The Art-Inspired Trick for Picking a Flawless Color Palette

The Art-Inspired Trick for Picking a Flawless Color Palette

Katie Holdefehr
Mar 11, 2017
(Image credit: Gemeentemuseum)

In celebration of the 100th year of De Stijl—the Dutch artistic movement that means "The Style"—the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague has the world's largest collection of artist Piet Mondrian's works on display (more than 300 pieces!). I was recently lucky enough to see the exhibition, and while admiring a gray-and-ochre painting by an artist famous for primary colors, I found my decor-loving brain thinking, "This would make a perfect palette for a room!" And then I decided, why not leave the tough task of choosing color combos to the experts? The next time you need to pick out some paint, stop by the art museum first to find inspiration in an artist-approved palette.

(Image credit: Gemeentemuseum)

The Muse: Mondrian's 1918 composition is a mix of blue-toned grays and ochre. Radically different than his iconic pops of primary colors, the palette feels complex and sophisticated.

The Room: In this sitting area from Turbulences Deco, spotted on Domino, shades of gray are punctuated by an ochre wall that brightens up the room and draws the eye upwards. This complicated palette may not be your first instinct, but by letting the art serve as inspiration, the effect is super elegant.

(Image credit: Gemeentemuseum)

The Muse: Painted in 1917, Mondrian's "Composition No. 3 with Color Planes" hints at the primary color schemes to come, but the muted blue, pink and yellow hues are softer and subtler.

(Image credit: Fjeldborg)

The Room: Just as Mondrian floats his color planes on a white background, you can start a room's design with a neutral base, and then introduce hits of color from the art-inspired palette. This living room from Fjeldborg is energized with touches of pink, blue and ochre.

(Image credit: Gemeentemuseum)

The Muse: Before Mondrian began painting with bright primaries, he mixed up complicated colors to create pastels and more nuanced hues, such as the blue-grays and dusting pinks in "Composition No. IV", above.

(Image credit: House Beautiful)

The Room: Blush pink accents and soft blue-gray walls combine for a soothing living room, featured on House Beautiful. To take the Mondrian connection one step further, add throw pillows and vases adorned with black lines to represent the black outlines surrounding each color plane.

(Image credit: Gemeentemuseum)

The Muse: Another precursor to Mondrian's iconic primary color pieces, this 1914 painting uses a mix of gold, blue and pink, all surrounded by a cloud of gray. In contrast to the sharp lines and distinct planes in later works, the separations are less sure here and everything begins to blur around the edges.

(Image credit: Dimore Studio)

The Room: A base of gray builds a room that's both dark and romantic—two descriptors we don't typically pull out when describing Mondrian-inspired design. Just as the perimeter of the painting obscures into a fog, the corner of this moody room designed by Dimore Studio fades into shadow.

(Image credit: Gemeentemuseum)

The Muse: The "Victory Boogie Woogie", one of Mondrian's most famous pieces, is an unfinished work started in 1944 in anticipation of the end of World War II. The vibrant primary colors and planes of various sizes appear to shimmer with energy.

(Image credit: Femina)

The Room: If you choose to go bold with Mondrian's classic color palette, introduce the bright colors in just a few key spots around the room. In the living room above from Femina, the three splashes of primary color stand out in an otherwise neutral room, infusing the space with the same vibrant energy found in the painting.

Ready to pick up a paintbrush? You can admire many of Mondrian's works online at the Gemeentemuseum, or buy tickets for your next visit to the Netherlands—because the best way to see these colors is in person and up-close.

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