Interior design color theory & paint selection

interior design color palette

Selecting the right interior design colors may seem like a relatively small decision in the grand scheme of things, especially if you’re also choosing counters, cabinets, hardware, light fixtures and all the other elements that make up a room. However, paint colors are often the first thing the eye notices. Be it the walls, cabinets, ceiling or trim, choosing your colors wisely will help ensure that the finished design meets your expectations.

What Is Color Theory?

Color theory is the study of hues and how they work together, or against each other, within a room. It’s important to remember that colors don’t just impact how a room looks. Colors are powerful and are able to influence energy, mood and emotions in interesting ways.

In interior design, color theory is extremely important as it helps inform your room’s color palette to ensure an end result that looks harmonious and flows from one element to the next.

Understanding The Color Wheel

color palette

The color wheel helps people visualize the concepts. The color wheel displays the following:

  • Primary Hues: Red, yellow and blue.
  • Secondary Hues: Mixtures of the primary colors (i.e., green, orange, purple, etc.).
  • Tertiary Hues: Mixtures of one primary and one secondary color. 

How to Choose Paint Colors

color paint

Paint colors should coincide with the colors, textures, and patterns of fabrics and other objects and elements within a room. Moreover, a given room should “flow” with the rest of the home, ensuring that all the rooms have similar and cohesive decorating schemes so there are no jarring transitions as you walk through the house. 

Choose a Harmony

color tones

Six popular color harmonies have been identified to help you pair colors on the wheel accordingly. They are:

  • Monochromatic: Take a single color and break it out into different values (i.e., dark blue, pale blue, bright blue, etc.) 
  • Analogous: Take a small grouping of colors that are next to each other on the color wheel.
  • Complementary: Choose two hues directly opposite each other on the color wheel.
  • Split-Complementary: Choose a color and then two hues on either side of its complementary color.
  • Triadic: Choose three colors that are equidistant from each other on the wheel.
  • Tetradic: Choose two pairs of complementary colors, also known as “double-complementary” harmonies.

Before moving forward with any of these harmonies, be sure you look for visual examples from rooms similar to your own.

Choose a Temperature

color palette temperature

In general, hues are considered either “warm” or “cool.” We often call these temperatures tones, although this is technically incorrect. What’s important is knowing the difference between warm and cool hues:

  • Warm hues include red, pink, orange and yellow
  • Cool hues include blue, indigo, purple and green

Don’t think that you have to go with strictly warm or strictly cool. You can blend temperatures to get rich hues, like plum. 

Tailor Paint to Your Personality

Personalized color selection

Above all, while color theory can provide guidance for your interior design color selection, be sure any color you choose matches your personality. You can also study the psychology of colors and how they can make you feel to help you make a selection that fits the room at hand and your home overall.

Feel free to contact us to learn more and we will help you select the right color palette for your home.