When we discuss bright colors in home design, sometimes people think about the 1960’s. Psychedelic colors, tie-dye and more were popular, but that’s not what we’re in a rush to return to. Since the 60’s, color has become less trendy. The 70s avocado green and burnt orange didn’t necessarily do the idea much favor either. Earth tones were made popular during 70s design, and since then it’s become even more toned down. Spa-inspired relaxation rooms, neutral beiges, grays, or “greige” have taken over much of design. A push for minimalism in the early 2000’s led to a lot less color in design as natural light wood mixed with white reigned.
The days to add color have returned!
We’re seeing a return to the beautiful middle ground, with accents of color smartly alongside neutrals. Often we can do this in versatile ways that allow plenty of flexibility for seasonal or refreshing changes with little effort. Especially if your home has a neutral palette currently, adding elements with color will likely bring you a lot of joy in your home. If you’ve ever been in a room and just feel like it’s somehow incomplete or even boring, it could be that you’re simply missing some color!
Ready to add some color? Let’s go over some ideas!
Image via The Spruce / Wenjia Tang
How to Choose a Color Palette
Before we get into where to add color, let’s talk about choosing colors! Already own a beautiful piece of art? Maybe a rug or piece of furniture you love? Work around that as your base. Especially if that piece is large, it’s already a dominate color so that makes it easy! If you are in a world of neutrals, aim for what you want the room to feel like. Is this a relaxing space? Intimate? A bedroom, or your master bathroom may want to feel soothing and calming. For a kitchen, playroom, or family room, we want to look for colors that bring energy, warmth, or energy.
If you’re aiming for relaxing, check out our blog The Psychology of Calming Colors for a more in-depth look at the use of different colors.
This matters when it comes to selecting light fixtures and light bulbs too! You don’t want to design a relaxing bedroom, only to have harsh lighting ruin the feel. Amber-hued lights belong in relaxation rooms, whereas bright daylight or “bright white” bulbs are going to be stimulating and best for offices or kitchens.
Whatever main color you choose and the feeling you aim for, there’s a couple loose rules to help you choose accents. Your main color should make up about 60% of your design. A secondary color, 30%, and the accent color only 10%. This is the design 60-30-10 rule. Often your walls will be the 60%, which leaves your colorful artwork or rug as your 30 or 10. If you have a brightly colored couch with multiple colors, you can even take the accent color from that as your 10% and your selection is already made!
If you’re aiming for a relaxing space, analogous colors will help. This means colors next to each other on the color wheel. Purple is next to blue. Green is next to yellow. For energetic rooms, look straight across the color wheel! Purple and yellow. Green and red. Blue and orange. Though really, all rules are meant to be broken. If you like it and feel it goes together well and embodies the feeling you want for your space, then it’s the right choice for you. After all, you’re the one living there!
Some tried and true combinations:
Green, brown, and cream/beige. For a relaxing, calming, and soothing space you can’t beat this spa feel. Just keep the hues of each color consistent, and you’re going to have a warm and inviting space with ease with this combination.
Lilac, green, and warm brown. Think cactus with this green. This color combination has a rustic, southwestern feel. It’s warm, but without the blatant nature inspiration of the former combination.
Black, white, and COLOR. If you really want to make a strong impact, or love a very bright or even neon color, go for black and white. Think pink, orange, green, cyan… whatever you’d like! This can be a really strict color palette, but if you have a favorite color you want to surround yourself in, this will do it. This can also be done in a really relaxing way, but we’ll show that below.
Blue, white, tan/brown. If you want an easy relaxation feel, this is another great choice. Coastal designs rely on these colors! The blues can vary from very green-based, deep navy, or even pastel. Just pick one and add in your natural elements like wicker and wood, and you have an easy beachy design.
Don’t feel restricted by your color palette!
These are suggestions, and jumping off points. By all means, venture outside these rules as you see fit! Overly matchy-matchy rooms can feel strange or forced. Pick your three colors, but don’t be afraid to add things that feel right to you. We’ll show you below how you can use more than three beautifully!
Patterns and Wallpaper Full of Color
Ready to break all the rules we talked about? Check out this amazing wallpaper from one of our clients! It’s filled with green, brown, yellow, and even orange. It’s a busy wallpaper, which means we pull a few select colors from it and limiting patterns elsewhere. You can see the natural shades we added that pull from the nature theme and browns. Then we layered white drapes with a simple blue edge banding. This room’s carpet is plush and white, which adds to the soft feel and keeps the pattern from becoming overwhelming. The home owner added a plush, soft white chair, with a dark blue throw and burnt orange accent pillow to tie the design together.
Calming Black, White, and Blue
Adding throw pillows and rugs is possibly the easiest way for us to add some color to a space! You don’t even need any paint for these easy option. You can see in this living room with a very peaceful view, the overall feel is relaxation. That comes from the view itself, of course. But also the selection of black, white, and dark blue. The rugs and accent pillows lighten up the dark furniture and floor. This is a good example of how black, white, and color doesn’t have to be harsh.
You can also match your draperies or window coverings to these items. They aren’t as easy to change out, but they’ll help tie in your whole design and windows matter, along with your natural light. Whether you pull one color from the room, like these black shades with the accent wall, it’s not overwhelming and adds class and a good finish.
Softness with Color & Texture
Here’s another great example of using a couple accent colors instead of one in an otherwise black/grey and white room. Since the yellow and pink are lighter shades but about equal in saturation, it works well as a color palette. It’s that break in the three-color rule we mentioned, but with forethought. Clean, modern, but certainly not boring! Clearly it’s a warm, cozy space. The visibly plush rug and furniture add softness to what otherwise could have been a harsh space. Imagine if those had been black metal chairs, and the rug were missing? You can see how even the material, and the way it feels when you look at it, plays into the room’s feel.
Modern Style with More than Three Colors
This room is almost exclusively white – from the walls, floor, ceiling, and even draperies. However the secondary color (60/30/10, remember?) is clearly the dark blue. Unlike the room above with blue, black, and white, this room becomes more exciting because of the addition of the warm wood and warm yellow accent pillows and chair. There’s even black in the table and lighting fixture to add some more contrast and modern appeal. Swap the yellow for brown, and the black for wood, and this room instantly changes into a natural themed, relaxing room instead. See how easy it can be?
Exciting Architecture Doesn’t Need Much Else
This client’s large windows with arched tops, matched with an arched top centerpiece painting was a beautiful project to work on. Built in shelving, a beautiful mantlepiece, decorative stair railings – the shapes in this home’s architecture are exciting all by themselves. Their entire color theme is natural and peaceful, but also quite intentional and elegant. The nature-feel is apparent in everything from the painting itself, to the wood tables and railings, matched with a warm brown in different shades on the walls. Dark colors are minimal but used well, both in the furniture and even the ties on the draperies. Tiny hints of extra color, in the yellow or pink flowers, and the blue on the painting, add interest to this design. It’s a wonderful example of using a calm palette that is still far from boring thanks in part to the architecture.
If your home already has a lot of visual accents like this one, you’re in luck. Too much color or bright patterns could be overwhelming. Instead, play off your beautiful home!
We hope we’ve given you some ideas for your home!
You’ll find plenty of guides that give exact rules. This clearly isn’t one of them, because design is personal. When we work with our clients, we care about their style, taste, and unique home, instead of set rules. You should do what feels and looks best to you personally, rather than what a designer tells you is right. Knowing basics can help you get started, or even know where to start, but ultimately this is your home, your space, and your tastes. As long as it feels and looks right to you, you’ve done good.
If you need a little guidance, please feel free to reach out to us! We’re happy to help you design window coverings and upholstery to add a beautiful finish to your space.