How to Choose an Interior Colour Scheme

How to Choose an Interior Colour Scheme

Pink interior colour scheme hero
Farmhouse interior colour scheme hero

Choosing an interior colour scheme is such a daunting decorating step leaving many people overwhelmed. After all the human eye can see about 10 million colours. And that’s not even close to how many actual colours there are. We’ll just say there are heaps, shall we? So if I still have you (and you’re not running scared at that thought?), read on to decide on a colour scheme for your home.

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Why a well-designed room is important

When a room is well designed you will barely notice as it feels so natural. It is important that our homes are unique to ourselves and a reflection of who we are. You do not need to be a designer to create a beautiful home. You already have your own style, it’s just a case of tapping into that and implementing it into your home with a few tips.

If a room is poorly designed it will affect your mood and the way in which you interact (often subconsciously). Your home should be visually pleasing to yourself and others around you. Even if it’s not the personal style of others, your balanced and peaceful space will still have them feeling happy to be there.

Don’t think that interior design needs to be expensive or difficult to find inspiration. Inspiration is easy to find especially with platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram. I love creating Pinterest boards to look back on to see common themes emerging.

Neutral living room
Image via homestoloveau

Some guidelines for interior design

There are some core principles in interior design that I will be covering across a four-part series. The principles listed below aren’t all of them but are four of the main ones to consider. In this article, we will be covering how to create your interior colour scheme.

  • Colour
  • Balance
  • Rhythm & Repetition
  • Scale & Proportion

Please remember that the rules are meant to be broken! These will help to guide you when you need it. However, you have your own personal style and preference which will sometimes override the rules. I find this my favourite part. Learning what traditionally looks good and then challenging that with my uniqueness.

How do you want the room to feel?

First and foremost, before we get into anything to do with colour, you need to consider these things:

  • What is the space primarily used for?
  • How do you want the space to feel?

There is a psychology to colour (we’ll get into that later) so it makes sense that a big decision such as the colours in your space would impact on your mood when you walk in.

Often people want to pick their favourite colour however it’s not always going to be the best choice for you. Think about whether you can live with this colour every day and about how it’s going to make you feel when you walk into a room. If you don’t think you can live with the colour but would still really like to have it in your life, you can try using it as an accent.

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What is the lighting like in your space?

I’m not just talking about that lamp or the pendant in the middle of the room. Consider how much natural light there is in your space. Light will affect how the size of the space feels as well as the appearance of your colours.

Whilst using paint swatches or chips is helpful, I find narrowing down my colour choices and buying sample pots to be invaluable. As the light changes throughout the day so too will the look of the colour. It is always good to know what that colour will look like through those times. Remember too that using the same colour throughout the house can look completely different room to room due to the way the sunlight catches it.

Lighter, brighter colours are good for an open space. For a more intimate and moody feel you might like to go for a darker colour.

Cabin living room

Quick tips on where to get your colour inspiration

OPTION 1: Using an area rug or a piece of artwork. From this piece select the colours. You could try choosing one primary colour and a secondary colour. Then add a metallic or neutral.

OPTION 2: Look to your wardrobe & accessories. Use the colour of the clothing you wear the most as your base. The colours you accessorise with or wear occasionally can be your accent colour. Don’t forget to pay attention to patterns too. I’ll go a little further into using objects to draw your colours from further below.

OPTION 3: Use the colour wheel and it’s colour schemes to draw from. See below for a whole heap of info on that.

Colour Wheel 101: Categories

The colour wheel can be broken into three main colour categories:

PRIMARY COLOURS: Primary colours are only created by themselves and can’t be created from mixing. These colours are yellow, red and blue.

SECONDARY COLOURS: Secondary colours are created by mixing two of the primary colours listed above. They are orange, purple and green. e.g. to get orange you need to mix red and yellow.

TERTIARY COLOURS: Tertiary colours are created by mixing one primary and one secondary colour. e.g. a yellow-orange is made by mixing yellow (primary) and orange (secondary).

Basic colour wheel
Image via Tubik Studio

Colour Wheel 101: Evoking Emotion with Warm and Cool Colours

WARM/ACTIVE COLOURS: Energetic, invigorating, exciting, stimulating, upbeat (red, yellow, orange). These are great for kitchens and dining rooms. When decorating with bold warm colours, using neutrals, natural light, and contrasting colours will create a sense of openness and balance.

COOL/PASSIVE COLOURS: Serene, calming (blues, green, purple). These are great for living areas and bedrooms.

NEUTRALS: Technically these aren’t on the colour wheel (whites, grey’s, blacks and browns). They don’t over or understimulate. Neutrals are great if you get tired of patterns or don’t know where to start. You can layer neutrals to create depth. You can also gradually add small amounts of accent colours through accessories if you like.

When selecting a warm or cool colour scheme, often including an accent colour from the other scheme will create balance. So if your main colours are blues and greys, pick something warm to accent. Whilst it can be oranges or reds, it doesn’t have to be. Find warmer tones in woods, leathers.

Colourful living room colour scheme
Image via mynd_interiors

Colour Wheel 101: Colour Schemes

Let’s look at how to implement colours with colour schemes. These are purely suggestions and you can always deviate. As I’ve mentioned, guidelines are a great place to start and if you feel confident to take a risk then you should definitely do it!

If these make your head to hurt, don’t worry – you’re not alone! You don’t need to commit all of these options to memory. However, if you would like to take things up a notch then read over these schemes.

COMPLIMENTARY COLOUR SCHEME: This is a scheme with two colours that are opposite on the colour wheel eg. orange and blue.

ANALOGOUS COLOUR SCHEME: Taking a section of the wheel such as 3-4 colours that are grouped together.

TRIADIC COLOUR SCHEME: Made from 3 colours, evenly spaced on the colour wheel. The basic of these are Primary colours (red, blue, yellow) and Secondary colours (orange, purple, green). However, there are other triadic schemes that you can choose.

SPLIT COMPLEMENTARY COLOUR SCHEME: A little more complex. Consider a complementary colour scheme. But rather than using one of those colours we instead go for the two colours on either side. e.g. using the orange/blue complementary combination, we will keep the yellow colour and select the colours on either side of blue which are blue-green and blue-violet.

DOUBLE COMPLEMENTARY COLOUR SCHEME: These are quite dynamic schemes. Take two different complementary colours/schemes and combine them into one area. So you actually have 4 colours.

MONOCHROME COLOUR SCHEME: A monochrome scheme is one colour, using different tones within that colour. You can actually use any colour to create a monochrome scheme. Although in interiors, typically people associate them with blacks, whites, greys and browns.

A great tool for some of these colour schemes that you might enjoy is the Color Supplyyy website.

All white bathroom
Image via ascotliving
Modern minimal bedroom
Image via arentpyke_inout
Green pink interior colour scheme
Image via megan_morton

Using objects to choose your interior colour scheme

Select something that you’re drawn to. It could be a cushion, art, a shirt, rug, packaging… anything really!

With the item in your space check to see how it looks under the lighting. Take a photo of the item, particularly if it’s quite large. Take your photo or item along to the paint store. Select some neutrals and colours similar to your object. Then look to your colour wheel and the colour schemes. Perhaps you can pick some complimentary colours.

You don’t need to use all of the colours in your object in large amounts. You may have an object with 8 colours and you select 4 with 1 neutral (more on how many colours you could choose further below). Perhaps you find a cushion with two of those 5 colours in it. That would be perfect, you’re not looking to find every colour in all of your decor items.

If your item has a lot of colour you could try picking a neutral, a hero colour (such as bright pink) then select 1-2 shades lighter than your hero colour (softer pinks). Then add an accent colour such as blue.

Neutral colour scheme taken from artwork
Image via tlcinteriors

Colour Psychology

There is a little secret that marketers use to draw us in. It’s called colour psychology and is defined as the study of colours in relation to human behaviour. In marketing and branding, using certain colours evokes an emotional response and influences things like buying patterns or how we perceive a particular brand.

When we walk into a room, the colours instantly make a connection and communicate a feeling. This is why the first question of how you want your space to feel is so important. If the room is too heavy and dark it might not be somewhere we want to hang out an relax for too long.

Below is my favourite graphic from Carey Jolliffe referencing the types of emotions/moods colours can evoke.

Psychology of colour graphic

Implementing your interior colour scheme

Where are the colours going to go? Decide if you would like to keep a base colour through the home, adding some different colours in various rooms. Perhaps you would like to stick to the same palette through the entire house.

If you’re after a fast and easy way to do this (certainly not the only way though), try by starting with a fairly neutral base and then add 1-2 accent colours. You can pick these colours via any of the schemes/suggestions in this article (and then some) however the easiest way would be:

  • select 2 colours next to each other on the colour wheel or
  • select 2 colours opposite each other on the wheel

You can bring these colours in through items like accessories, artwork, cushions and throws. If you’re daring you can also use colour in a bigger statement piece or of course, there’s always painting an accent wall.

Whatever your interior colour scheme (even monochrome), you should have at least three different colours to create balance and depth. So as above, you’ve started with at least one neutral then added colour with 1-2 accents. Don’t forget that one of your colours can always just be a lighter shade of another. Typically 3-5 colours in a palette is a good harmonious range, however, there really is no rule on the maximum you can have.

Modern nursery with cute wallpaper
Image via homelyaddition

Interior Styles & Trends

We haven’t even delved into style here but I know it confuses so many people. Trying to define yourself into one or even two specific styles is actually quite difficult! The key to mixing styles is to be consistent with your colour palette and you can mix any style together.

Trends can come and go so to start with, consider using smaller, less expensive pieces that are easier to swap out. This way if you change your mind, you’re not stuck with it. If it turns out you do like the trend, you can always add more of it to the room further down the track.

Boho jungle vibrant bedroom
Image via thejungalow
Relaxing living room
Image via studiogorman
Grey and white bathroom colour scheme
Image via tlcinteriors

Please do not think that you have to stick to the colour wheel schemes, they are there as a guide. If you don’t like to mix orange with your blue than try pink. I know I’ve said this so many times! But I really want to encourage you to learn, gain confidence and then use that knowledge to bend the rules. It’s then that you’ll really start to have some fun with your interior colour scheme and all of the decorating that goes along with it!

As I write this article I am about to move from my rental and into a house that I just purchased. Since it’s my own house, I now get to renovate and decorate just the way I like which is great. Now I’m off to remove the terracotta tile that’s in every single room of the house. Not even kidding, every bedroom and EVERY room. Orange really isn’t my colour and not something I can live with every day!

If you use any of the tips in this article, you should definitely share with me on Instagram or Facebook tagging @avisualmerriment. Even send me an email!

Other article/s you may like:

Interior Basics: 6 Home Decorating Tips to use in Every Room
Secrets to Styling a Cosy Home Interior
How to Tap into Your Inner Bohemian with a Beach Boho Interior

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Lauren Hill
Lauren Hill
Hello! I’m Lauren, a graphic designer, blogger and mother here at A Visual Merriment. I have a passion for interiors, design, crafts and making parties come to life!

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