Color PaletteOne of the more pleasurable aspects of interior design is choosing the color palette of the house, room by room. Some people are nervous about which colors to choose for their home because they are not experts in color design. The good news is that they don’t have to be. Homeowners simply need to know what color does. Then, they need to know what to do with it.

What Color Can Do

One thing color can do is trick the eye. A room that is small and doesn’t get enough natural light can be made to look lighter and brighter if it is decorated in pale, white or cool colors such as light blue or light green. If the room is a little bit too big, it can be made cozier by warm or dark colors such as brown. A room that seems uncomfortably longer than its wide can be made to look square simply by painting the walls bright yellow. This actually makes the length of the room look shorter than it is.

In other words, a person should think of the color scheme of a room the way they think of the color scheme of their wardrobe. Light colors make a person look larger, and dark colors make a person look smaller.

A person who lives in a tiny apartment can make it look more spacious by choosing a color scheme that has only two or three cool colors that are repeated in the elements around the apartment, from sofa cushions to appliances to wallpaper. This creates a sense of flow that lets the resident and their guests move from one part of the apartment to another without being aware of boundaries or walls.

Color as Temperature

Color can even make people think that the temperature of a room is warmer or cooler than it is. This might be a drawback for a place like a bathroom, which is traditionally full of shiny, cold-looking surfaces such as glazed tile and chrome. A predominantly white bathroom can make the place look clinical and chilly. To soften and warm up this look, some decorators suggest painting the walls pink or a warmer shade of yellow.
On the other hand, some homeowners like the clinical look of a mostly white bathroom, for it makes the user think the room is rigorously hygienic.

Color to Conceal, Color to Emphasize

A creative color palette not only changes the perception of a room’s size and temperature but can be used to emphasize or conceal aspects of a space. An unappealing piece of furniture can be upholstered or painted in a color that matches the color of the wall. This can cause it to nearly disappear. The same is true of a pipe or an ugly radiator. On the other hand, a homeowner who has an element in a room that they want to stand out should paint or upholster it a contrasting color.

Putting Colors Together

Colors in a room stand out more if they are not of equal proportions. The major color should take up about two thirds of the room, so should cover the walls, the ceiling and much of the floor. The secondary color is used for furniture and draperies. Accent colors draw the eye and give the room a finishing touch.

Color and Light

The exposure of the room to natural light is also a factor in choosing the color scheme. Cool colors look best in rooms with sunny exposures, and warm tones give a lift to rooms with northern exposures. The homeowner should consider how the natural light changes over the course of the day, which means windows and skylights need to be taken into account. The artificial light in the room can also change the intensity of a color.


One fun thing to do is to gather swatches of color, and place them against each other see how they contrast or complement each other. Study them in both natural and artificial light. Another enjoyable line of research is to clip photographs from home decorating magazines or save photos on the computer. Since there are so many pictures of fabulous looking dining rooms, living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens, the homeowner should only pick those that they find irresistible.

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