Where To Start When Creating A Home Color Scheme

Where To Start When Creating A Home Color Scheme

Leah Moss
Mar 12, 2013

For me, the hardest part in any type of project is knowing where to begin. Thankfully, when it comes to choosing wall paint colors, there are some fail-safe guidelines!

I know, I know, you want to dive right into the paint deck and start selecting all your wall colors, but before you do, consider what is already in place. Remember, paint color is the easiest thing to match and change, but ignoring the more permanent elements of your home in favor of selecting your favorite wall color will lead to a design disaster. So before you begin, study the key elements:

  • Flooring. Floors are the second largest surface area of your home, so don't ignore them. Seriously, don't! Wood is never "wood color." It's honey, or red toned, or charcoal, etc. When you're selecting a wall color, place your paint chip next to your flooring, and see whether they compliment each other. I generally like to go with a complimentary color or a high contrast color since I find the biggest paint mistakes to be the ones where the wall color is too similar to the wood color. For example, yellow walls in a room with honey colored stained floors, or red walls next to cherry stained floors clash in a bad way. If you're picking out new flooring, bring both a floor sample and a paint chip into the room where they will be installed. Samples look very different under showroom lights than they do at home. 
  • Cabinetry. The same rules apply to cabinets as they do to floors. Most likely, you won't be changing out your cabinets, so pick a wall color that coordinates well. I find that cool paint colors are often easier to work with and more flattering to warm colored wooden cabinetry than warm ones. Oftentimes I hear people say they don't want a room to look too chilly, so they automatically start looking at yellows, forgetting that wood cabinetry provides enough warmth itself. 
  • Stone. Each specific stone surface has its own individual color. For example, the background color in Carrara marble can look stark white, gray, blueish, greenish, or ivory. So while selecting accent tile and paint colors, hold your selection up to the stone that is already in place or that you will be using. Choose a color that is either within the stone already, or one that looks good next to it. This is especially important if you are trying to select a neutral paint color, since clashing beiges is never a good look, and a range of whites (for example cool white subway tile, ivory white floor tiles, and cream white marble) can look hodge-podge rather than crisp and streamlined. If you don't trust your eye to discern between neutrals, go with a bold or deep wall color or a color in a contrasting tone. 

The same rules can be applied to non-natural materials as well. The key is coordinating with the tones already present. So if your vinyl botticino tile looks more pink than yellow, choose a paint color that compliments the pinky tone. 

Once you know how to coordinate with the large, existing surfaces of your home, the smaller decisions like accent pillows and upholstery are much easier to make. 

(Image: Leah Moss for Zoe & Trey's Refined Eclectic Georgetown Digs)

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