The monochromatic, or one-color, palette is the easiest way to create a clean-looking and calming environment. However, it's difficult for most people to achieve this highly edited look. The most common color for a modern scheme is white, but it can be any hue -- gray, tan, blue, or red. The trick is to pick one hue that you can live with in large doses, day in and day out. Then choose wall paint, flooring, and furnishings that lie in that color band. The shades can vary as much as you like, from pale to dark. For interest, work in various textures and surfaces, such as slick, glossy woodwork, nubby carpeting, and rough linen upholstery. Any deviation from the palette makes a powerful statement. In the case of this dining area, a large painting boldly pops to attention within the nougat-white space. You could achieve the same sense of drama with a bright accent pillow or a boldly painted piece of furniture. Keep the look modern by maintaining clean lines and simplicity.
Most modern color schemes mix hues together. Earth tones offer a subtle, organic backdrop that suits the sophisticated aspirations of a modern room. These hues have undertones of brown or gray or black, and they are derived from the natural environment. Other natural elements, such as stained wood furniture, natural fiber rugs, woven baskets, and artful pottery are at home in these schemes. In this living room, a sofa with charcoal upholstery melds easily with the espresso-stained kitchen peninsula, a sisal rug, and chairs the color of newly grown tree leaves.
Another melting pot palette for modern interiors comes from international influences and typically includes bright hues. These lively spaces feature colors that may be inspired by a Chinese silk tapestry, a Moroccan lantern, or an Afghan rug. The result is saturated tones with depth and intensity. A worldly palette can exist in any decorating style, but in modern interiors, the rich colors are paired with minimalist collections, spare architecture, and clean-lined furnishings designed to highlight the artifacts. In this living room, salmon-pink pillows are balanced by deep cerulean in the vases, silk chair cushion, and upholstery. One more dash of equal-value color comes in the curry orange throw draped over the chair.
Modern Meets Vintage
Often, a modern interior looks to the past. The furnishings, collectibles, or accessories from another era spark the color palette for the space. Every period in time has distinctive colors, which you can choose to replicate accurately, or update with newer, more contemporary tints. For example, you may collect Victorian glassware, so your kitchen could be done in the same jewel-tone ambers, purples, and greens. In this living room, mid-century lamps with happy yellow bases kick off a palette that combines period leathers and wood tones with velvet upholstery in an oh-so-current peacock blue.
Sometimes artwork serves as a catalyst for a modern color palette. The source for inspiration for this small, comfortable living room comes from the poster-size photograph over the sofa. The bright orange paint on the bicycles spurred pillow choices and two leather-covered storage cubes in the same punchy color. A striped rug incorporates the orange, as well as the photo's sky blue and sandy tan hues. Neutral slipcovers and upholstery recede into the background, so the art -- and the accents it inspired -- can take center stage.