Shade and Hue – Choosing a Color Scheme

Picking a color scheme for a room can be the easiest thing in the world. All you have to do is go to your local DIY emporium. Whatever room you’re decorating – bedroom, kitchen, bathroom – there’ll be a number of displays with perfectly co-ordinated wall colors, paints, fabrics, wallpapers, tasteful accessories and what’s more you put the whole lot in your trolley and buy it in one go. On the other hand, if you want something a bit more special, a bit different, a bit ‘you-nique’ then you’re going to have to put a little more thought and research into the matter. Don’t worry, it’ll be worth it.

Get Inspired

First you need a starting point. Something to start you off down the color path. It might be a golden sunset, maybe the

Image: EA /

striking table cloths at your favorite hotel, or a particular picture or painting that you want to be the room’s centrepiece. Whatever it is, pick out the prominent color, the hue that caught your eye and start with that. It won’t necessarily be the most common color in your finished room but it will get your started.

Of course, your inspiration may not come from an object or anything visible at all. It could be the mood you’re hoping the room will provide. There’s a lot of talk about how different colors create different moods. So what do you want to feel when you’re in this room? Maybe you want tranquil blue, happy orange, calm green, vibrant red or harmonious yellow? Of course, all these colors have their less positive sides as well: blue might be sad, red can be hostile. Whether all this is true or not in the wider sense doesn’t really matter; what matters is what reaction you have, how does that particular shade make you feel? After all, it’s your room and your choice.

Spin the Wheel

OK, you’ve got your first color, now you need to broaden this out. The difference between
a color scheme and a room that looks like an explosion in a paint shop is that your colors need to go together. They need to harmonise, they need to complement, they need to create a pleasing overall effect. The easiest way to keep yourself on that path is to use a color wheel.

You’ve probably seen a color wheel before, a circular rainbow starting at green, through blue, purple, red, orange and

Image by Justin Brown

yellow and back to green again. Each color is a section of the circle like a slice of cake and the closer to the centre of the cake, the tone of the color, it’s strength, becomes stronger; so that it’s pale on the outer edge of the wheel, dark in the middle.

Three Options

Now that you’ve got your first color, there are three ways you can go, three different types of color scheme:

Tonal – This is where you stick with just one slice of the cake. Everything is the same color, but you use different tones to create light and shade and variation. Colour-wise, a tonal scheme can look a bit same-y so use fabric patterns and different textures to create visual interest.

Harmonious – Colors harmonise with the ones next to them on the color wheel. Whichever color you’ve chosen, take a look at the ones on either side of it. Usually, for balance, you would stick to choices either side on the same ‘ring’ or the same distance from the centre.

Complementary – Two colors that are opposite each other on the wheel are said to be complementary. This is all about striking contrasts that work, such as red and green or blue and orange. It’s bold, but you can get away with it.

A Few Other Things To Think About

There are one or two other factors that will influence your color scheme. The size of the room for example. If you put dark colors in a small room then claustrophobia is going to be part of your mood. Also lighting – ceiling, wall and floor; down, up and spot – can change the way the eye takes in your colours. When you get some sample pots, paint some pieces of cardboard and then put them in differently-lit situations. See what works.

Finally, it’s worth noting what color actually is. The color of an object results from the light reflecting from it, your eye’s physical reaction to that light and then your brain’s interpretation of that reaction. In other words, it’s pretty subjective. We all see colors slightly differently, and that’s why even though color wheels and shop displays by experts are helpful, the person you should listen to for the final choice of your colour scheme, is you.

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Neil Turner writes about Interior Design and Home Furnishings for Tangletree Interiors – the Designer Wallpapers store.


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