Everyone is afraid of using colour, and for good reason. We’ve all seen the results of someone who has gone too far, it can be very overwhelming. The fact of the matter is that colour is the perfect way to add warmth, personality, and liveliness to your home. The key to getting it right is finding the correct balance so that the colours do not overpower your spaces. Let's take a look at 10 brilliant ways to add bold colours like red, blue, white and black to your home, while still maintaining subtlety and sophistication. The colours you choose for the interiors of your living spaces tell a story. Make sure it’s a beautiful one.
1. Think 60-30-10
One thing that top stylists know is that it’s all about finding the balance. The 60-30-10 rule is a trick that professionals swear by. This is a method that is easy to employ and delivers stunning results. First of all, the overall theme of your room should be the 60% hue. This is the colour that tells the overall story of the space. In most cases, it’s good to go with a soft, neutral colour that is still warm and inviting. It shouldn’t be the most memorable part of the space, but ‘fill in blanks’ and soften the boldness you’re going to introduce. Then, you’re going to fill the next 30% using other colours that provide visual interest, and lastly, use 10% to give you a little sparkle and pop. So, 60% is going to be your dominant colour, 30% is your secondary colour, and 10% is your accent colour. The proportions here are similar to a man’s business suit. The slacks and jacket take up 60%, the shirt is 30%, and the tie is 10%. That’s why the pop of colour always comes from the tie and creates the visual interest in the whole ensemble. You can translate this to any room by making 60% of the colour coming from the walls, 30% coming from the upholstery, and the last 10% being accent pieces like pillows and floral arrangements.
2. Select Your Colour Scheme
It’s daunting when you’re trying to select a colour scheme for your home, but you can make the process more fun and interesting by using a colour wheel. Don’t be intimidated! Choose colours that really speak to you, make you feel calm, or fill you with a sense of liveliness and joy. When going for colours on walls, using full strength colours can be overpowering (remember the 60%), while using a quarter strength colour can help tone it down, and with most colours being available mixed with a grey, it can help neutralise your colours but not eliminate it. We all have colours that we favor, for whatever individual reason, and these are definitely the shades that you should favor, there’s no joy in living with colours you dislike.
3. Understanding Complementary Colours
The science of colour is fascinating and fun! Just as painters and makeup artists understand the balance of colours, so do interior stylists. The complementary colours are the ones that are opposite one another on the colour wheel. For instance, red and green are complementary, as are blue and yellow. Pairing these colours together is a great way of using bold shades without clashing. For instance, if you have soft cream walls, and you use an elegant violet shade for your upholstery, then it’s smart to add orange or pumpkin highlights in your pillows, or perhaps some golden flowers. Favor complementary colours in the most formal rooms of your home, such as the living room or dining room.
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Understanding Analogous Colour Schemes
Analogous colours also provide you with a solid formula to work with. They’re next to each other on the colour wheel, and they create a pleasing effect, where complimentary colours create a dramatic effect. For instance, blue is next to green on the wheel, and violet is next to red. When you decorate a room using analogous colours, you create a more casual, less bold feel. Perfect for the bedroom or family room, analogous colours provide a restful and relaxed ambience. Maybe in your guest room you select a soft cream wall shade, then highlight this with warm and happy yellows and oranges in the accessories and bedding.
5. Go Bold with Black
One little trick that interior stylists swear by is that a little pop of black clarifies all the other colours in the space. That means that if you have one black lampshade, box, or picture frame, it enhances all the other colours and provides just enough visual stimulation to create interest and sophistication. The contrast of the black makes the colours appear more vibrant and powerful. Black is an elegant colour and you should never be afraid to use it in the right proportions.
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6. Go Natural
Nature is the best styling teacher. The colours in nature are perfectly proportioned; sometimes subtle and sometimes bold. One thing that we learn from nature is the value of colour, and this pertains to the darkness and lightness of a particular hue. When a room is unbalanced in terms of value, then you’ll feel that one side of the room is too light, and the other is too dark. When a room is too dark then you sense that it is heavy or weighty, and this creates the corresponding feeling within your guests! Think about the colour values of the outside world and try to bring this into your space. You don’t want to feel like you’re living inside of a dark jungle, but you do want to feel as though you’re in a soft green field on a spring day. By using colour values, you can recreate that feeling. That feeling is often something people can’t explain, and if people walk into a room and feel uncomfortable or uneasy it can be because of the ‘natural balance’ being off. As a general rule of thumb, think about dark values for the floor of your home, medium values for the walls, and light values for the ceiling. You are literally mimicking the earth, the trees and foliage, and the sky.
7. Know What Patterns You’re Working With
The largest pattern in the first room of your home should set the tone. Sometimes this is drapery, or perhaps it’s an oriental rug or piece of artwork. Take the colours from this piece, then go with the 60-30-10 rule. Say for instance your favorite piece of art in the living room is black, blue, and cream. That means that you can use the cream for your 60%, blue for 30%, and black for 10%.
8. Create Some Flow
Think of the colours of your home creating an overall experience as you move from one room to another. If there’s a colour that is dominating one room, then consider restating that colour in a new way in the following room. Say the couch in the living room is lilac, then try adding some lilac accents in the kitchen, which would be the adjoining room. Think about when you move around the house, you could either amplify or decrease the volume of this shade to create flow in your home.
9. Let Contrast Work for You
When your space is high contrast, it means that you’re using both light and dark values of a particular colour or multiple colours. So, you could be mixing a deep wine red with a bright, light blue, or even a dark forest green with a light sea foam green. This is a more defined space than one that has low contrast, which can come off as flat. That being said, low contrast rooms can also be soothing and airy if you use soft tones or rich colours, using one or the other can evoke very different feelings. A note about black and white: These colours combine to create a very formal space (think tuxedo), but when you add gray to black and white, you create a more restful space because the contrast is less defined.
10. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Emotional
We associate colours with different emotions, and you shouldn’t shy away from that. Blue makes us think of air and water, red is associated with fire, yellow is like the sun, and green and brown are earthy. These are not rational but rather emotional responses to these primary colours. You can use these associations to your advantage to create a great effect in your home. If you want a room to be lively, then favor yellows and reds. If you’re looking for something more grounded and subdued, then select brown and green. Match these effects with what happens in various rooms: the bedroom should be cool and calming, the living room can be lively, and the dining room might be elegant and formal.
11. Study Place and Time
There have been various colour schemes that have been popular in home decorating throughout the ages, and these speak to the specific place and time in which they were created. For instance, the Victorian period used a very specific set of colours, the rich reds, deep purples and emerald greens, as did the 18th century also using green, and deep blues. You can borrow colours from time periods, or you can use colours from your specific locale. Say you live in New England, then you should easily be able to come up with colours inspired by the changing of the leaves, the brick red buildings, or the dark blue sea. You can also think of various rooms in accordance with the seasons. A room using fall colours is warm and relaxed, whereas a room inspired by summer is going to be bright and lively.
12. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Samples
Wherever you buy your upholstery, it’s possible to take a sample home so that you can see it in the space before you buy. Leave the swatch in the room for a couple of days and see how the colour changes in the natural lighting of the space (this is a good trick with paint, too!). It’s guaranteed that it’s going to look different once you bring it home. If there’s a room that is mostly occupied at night, then don’t look at the swatch in the light of day, but rather at the time when it will be seen by family and guests. Also, take into account where your windows are facing. North-facing windows are going to make colours look darker than usual, and south-facing windows are going to make colours appear lighter.
There’s a lot to take into account when playing with colour, everyone wants their space to feel comfortable, but have their own personality. It can be tough finding the balance, but with these tips you can be on your way to a beautiful interior.