Design Rules: Color

This has to be most everyone’s favorite, and yet most feared, design area:  COLOR!!  Now, we know we’re partial to white rooms and neutrals galore, but really, anyone who loves design can appreciate a room with great color.  So let’s dive right in and look at a few basic rules on how to use and combine color to create a beautiful space.

Color preference starts very early in life, and honestly, we all have some colors we really just hate.  But this isn’t about what you like and what you don’t like, this is about what works.

So first, a refresher.  Remember how the last “Design Rules” post was all about light?  Well, color, when taken at it’s most simple principle, is all about light as well.  The way a color looks dramatically depending on its orientation to the sun, as well as its geographic location.  Rooms facing south or west tend to receive warmer light and thus can handle cooler colors better.  The inverse is true for east or north facing rooms, which tend to receive cooler light from the sun.  However, even if your room is facing south or west, if the weather tends to be rainy or overcast, like Seattle or London, you might consider picking a more neutral color palette, to help restore a little warmth that the weather takes away.

This cool blue feels soothing without being too cold because of the warm light streaming in from a window.

Another major component to factor in when choosing a color palette is the function of the space.  The general rule is that more saturated or brighter colors suite rooms and areas that don’t get as much use as high function rooms, while cooler, paler colors are more pleasing in busy rooms.  This is why we tend to use accent colors to bring small doses of bright color into busy rooms.

While saturated yellow and hot pink are too intense for a whole room, they do wonders to modernize this gray room by injecting some energy into it!

And what color lesson would be complete without talking about complementary colors. The general rule is that one should never pair contrasting colors together at the same intensity in the same room.  Why?  Well because this tends to mess with our perception of each color and makes them look much more harsh than they are.  The solution to this?  Pairing contrasting colors, like blue and yellow, at different values and intensities.  Value refers to how light or dark a color is, essentially it means the amount of white in a color.  Intensity can be thought of as saturation, with colors that are high intensity being bright and vibrant, while colors with low intensity are more grayed out.

Think of how stylish mint and peachy pink look together…that’s because they’re toned down versions of red and green aka complementary colors!

You can also pair colors based on tonality – a palette with colors of the same hue but varying intensities.

Tonal and lovely.

We also don’t want to leave out how color affects mood, but as you might’ve guessed from reading the bit about colors that suite certain functions, there is a bit of an overarching rule for color and mood.  Bright warm colors like red, orange and yellow are energizing and dramatic.  On the other hand, cool colors like blue, green, and purple tend to soothe and relax us.  This is why we lean towards energizing yellows for kitchens and pale blues for bathrooms.

Bright and invigorating, this kitchen will help you get through those chores in no time!

We could devote an entire website to color moods and the best ways to use certain colors, but for now these quick hits should get you through most color dilemmas.  Take a look at some of your favorite rooms and I bet you can identify some of these color “rules” at work.

Let us know what you think!  We love hearing from you 🙂


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About Rachel Meyer

Free spirited and eclectic, my design style is always evolving. I recently graduated from The University of Texas's Interior Design program and am figuring things out as I go. I have a passion for personality and love a deep discussion of life, the universe, and everything. Philip K. Dick novels and YouTube comedians are my trivia specialties, so if you're ever in need of a teammate at Flying Saucer, I'm your girl.

4 thoughts on “Design Rules: Color

  1. Pingback: Valspar introduces Reserve with Hydrochroma Technology | Maureen Stevens

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