Spin the Color Wheel for Interior Design

woman painting wall blue

Need help putting colors together? My best tip is to spend five dollars at the paint store or craft store and buy yourself a color wheel. It is an easy-to-use tool for putting colors together.

Complementary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel and we all know that “opposites attract.” Therefore, you can combine reds and greens, yellows and violets, and oranges and blues. You need not choose the pure colors of these hues (another name for color), but go ahead and choose the tints (where white is added), tones (grey added), and shades (black added) to combine, for example, rose and sage, cranberry and wintergreen, pale yellow and lilac, daffodil and eggplant, peach and baby blue, or tangerine and cobalt.  You get the best results with complementary colors when you use 75% of one and 25% of the other.

Colors next to each other on the color wheel, called analogous colors, are “good neighbors” which play well together, too. Try pairing reds and oranges, oranges and yellows, yellows and greens, greens and blues, blues and violets, and reds and violets. Again, this holds true for all the values – lightness or darkness – of these colors. Let one color dominate and choose the same intensity – brightness or lightness – of the color. In other words, do not pair a bold raspberry with a mellow celery green.

Want more than two colors?  Mix complementary or analogous colors with a neutral white, black, or most beiges, browns, metallics, and greys. Or go back to the color wheel for triad options – three hues evenly spaced from each other on the wheel. For example, yellow-orange, blue-green, and red-violet. It is best to purchase a real color wheel than try and follow some of these combinations in a book or online because the wheel rotates and the triads are clearly mapped out. 

My favorite combination for three colors follows the formula 60-30-10. Choose one key color and spread it around 60% of the room (some combination of wall, furniture, window treatments, and flooring color adding up to this number or close to it), a second color for 30%, and that final 10% is the pop or wow-factor color.

These tried and true palettes apply to many arenas like arts and crafts, fashion, and marketing, to name a few. 

In closing, you will find a lot more terminology and mixology on the color wheel. Give it a spin. 

With many satisfied clients since 2008, Barbara Graceffa owns and operates Secretary of the Interior in Quincy, MA offering decorating services at reasonable rates. If you want to suggest a blog topic or have a decorating, downsizing/decluttering or home staging project needing professional help or are interested in hosting a workshop or quilt show, please contact her via her website www.sec-interior.com or phone 617.921.6033.

By Barbara Graceffa

Barbara Graceffa, CEO of Secretary of the Interior, serves decorating clients; assists with professional organizing, home staging and moving assistance; teaches on these subjects; and delivers quilt lectures and trunk shows.

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