal catalog set-up. Different color values add depth and interest to the space. Just stick to the same intensity throughout— jewel tones don't pair well with pastels for example — and you'll be totally fine.

Next Lesson: You’ll play house with some action figure furniture, making up pretend stories about how they all met and co-mingled in harmony for ever after.

Share your impressions on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter! We'll have an eye out for your updates and photos and would love to see how you are doing and share it with the group. Be sure to tag with #ATDesignSchool so we can find you.

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