Get It Right: Pick Colors That Go Together

You're ready to decorate with color. Good! But you aren't sure where to start? No problem. Follow these tips as a springboard for creating the perfect color palette for your home's decor.

Everything In This Slideshow

  • Start with a Vision

    With so many color choices available, the first step in creating a space with a dreamy color scheme is to have a general vision. Use one or two favorite inspiration pictures to steer you in a general direction, and refer to your inspiration as you make color decisions. Study the images to see which colors are used, and how. These inspiration pictures will keep you focused and get you started, but don't allow the photos to fence you in. 

  • Pick Your Mood

    Consider the overall feel and mood. Think about how you want your space to feel, knowing that color choice can easily set the mood of a space. Once you have determined a feel (fresh, cozy, moody, bright), keep this feel in the front of your mind when determining your color palette. As you make each color decision, ask yourself, "Is this color choice lending to my overall desired feel?"

  • Select 1 or 2 Base Colors

    Time to dive in! Your first step is making your core color selections. Keeping your room mood in mind, select two colors that can function as flexible background colors. These colors will be predominant in your space and will be used for your wide, sweeping surfaces that take up a lot of visual space, such as wall color, flooring, bedspread backgrounds or large upholstered furniture. Think of these base colors as the large "canvas" that you'll paint on with your accent colors.

  • Base Color Trick

    When choosing your base tones, other than pure black and white elements, they should be muted, slightly "muddy" colors. The reason for this is that slightly muddied colors work with both cool and warm tones. This gives you ultimate flexibility, so that your large surfaces will continue work throughout the years, even if your color palette changes a bit. A muted base color is so flexible, you can often change your entire color palette without having to repaint, change flooring, or change your large pieces. This keeps the space versatile for the long haul, but allows for new inspiration.

  • Start with Your Walls

    Your walls are the largest canvas in your room, and the color(s) you select for your walls will easily set a mood for your space. That is why picking a wall color is the best first step when tackling a new color palette for your space. Keep your desired mood in mind as you pick your color. If you want a cozy space, one direction would be a warm, wheat-tone grass cloth. If you want a fresh feel, try a crisp, white paint.

  • Use Swatches to Pick a Paint Color

    Watch and see how to use paint swatches like a pro when picking a wall color.

  • Choose Your Accent Colors

    Once you have a base, it is time for color fun! Accent colors are what give your space its life. These colors have a strong presence, and pop out against any background color -- they pack a punch. Selecting 2-3 colors gives your room focus. It is particularly fun to have this focus when it shopping for your "punch" color. Accent colors are perfect for accessories, art, fabrics, pillows, and focal pieces.

  • Picking Accents That Go Together

    There are two approaches that are helpful when picking accent colors that go together. One approach is to select contrasting accent colors (find colors that are opposite on the color wheel, like red and green), and the second approach is to select analogous colors (colors that are close on the color wheel, like orange and yellow, and make use of similar shades of the same color). The contrast option is great for imparting a feel of drama, fun, or high impact. The analogous option is perfect for achieving a soothing, calm, or relaxed feel.

  • Let Colors Evolve

    Once you have picked your accent colors, it is time to start branching out. You may have started with a few clear accent colors, but soon you discover that a fun new color is popping out of a fabric or accessory you are using in the room. For example, if you found a gorgeous fabric that incorporates all of your accent colors, but it also happens to contain another color, you now have a new accent color in your palette! Why not incorporate this color in a few accessories as well?

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    The Secret of Contrasts

    Using contrasting colors is a powerful design tool. Even if your room calls for an analogous color palette, any space can benefit from a few contrasting elements. If your walls are creamy white, add some pops of black around your space. If the overall palette consists of pale colors, create interest with one or two pieces that are saturated in color. Contrast makes a space come alive and keeps the eye moving around the room.

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    Break a Few Rules

    Design rules can be helpful guidelines, but they can also cause decorating paralysis if you take them as gospel. Forget rules that hinder as you mix colors within your space. Yes, brown and black can work together. Yes, you can use two different pinks that don't match exactly. Allowing yourself the freedom to play with color is a necessary part of creating beautiful and inspiring spaces.

  • 12 of 13

    Take Color to the Next Level

    Ready to up your color game? Watch and learn these secrets to success.

  • Next Slideshow Our Best Tips for Choosing and Using Color

    Our Best Tips for Choosing and Using Color

    Want to liven up a dull room with color but not sure where to start? Use these helpful tips from BHG editors, interior designers, and color pros to learn how to choose and use color to add interest to any room.
    Begin Slideshow »
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