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Decorating Color Schemes

By Jill Black

A change of color is one of the most exciting ways to transform a room. When decorating picking a color scheme can be a daunting experience. Many people feel out of their depth and worry that they may pick the wrong color and need to start the decorating project all over again.

For many people the starting point for a color scheme is likely to come from something you already own such as a sofa, rug or perhaps a favorite painting.

Color is all around us and we only need to look to nature as a source of inspiration. The visually appealing organic hues of nature are currently a very popular color trend. Think of the brilliant color hues of a sunset or sunrise, the colors of the rainbow, flowers, trees, the mountains and deserts. These colors all provide a color palette ready for use in your own decorating schemes. Different colors will have a different impact according the characteristics of your space. Views outside the home often have an influence on the way a room appears. For example, if you live by the sea decorating with sandy pale tones or pale blues and greens creates an expansive feeling of merging with the colors outside the room.

Color Basics

Color is classified and organized on what is known as the Color Wheel. Choosing color combinations is easier once you understand the the color wheel. The color wheel determines what colors are complimentary to each other. Colors that are opposite on the color wheel are always perfectly balanced. The secret to everything is BALANCE and the color wheel helps us sort things systematically.

There are three basic groups that comprise a color wheel. They are as follows:

Primary Colors

The primary colors are Red Yellow Blue and when used in decorating color schemes offer a strong feeling to your room.

Each of these three colors must come from nature and are of primary importance.

It is from these three colors that all the other colours are derived. Primary colors cannot be mixed by blending the other two colors together.

Secondary Colors

Secondary colors are made by combining a primary color with a neighboring secondary primary color on the Color Wheel.

The three secondary colors are Orange Green Purple.

* Orange is made by mixing red and yellow. A variety of oranges can be made depending on how much red and yellow you choose to use. 

* Green is made by mixing blue and yellow.

* Violet is made by mixing of red and blue

Tertiary Colors

The tertiary colors are the combination of a primary color and the closet secondary color. The six tertiary colors are:

Red-orange, yellow-orange, red-violet, blue-violet, blue-green, yellow-green.

For example: yellow-orange is made by mixing the primary yellow with its neighboring secondary color orange.

Even though the color wheel is an important tool in choosing complimenting colors we must also consider the mood that the colors emit and create.

Cool Colors

Cool colors have the appearance of receding (being further away) and work well in small narrow rooms giving the appearance that the room is a more generous size than it actually is. Cool colors can be used to make a low ceiling appear higher. Human emotion can detect the effects of cool colors by evoking a sense of cool, tranquil relief. Sea Green, Violet, Blue, light blue and cyan are all cool colors.

Warm Colors

Warm colors tend to advance (appear closer) and dominate a rooms presence. Warm colors are a good choice for large uninviting rooms that you want to make appear more inviting and welcoming. Warm colors are psychologically associated with happiness and comfort and produce warm, inviting and cozy feelings. Like the colors of the flames of a cozy winter fire or the warm orange of terracotta. Red Orange Yellow magenta and  yellow-green are all warm colors


Some colors are referred to as being neutral. Neutral colors include beige, brown, gray and white and are neither activate or calm in a room. They merely act as a combination between warm and cool colors.

Color Families

Colors can be termed by how they are grouped together with decorating schemes falling into one of the following color families - Monochromatic, Analogous (harmonious) or Complimentary (contrasting).

Monochromatic (single color) combinations

Monochromatic means one single color (mono=one). Monochromatic schemes are one of the easiest to put together. Different shades, tones and tints of the same color can be used to give the impression of different colors and provide variety and interest. A single color is considered unified, peaceful and harmonious. Single colors are effective for establishing an overall mood and tying things together but are considered dull because of the lack of color variation. Single colors can be lightened by adding white also known as a "tint" or darkened by adding black known as a "shade". Monochromatic schemes are enhanced by the use of texture and are best suited for small or fragmented spaces.

Analogous (side-by-side) combinations

The analogous combination are colors that are side-by side on the color wheel. Analogous combinations are versatile and eye catching. This scheme uses two to three related colors next to each other on the color wheel to create visual appeal. The color is often a dominant color while the other is an accent color. The wide selection of possible combinations makes this a versatile scheme to use. For example: A selection of purples and blues or oranges and reds can be used to create this scheme. The similarity of the related colors makes the scheme harmonious. However, the use of more than three colors can dilute the overall effect on this scheme.

Complimentary (opposite) combinations

Also called Contrasting colors. Complimentary colors are opposite in the color spectrum or a warm color will be combined with a cool color to create some interesting combinations For example yellow and purple, red and green, blue and orange. They are generally found to be visually pleasing to most people.

Color Characteristics

Color effects how we feel and react just as much as the way something looks and each color has its own mood and influence in decorating color schemes.

Red - Symbolizes passion, empowers, stimulates, warms, dramatizes, promotes movement and activity. Red is often used in halls, play rooms and dining rooms. Red makes rooms look smaller.

Orange - Stimulates appetites, conversation, charity, warm, cheerful and lively. A good choice for highly active and social areas such as kitchens, play rooms and family rooms.

Yellow - Increases energy, expands, adds a fresh lively feel to the room. Yellow is often used in kitchens, living, family and dining rooms.

Green - Encourages emotional growth, balances, refreshes, cooling, calming, tranquil. Often used as a neutral shade to bind different colors, as they do in nature. Often used in kitchens, bedrooms, study and in hot rooms.

Blue - Produces peaceful moods, relaxes, enlarges, cools, soothes. Useful for hot or highly active rooms, small rooms, and often used in bedrooms and nurseries for its relaxing sedative quality.

Brown - Nurturing, safe, earthy. Often used as an accent color.

White - Purifies, energizes, cooling, airy, clean. Often used as an accent color, in hot sunny rooms and kitchens.

Color selection is an important element that effects people emotionally and mentally on the subconscious level. Note color combinations you find naturally occurring in nature that you find pleasing to the eye. Also look at the colors other people have used and ask yourself what it is you find appealing about them or what you don't like about them and you will soon get a feel for color and color combinations for your own decorating schemes.

Jill is the owner of Netwrite-Publish Home and Garden. For more ideas visit today.  


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