So, you are trying to decide on a colour scheme for your home? The world of colour consultation and selection is daunting for everyone – in fact, it is a separate course all-together for interior designers! When choosing colours for your home (or other design project), it’s helpful to have a basic knowledge of colour theory.  So let’s get started!

Colour 101 – The Colour Wheel

A colour wheel holds 12 colours, divided into 3 categories: primary, secondary and tertiary and helps us identify how well each colour can blend or stand out with another.

The primary colours (think kindergarten) are red, blue and green (RBG) and they are the base for deriving the rest of the colours that we see on the colour wheel. The secondary colours are orange, purple, and green made from mixing the primary colours, and the third category of tertiary colours are the remaining six shades that are derived from mixing both primary and secondary hues.

Tip: Start choosing a colour palette for your house or room by selecting one of these colours as a jumping off point.

Adding Neutrals to Your Colours

It’s easy to create many different versions of a colour within the same family. All you need to do is combine that colour with a neutral in order to make it lighter or darker. In design, this is known as tint, shade, and tone.

Hues: hues are the outer edges of the colour wheel, which are the colours we’ve already discussed; the primaries, secondaries, and tertiaries.

Tint: adding white to any hue will result in a tint

Tones: adding grey (black + white) to a hue will give you a tone.

Shades: when you add black to a hue, you will end up with a shade.

Warm Versus Cool: “Warm” colours are those that resemble or symbolize heat, while “cool” colours are attributed to ice and cooler temperatures. For example: red, orange, yellow, and red-purple are warm colours, while blue, purple, green and blue-green are cool colours.

Tip: The best way to decide on what tint or shade you want for your home is by going to your local home improvement store and picking up a few sample colour palettes. On those handy paint swatches, you will see one colour in a variety of tints, tones, and shades – all giving a completely different mood.

Creating Your Colour Schemes

Colour schemes are the guideline for interior design and help to dictate the overall design direction of a space. Schemes can begin with an inspiration image, a piece of furniture, a paint swatch, or with a specific colour that you’ve simply wanted to have in your home.

When choosing schemes on a colour wheel, an easy way to find complimentary colours is by pulling colours from specific sections of the wheel. Depending on where you bull from, or how many colours you need, will determined the type of scheme you are incorporating into your space.

Monochromatic Colour Schemes

A monochrome colour combination is made up of different variations of a single hue. This combination consists of varying tints, shades, and tones of the chosen hue. For example: black, gray, and white, or Navy blue, royal blue, and sky blue. Monochromatic Rooms with tone-on-tone colour can result in a really sophisticated, edited look. The most important thing is to create a base using neutral colours in the room, such as painting your walls white. From there, it’s easy to incorporate contrasting bold textures, patterns, and organic elements using your monochromatic hue as you add final touches to the space.

We love to use a Monochromatic scheme for small rooms like powder rooms, and hallways, and for rooms where ‘comfort’ is the top priority.

An example of a Monochrome Colour Scheme in a Living Room
Scandinavian style, wooden furniture in a stylish, monochromatic bedroom interior with plants, gray walls and industrial elements

Analogous Colour Schemes

Analogous colour Schemes use three (or even two) colours next to each other on the colour wheel. It is usually composed of one dominant colour (usually a primary or secondary colour), then a supporting colour (a secondary or tertiary colour), and a third optional colour that is used as an accent to pop. When decorating with these colours, they often create a serene, harmonious feel. 

Our tip is to use a blue and green colour scheme in bedrooms as it brings out a more comforting and relaxing feeling; perfect for rest and rejuvenation.

A living room using an analogous Green-Yellow Colour Scheme
A living room using an analogous Green-Yellow Colour Scheme.

Complimentary Colour Schemes

Complimentary is the simplest of the colour schemes to implement. It uses two colours that sit opposite each other on the colour wheel. Typically one colour acts as the dominant shade and the other as an accent. This is why combinations like red and green, blue and orange, or yellow and purple are quite popular.

Complementary colour schemes are dynamic in rooms, since they play up each other’s intensity and strengths. One of our favourite complementary colour schemes is pairing shades of coral with blue aqua tones.

An office lobby in blue and yellow tones for a complementary colour scheme
An office lobby in blue and yellow tones for a complementary colour scheme

Triadic colour Schemes

A triad colour scheme is made up of any three colours evenly spaced on the wheel. This colour scheme creates a vivid contrast, but it’s balanced, so it feels a little less intense than a complementary colour scheme. Make it easy on the eyes by letting one colour dominate, while the other two are used to accent. If you really want to go bold, use saturated versions of all three colours, or soften the colours and incorporate plenty of neutrals.

Kids playroom using a pastel primary Colour Triadic Scheme
Kids playroom using a pastel primary Colour Triadic Scheme

Split-Complementary Colour Schemes

This color scheme uses two complementary color schemes that land right next to one another on the color wheel. This achieves the same head-turning ability as complementary color schemes but provides designers with a few more color options.

Split-Complementary Colour Schemes Example

Tetradic Colour Schemes

Also known as the double-complementary color scheme, this scheme is made up of two complementary pairs. Another name for this is “rectangular colors” because these colors can be found by creating a rectangle on the color wheel. It’s important to focus on color temperature in these schemes. Make sure to have two warm colors and two cool colors to fill the space rather than an odd number. Using an even amount of both will help bring balance to a space.

Room with black wall with colourful diamonds
Modern living room with colourful Tetradic colour scheme diamonds
Tetradic Colour Schemes Paint Powder
Tetradic Colour Schemes Paint Powder

Keep the Colour Scheme Flowing

When decorating any space, divide the colours into components of 60% of a dominant colour (walls), 30% of a secondary colour (upholstery) and 10% of an accent colour (accessories).We use this colour ratio to ensure colours are properly balanced and there’s just enough pop for interest.

Don’t forget when choosing your dominant colour to think about the psychology behind your chosen colour and how they impact your psyche in relation to interior design.To understand more about this read our blog: Psychology of Colour and How it Affects your Mood

Our final tip after selecting your colour scheme is to choose one main colour to carry throughout your home. Additional colours can be added as accents and pops when moving from one room to the next. This strategy will keep your home décor flowing and cohesive.

No one could blame you if talking about furniture, colour schemes, and décor makes your head spin. There are so many terms and ideas! Use this as a guide for your home inspiration then call us to turn inspiration into reality. Contact us today for all of your Calgary Interior Decorating needs.