Decorating with Color: 5 Expert Tips

Adding color to your home’s interior is about testing boundaries and pushing limits. 

The living room’s mustard yellow walls jive with the electric-blue sectional perfectly. Then you add a bright purple vase to the mix, and suddenly, you enter “outlandish” territory. 

Finding a happy medium isn’t quite about trial and error as much as understanding color schemes and the magical “potions” they combine to create. 

Don’t settle for neutral colors that rob your home of its aesthetic potential. Say goodbye to greys, beiges, and whites!

Instead, learn how to decorate with color by using our five favorite expert tips:

Choose a Color Palette

Even with HGTV programmed as the default channel on your television, nothing can shield you from making the quintessential “rookie” mistakes:

  • Throwing together any (and all) decor within a specific scheme, like an all-blue living room that looks drab, overdone, and borderline obsessive
  • Plucking decor from the shelves that look good on their own but combine to look jumbled, disorganized, or outright dizzying to guests

Unless you have a naturally artistic eye and a knack for interior design, figuring out which shades go together can seem like a mind-numbing or even impossible task.

The solution: 

Finding the right color palette.

Online programs like Color Hunt or Coolors can take the legwork out of discovering the right tones. Select a shade similar to your preferred focal point (like a vase or a painting). Or completely randomized the palette if you’re seeking inspiration.

Copy down the Hex color code, and take it to your local Home Depot when you order a new batch of paint. Don’t forget to save the accent colors on your phone for your next furniture hunting session.

When all else fails, stay within the palette!

Build Around a Focal Point

Unless you’re starting with a blank slate (a brand new construction) or want a complete room overhaul, you likely already have a focal point. That is, an item that snatches your guests’ attention as they waltz into your living room for Christmas!

The first trick:

Committing to a focal point.

To get past that elephant in the room, a focal point can be any decoration that’s even remotely eye-catching. Your preferred focal point could be an 18th-century stained glass window, trestle coffee table, or even an old-fashioned wallpaper accent wall.

Now, take a closer look at the decoration that’s inspiring your next renovation — what colors seem to draw the most attention?

With your focal point in mind, apply the 60-30-10 rule to the remainder of the room:

  • 60% will be a relatively neutral shade for the future wall colors
  • 30% should make up the larger pieces of furniture in the room
  • 10% ought to consist of the accent pieces (the finishing touches)

A white, blue, and emerald ceramic bowl could translate into crisp white walls, matching blue sofas, and an emerald green coffee table.

The closer you can match the shades, the better!

Push the Normal Boundaries

There are two very challenging aspects of redecorating:

  1. Feeling trapped in the confines of classical interior design
  2. Feeling the desperate urge to avoid color faux pas

It’s time to break through the mindset that there’s only one right way to add colors to your living space.

Crush those stereotypical boundaries by:

  • Shunning the fact that dark-colored walls are “out” for good
  • Decorating a room to your fancy, even if it doesn’t make your room feel bigger or more luxurious
  • Only adding colors, patterns, and textures when it makes sense to you
  • Skipping the relentless grey tones that have taken the industry by storm
  • Remembering this is the space you’ll live in 24/7, not the judgmental folks on Pinterest or Instagram

Think about this:

Just 50 years ago, wood paneling everywhere was the cliche mark of a cozy abode. Not two decades ago, faux antlers on the wall stole the show.

No matter how urgently you try to fit in with the current trends, many will become outdated within 5-10 years. It might not be in right now, but it could be next year!

Learn What Colors “Say”

Painting your kitchen neon orange or purchasing a dandelion bedroom comforter could stem from little more than your personal taste. However, as the era between your last art class and today continue to broaden, there’s one thing you forget:

Colors describe emotions.

Before you overhaul an entire room or floor based on what’s “hot” in today’s market, think about what you want each room to say. For example:

  • Red means love and passion, making it a more logical choice for a bedroom than a dining room.
  • Orange stands for energy, the same thing you crave while crushing through a workout in your home gym.
  • Yellow represents happiness and joy; a great way to begin the day as you sit down for a hearty breakfast. 
  • Green screams “harmony,” turning a typically hectic living room into the perfect post-work cool-down zone.
  • Blue denotes strength (not just sadness), with certain shades complementing an office space ideally.
  • Purple carries a sense of wealth and royalty, making this scheme ideal if you crave status and respect (like in an entryway).

It might help to think about how you plan to use each room. For example, if you have a spare bedroom that would make an incredible home office, cobalt-colored paint could deliver an air of confidence while you work!

Look Past the Usual Decor

The biggest mistake we make while decorating our homes (or apartments) is overlooking the importance of color. “Color” goes far beyond the paint on your kitchen walls, also including things like:

  • Lamps and light fixtures
  • Rugs or carpeting
  • Paintings and artwork
  • Throw pillows
  • Wallpaper
  • Centerpieces and standard decor
  • Doors and window sills

As you set work decorating in your chosen color scheme, consider every item that’ll be on immediate display. Your guest bedroom might look perfect at first glance, but a gold-colored flower pot might clash with the rest of the theme.

Before you add anything new, no matter how small, consider how it could impact the entire room. Don’t overlook adding a few neutral tones and pieces to reduce the frenzy of brightly colored decorations!

Conclusion

No matter where your color decorating plans take you, understand that the classic “rules” of interior design aren’t mandatory.

Maroon cabinets? Go for it.

A chestnut china cabinet? Have at it.

Coral carpet? Why not?

All of these things together in one room? With a little tinkering, sure.

Every piece of furniture and paint shade out there has unlimited matching opportunities. All it takes is the right accent pieces, color palette, and fabrics to turn a clashing, drab bedroom into an unforgettable, cozy oasis.

Author Bio:

Adam Marshall is a freelance writer specializing in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Paramount 3800 to help them with their online marketing.

Christophe Rude
Christophe Rude
Articles: 15875