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Color Basics in Interior Design

Color is the most important element in interior design; it can make or break a decorating project. Color is one of the least expensive and most noticeable of all decorative elements. From paint to fabric, embellishments to natural components, the options for decorating with color are limitless.

Each color creates a different mood and feeling within a room, so it’s important to gain an understanding of how color works. For some people, picking a color scheme can be a daunting experience. They worry that they may pick the wrong color and need to start the decorating project all over again.

Linking rooms with color is very important to create a living space that feels smoothly 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 a pleasing flow.

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 a pleasing way. In this situation, the challenge is to give each space its own identity according to its function and still achieve a feeling of unity.

To achieve a welcoming, relaxing ambiance in your home, it is important to choose colors that express your own personality and magnify your home’s unique elements.

Read through our guides on color below to gain an understanding of using color to your best advantage.

The descriptions and characteristics of the colors, based on a color wheel, can help you choose the right color for your room.


Color Wheel

Choosing the right color combinations is easier once you understand an important tool: The Color Wheel. Complimentary colors are clearly displayed, along with their corresponding “moods”.

There are three basic groups that comprise a color wheel. They are as follows:

• Primary Colors – The primary colors are red, blue and yellow. When used in interior decorating, they give a strong feeling to your room.
• Secondary Colors – The secondary colors are green, orange and purple. Secondary colors are made from the combination of two primary colors.
• Tertiary Colors – The tertiary colors are a combination of a primary color and the closest secondary color, for example, Red-Orange.

Color Moods

The color wheel is an important tool in choosing complimentary colors, but it’s also important to consider the mood that different colors create. Colors behave in three ways:

 Active – Active colors are warm colors such as red, orange and yellow. Warm colors tend to stand out and dominate a room’s presence.
 Passive – Passive colors are cool colors such as blue, green and purple. Using cool colors helps to create a calm atmosphere.
 Neutrals – Neutral colors are beige, brown, gray and white. Neutral colors neither activate nor calm a room. They merely act as a “canvas” to showcase other design elements.

Color Characteristics

As colors have general moods, each color has its own influence when used in decorating schemes. Consider the influence different colors have in deciding which scheme is right for you.

• Red – Symbolizes passion, empowers, stimulates, and dramatizes. Good for rooms with northern exposure.
• Orange – Stimulates appetites, conversation, and charity.
• Yellow – One of the most popular colors in kitchens, it tends to increase energy and give the room an expansive feel. Yellow is bright and cheery. Bright yellow goes well with blues. Warmer tints go great with red accent colors, or reds with a touch of black. Good for northern exposure. Keep it light and don’t over do it! Creamy yellows and warm golds make a room appear brighter and larger, lending a comfortable warmth to the room.
• Green – Encourages emotional growth, balances, refreshes. Cool and reflecting on nature, green compliments most colors. Good for rooms with southern exposure. Team up your greens with soft peach and terra cotta. Soft greens mixed with natural colors create a relaxing and restful room.
• Blue – Produces peaceful moods, relaxes. Cool, calming and restful, blue is a very popular color for bedrooms. Good for rooms with southern exposure. Goes well with accent colors of gold and terra cotta
• Purple – Comforts, spiritualizes.
• Pink – Soothes, promotes affability and affection.
• White – Purifies, energizes. White will always make a room appear larger. Consider using soft tint colors on walls and moldings which will make the room more appealing and inviting. White is a good color for making dark hallways brighter looking.
• Black – Strengthens, encourages independence.

The lighting you choose will have a significant impact on the appearance of colors. Daylight, florescent lighting, track lighting, or incandescent lighting each give a different look to colors. Be sure to check your colors in the lighting you have in your home.

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