Room color ideas – 20 masterclass lessons in choosing a clever color scheme

1. Embrace Color Theory

Color theory, which touches on color psychology, can be a complicated subject but there are a few basic principles to help steer you in the right direction. Below, Patrick O’Donnell, brand ambassador for Farrow & Ball, explains.

2. Factor In Daylight

Another key factor is light, and the best way to address this is by considering the aspect of the room. 'As a general rule, to lighten up a north-facing room, avoid anything with a green or gray base – or don’t fight it and paint it dark which creates a cozy and cocooning feel,' says Patrick.

3. Include Contrasting Colors To Create Impact

Interior designers also talk about another element which needs to come into play when introducing colorful room ideas: contrast. As a result, don’t be tempted to lean on analogous colors – those that sit side-by-side on the color wheel – the result will be broadly harmonious but might lack in vitality.

4. Base Room Color Ideas Around What You Can't Change

Another way to take the first step is to begin with what is already decided or what you can’t change, recommends interior designer and natural paint specialist Edward Bulmer.

5. Consider The Color's Weight

'A further consideration that can help is the weight of the color,' continues Edward Bulmer. 'One can get a sense of the weight of elements in the room visually and it helps to try and balance them, for instance an old oak dresser will look better with a mid, rather than a light, tone.'

6. Decorate With Strong Colors

Paint ideas are the perfect way to transform a space quickly and easily, adding personality and character to create an inspired interior, says Ruth Mottershead, creative director of Little Greene. 'Bold, vivid hues and lively tones work well in rooms that are made for entertaining, or see a lot of activity, such as kitchens and living rooms. A pop of bright, rich contrasting color is a great way to add impact and an element of surprise to an otherwise muted scheme. Alternatively, bold colors are also a great option for spaces with a lot of natural light and can be used in much bigger proportions without being "too much”.'

7. Try Color Drenching For Impact

For a strong approach, embrace the color drenching trend. This sees mid-strength tones, in just one or two very closely related colors, used to create enveloping cohesive interiors that allow color to be a focal point. It’s an approach used by interior designer Sarah Brown for the kitchen in her Chiswick home.

8. Create Surprise With Color In The Kitchen

Kitchen color ideas are a relatively new concept. Historically, says Edward Bulmer, the considerations taken into account were that the materials used were fire-proof, serviceable, sturdy and washable.

But as more and more begin to embrace bolder tones, the best bet for those who want to follow suit is to consider light and volume of the space, says Louisa Greville Williams of Vanrenan GW Designs.

9. Use Bold Hues In Bedrooms

Bedroom color ideas can be bold too, adds Camilla Clarke, creative director of Albion Nord. 'It’s easy to shy away from bold bedroom color ideas but it works wonderfully when paired with fresh white sheets and the creamy tones of a headboard and cushions,' she recommends.

10. Limit Your Room Color Ideas

Sarah Peake, founder of Studio Peake, says she likes to pick out one or two colors that anchor the room and then mix in other, complementary, colors, with the main anchor tones being the common threads that run through the scheme. You can also use pattern to ensure that even a very bold color scheme is dispersed throughout the space in a more subtle, harmonious way; for example, a plain wallpaper or paint on the walls offset by patterned cushions and soft furnishings that quietly pick up that tone.

11. Add Color With Art

Colorful art is another way to go bold. A favorite painting can be a good inspiration and art is always the starting point for any scheme by Sophie Ashby of Studio Ashby who is known for her dynamic designs that feature colors inspired by her South African roots.

12. Work With Unusual Color Pairings

Decorators and designers will often say they don’t follow rules when it comes to decorating but something that is helpful to bear in mind is that colors never need to match, color combinations for rooms just need to work together.

13. Use Room Color Ideas To Alter The Mood Of The Space

Using a more unusual color pairing in a room will alter the atmosphere in the space, explains interior decorator Nicola Harding, founder of Nicola Harding & Co. “The greater the degree of contrast there is, the more drama there is the room and when there is less contrast, the space is calmer.'

14. Pair Strong And Muted Colors

To achieve that balance, it’s helpful to bear in mind that one color can also be stronger than the other, adds Nicola. 'This should be used in the same way that you might use a stronger condiment with a meal, like mustard for instance. A fun color combo is soft pink with a mustard yellow. The mustard yellow would be like the mustard on your plate – therefore one color can be more intense as your accent whilst the other is more muted in tone.'

15. Choose Room Color Ideas By Instinct

For those who feel a headache brewing when it comes to choosing the right color combinations, take a step back and follow your instinct. ‘Whenever I choose colors I try not to overthink it,’ says the American designer and decorator Sheila Bridges who is known for a joyful use of color in her projects.

16. Design Accent Colors Into Your Decorating

'The addition of accent colors is a quick and easy way to transform a space, define an area, or highlight architectural elements,’ believes Ruth Mottershead of Little Greene. ‘If you’re lucky enough to have wonderful architectural details such as archways, mouldings or picture rails in your home, paint is the perfect way to highlight them to create a design detail. A simple pop of contrasting color on a door or skirting is a great way to add impact and an element of surprise to an otherwise muted scheme.’

17. Pick A White With A Matching Undertone

Another decorator trick when you are using a color accent in a white scheme is to bring these together by selecting a white with an undertone in the same shade, recommends the architect and designer Natalia Miyar of Natalia Miyar Atelier.

18. Break Up Bold Room Colors With Neutrals

When using strong colors in a room, you can create a balance with the accent colors you use, recommends Katharine Paravacini, founder of her own design studio. Bold walls can be complemented by accessories in punchy colors such as reds and yellows and then broken up with areas of neutral such as a carpet. 'We like adding pattern into bold schemes to add interest and depth, too,' says Katharine.

19. Introduce Color In Unexpected Places

Don't be afraid to bring in an accent color to unexpected places, says interior decorator Cortney Bishop. 'Consider applying a lively hue to a bathroom vanity or painting your interior doors or trim with a contrasting color that makes your walls stand out even more.  The transition and break in color will be more welcoming than you might think when transitioning between rooms.'

20. Use Antique Rugs As A Starting Point For A Color Scheme

You can introduce room color ideas by mixing patterns and prints in interior design – especially when decorating with rugs as a starting point. 'I often start from antique carpets and pick up the colors I would like to introduce more dominantly,' says Henriette von Stockhausen, creative director of interior design studio VSP Interiors.

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