Make open-concept spaces feel cozy and connected with these clever color tricks.

By Jessica Bennett
Updated June 16, 2020
Advertisement

While some prefer a unique color scheme for each space, creating a cohesive palette that stretches across rooms can help give your home a more intentional look. Linking rooms with color can also encourage better flow between spaces that are separated by closing doors. And if you can see from one room into another, such as in open floor plans or combined entry and living areas, the color relationship between those rooms affects whether your living spaces feel harmonious. Using unrelated colors in adjoining rooms can make the house feel like a disjointed series of spaces, while colors that relate to each other draw the eye from one room to the next and create visual continuity. Follow these tips to create a whole-house color scheme that blends seamlessly from one room to the next.

open-concept living area with exposed beams
Credit: David Tsay

1. Create Flow with Color

In a house with an open floor plan or one in which rooms connect through wide openings, it's even more important to choose colors that relate to each other. In this situation, the challenge is to give each room its own identity according to its function and still achieve a feeling of unity. Repeating similar colors or materials in small details, such as window treatments, fabrics, or wall decor, can help form a subtle link between spaces for an overall cohesive look.

white island and kitchen table with navy walls and brass metal chairs
Credit: Kim Cornelison

2. Use a Thread of Color Between Rooms

To give each room its own color personality while ensuring a united look, try using a single hue as a theme that runs throughout. This trick works even if you love using lots of varied colors. Just choose one color, such as white or a versatile shade like navy, that appears in the color schemes of each room. Consider choosing woodwork as your unifying element and repeat the same color or finish on baseboards, door and window frames, and molding at the ceiling.

You also can achieve a feeling of continuity by limiting your palette to two or three colors that you use in different amounts and applications throughout the house. Each color can be used in different values and intensities to produce a wide range of effects. For example, paint your lower kitchen cabinets a dark stormy gray, then choose a lighter shade of gray for the adjoining living room's walls.

Loft living room
Credit: Laurie Black

3. Define Connected Spaces with Color

Open floor plans, whether in a suburban home, a condominium, or an apartment, allow architects to maximize the feeling of space without increasing square footage. But that doesn't mean you have to paint all of the connecting spaces one color. Give each area its own personality by choosing two or three colors that work well together and use them in varying amounts (such as on walls, furniture, and accessories) from room to room.

living room looking down hallway to dining room boy in doorway
Credit: James Carriere

4. Connect Rooms with Flooring and Rugs

You can connect adjoining rooms painted in strongly contrasting colors by using flooring or area rugs that include both colors. For example, lay down a multi-color patterned runner in a hallway to bring the gap between a neutral space and a more colorful one. Remember that the wall and rug colors don't have to match exactly; one can be slightly darker or lighter than the other, and the eye will still perceive them as closely related.

Living room with wooden coffee table and white furniture
Credit: David A Land

5. Unify Colors with Trim

Painting all of the trim throughout the house the same shade of white is a simple way to create a sense of flow from room to room. White trim ensures that these spaces look connected and reinforces the effect with subliminal cues that make people feel anchored as they move through your house. Because there are so many shades of white, however, it's best to select wall colors first, then choose a white that works with all of them. A bright pure white, for example, will contrast crisply with bold colors and harmonize with softer ones.

pink-and-blue themed open-concept living room and kitchen
Credit: David Tsay

Other Color Tips for a Cohesive Color Scheme

As you select colors for each room of your house, keep in mind that light changes the appearance of any given color. If you take the same can of yellow paint and apply it to two rooms, one that receives little natural light and another that's flooded with sunshine, it will look like two different colors.

To achieve a feeling of continuity and still give each room a subtly different feeling, use this effect to your advantage. Choose two closely related hues (such as adjacent shades on a paint strip) and apply the lighter one to the sunniest space, which will help imbue it with a sunny feeling all day long. This strategy works particularly well for L-shape rooms, where one leg of the L is the living area and the other is the dining area.

Comments (1)

Anonymous
May 3, 2018
I love color and have Ann open living area of living dining and kitchen. Thanks for giving me ideas for cohesive painting!