Choosing colours is not as simple as it seems

Choosing colours is not as simple as it seems

Have you ever picked a paint colour to find that it didn’t turn out to be anything like you expected, once it was on your walls?  There is quite a nuanced art to picking colour and many factors come into play…

Your personality

Is your closet full of black, white and grey?  Or is it packed with bright pinks, oranges and reds?  This is the first clue to your colour personality. 

How you want to feel in the room

Do you have a hectic lifestyle and you want a place of peace and serenity?  Or perhaps you love the tropics and want to feel permanently on vacation.  Colour plays a strong factor impacting the ambiance of a room

Is there anything more relaxing than staring at the ocean?

Direction that the room faces

The direction a room faces impacts the amount of light it receives.  And without light, there is no colour.  A north facing room needs warm colours and a south facing room can handle cool colours.  But which is which?  Can grey be warm?

Time of day that you use the room

If you have a nook which you only use to eat your breakfast, perhaps you want a sunny colour that’s going to wake you up.  In your bedroom, you may want softer, more soothing colours to lull you to sleep.

What's outside the window?

Is it a solid green lawn outside?  Believe it or not, that green will impact how your eye reads the colour inside your room.

Look to nature for inspiration

Not sure if two colours go together – look to all the combinations in nature.  A bird’s plumage, a flower’s petals, the various blues and greys of the ocean… If it works in nature, it will work in your home.

The roof of this barn informed the colour choices at our cottage. Click on the photo to see how it turned out.

The size of the room

A long narrow room needs a darker colour on the narrow wall to make the whole room seem more balanced.  A small powder room can be dramatic with a bold paint colour.  A small room could use a dose of brightness.  Colour can be used to fool the eye to make a large room feel cozy and a small room feel expansive.

how much of a good thing is too much?

While there are no hard and fast rules in design, there are guidelines that have stood the test of time.  One such guideline is no more than five colours in a room.


A colour should be repeated at least three times in a room.  This allows the eye to travel around and it creates a sense of balance.  Accents such as pillows, art, plants, even tissue boxes all come in to play.

The navy from the door is repeated on the pillow, ottoman and in the rug. The grey from the lampshade is repeated on the sofa, the floor and the rug.

Colour schemes

  • Analogous - groups of three colours that are next to each other on the colour wheel such as green, blue-green and blue
  • Monochromatic - a single base colour (hue) that is extended using the tints, tones and shades of the same colour. A tint is adding white, a tone is adding black and a shade is adding grey
  • Complementary - opposites on the colour wheel such as blue and orange
  • Split complementary - the two colours adjacent to the complementary colour such as blue with red-orange and yellow-orange
  • Triad - colours are evenly spaced around the colour wheel

Dominate and accent colours

You can’t use all your colours with equal weight.  Pick one dominant colour and use the rest as accents.  You can repeat this throughout your home but switch up which colour is dominate and which are the accents.  This creates repetition and harmony throughout the entire space.

Putting it into practice

If you want to read how I put this all into practice at our cottage, click here.

Is this all too overwhelming?

Get in touch and we can discuss how I can help you.

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