How To Decorate With Colour

While I can appreciate the nuances and textures of a neutrally decorated room, colour makes me and my home feel alive.  It can be something as simple as a bright yellow vase or a baby pink cushion but a little bit of colour in a room can mean the difference between a room feeling a bit bland and something that tantalises the senses and makes me want to stick around for a while.

colour mixing

But how do you gain the confidence to decorate with colour?  There are some simple rules to using colour that will make your choices a little easier and certainly more enjoyable than slapping some paint up on the walls only to experience crushing disappointment when it doesn’t look as you’d imagined in your head.

While choosing colours for your home may be the most exciting part of decorating a room, you will need to first think about your existing furnishings and accessories.  Starting from a blank slate can also be a bit intimidating when there is so much choice out there.  So where do you start?


Colour Inspiration

My first tip is to either use or find something with multiple colours already in it that you love.  It could be a painting or a fabric or wallpaper.  Try pulling the colours from this item into the rest of your room.  You can see below how one piece of art can inspire two very different room colour schemes.  Which one would you chose?

Using Art to Inspire Room

Wardrobe Inspiration

Is there a particular colour you are drawn to?  Most of us have our favourite colours so perhaps start by looking at your wardrobe – which colours do you seem to wear again and again?  If we surround ourselves with the colours we love, we’ll be well on our way to making our home a happier place to be.

Using Fashion to Inspire Room Colour

The Colour Wheel

It may also be helpful to follow in the footsteps of many Interior Designers by consulting a colour wheel.  I have always felt just one accent colour feels a bit boring (unless you are choosing one large knockout piece – like a brightly hued sofa or a large colourful rug) so layering colour by choosing 2 or 3 that work well together is your best bet for a room where colour works successfully.

Colour Wheel

Complementary Colours sit across from each other on the colour wheel and provide your biggest contrast.  The look is generally more daring and will create more tension or drama in a room.

Primary Colour Scheme

Tonal Colours use the same colour but vary the intensity of the colour saturation throughout the space.  The look is very pulled together and purposeful.

Tonal Colour Scheme

Harmonious Colours sit near each other on the colour wheel.  This look will give you a calm, restful feeling in a space.

Harmonious Colour Scheme

Use the 60/30/10 rule

This rule refers to how much of each colour you should use in a space for visual appeal.  Two-thirds should be of a single colour – think your walls or flooring.  Many people choose a more neutral colour for these as there is so much of it but if there’s no reason to let this deter you from using something a little more bold.  Just bear in mind if you are going to use a less muted colour for your walls or flooring, the furniture and accessories should play a secondary role and so should balance out any brightness by grounding the space. Thirty percent should be from your soft furnishings or curtains.  The final 10% is where you get to have fun with an accent colour.  Remember to use an accent colour at least 3 different times within the space to really tie the colour scheme together.

In the first scheme below, sky blue is the predominant colour (60%) with pale green picked up in the chest of drawers and in the cushion (30%) and accents in dark coral in the botanical prints, the flowers and the throw (10%).

The 60 30 10 rule

In the second, white is the predominant colour (60%) with peachy coral picked up in the print and rug (30%) and accents in pale yellow (10%)

Living Room Colours


It’s a well known fact that colours have psychological effects on us.  So a bright acid yellow will make us feel alert, a soft pale green will make us feel restful and relaxed.  Think about the area in which these colours will inhabit in your home and the type of mood you wish to create within them.

Two very different moods are created in the images below.  The first in a clear, calm blue is a place for quiet contemplation.  The second, in a saturated pink, is energetic and creative.

pale blue living room

bright pink living room

Try before you buy

So you’ve chosen your colour scheme and are ready to decorate.  Time to slap some paint on the walls, right? Well, no not yet.  Instead of painting small swatches on your existing paint colour, consider instead using white cardstock and painting the colours on large pieces.  Pin these up in your space and move the painted card around the room at different times of day.  The light in your room will dictate how colours will look in your space. A southern exposure or northern exposure will do a lot to change a paint colour so you want to be sure that you like the effect the light has before you make that decision.

I hope my tips today have given you a few tools to choosing colours for your home and perhaps gave you a bit of confidence.  Have you any tips to add in choosing colours for your space?  If so, I’d love to hear from you!