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The Fundamentals of Using Color in Your Home

Girl Choosing the Right Color for Wall

Colors are versatile and complex tools. They reflect personalities, convey taste, and even define mood. As a result, choosing a wall color can feel intimidating.

But you don’t need to be an interior designer to effectively use colors in your home. Instead, impress the people who walk into your home by better understanding your color choices.

Warm and cool colors

Let’s not delve too deeply into color theory and the color wheel. To keep things simple, most colors are divided into two temperatures: warm (reds, oranges, and yellows) and cool (blues, greens, and purples).

Associated with brightness, vivacity, and motion, warm colors compact space, making big rooms seem smaller and therefore more intimate. Because of their implied activity, warm colors are usually found in kitchens, living rooms, and play rooms.

Cool colors, on the other hand, evoke serenity and relaxation. As a result, it’s common to see bathrooms and bedrooms painted in cool hues. Rooms dominated by these colors feel casual and more expansive, reminding us of wide open spaces like ocean, sky, or grassland.

A color’s lightness or darkness also influences a room’s feel. Lighter colors tend to enlarge spaces while darker colors help make rooms cozier and tone down the scale of spacious rooms.


Neutral refers to a lack or absence of color. Colors that fall under this category are whites, creams, grays, lighter browns, and black. With the exception of black, neutrals don’t pull the energy of a space one way or the other. This trait lends them versatility, making neutrals the ideal backdrop for more assertive colors and ensuring their widespread appeal.

Despite being a neutral color, black is best used in moderation. As an accent, it’s serious, bold, and elegant. Too much of it makes a room feel heavy or foreboding.

The 60-30-10 rule

This decorating standard greatly simplifies color choice and proportion, turning it into a memorable percent rule. When interior designers say “60-30-10”, they mean that:

  • a room will have three colors: a main, secondary, and accent color
  • the main color will be present in 60 percent of the room (walls, area rugs, carpet, furniture)
  • the secondary color will account for 30 percent of the space (curtains and drapes, accent chairs, accent wall
  • and the accent color with 10 percent will comprise minor decorative details like lamps, throw pillows, artwork, and blankets

Play around with this design rule by picking out complementary colors from the color wheel. Once you’ve fully grasped its application, this rule will be easier to expand on, bend, and break.

Marrying colors

Pairing colors doesn’t take special talent. You just need to familiarize yourself with the basics of color theory. Look at a color wheel and color match using these common schemes:

  • monochromatic (one color in varying shades)
  • analogous (three colors next to each other in the color wheel, one dominant color and two accents)
  • triadic (three colors evenly spaced from each other in the color wheel, one dominant color)
  • split-complementary (three colors, the two accents are on either side of the color directly complementing the dominant color)
  • tetradic (four colors, each pair consisting of complementary colors)

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