Decorating is, in a word, a blast. We know y’all feel the same, or you’d probably be checking out the news on the Huffington Post or videos of golden retrievers chasing televised tennis balls right now. Something else we all seem to feel the same about: creating a color palette for a room is one of the most exciting parts of redecorating, but it can also be intimidating. What if that vibrant red we went ga-ga over in the paint store looks more like it belongs on emergency-exit sign than on our living room walls? What if those fun, tropical accents feel more Candy Land than Caymans when grouped with our furniture and textiles? What if we just can’t figure out a way to tie together our highlight pieces with that amazing shade of bluish lavender we saw on the pages of Marie Claire Maison?
While it’s tempting to jump on hues that speak to us from the pages of a magazine or from the endless stacks of paint chips in Home Depot, this is rarely the best approach for developing a color palette you’ll want to chill out (or work out) in day after day. Colors influence mood, productivity, and even behavior, especially in kids, so it’s worth putting in the effort to create the ideal decorating palette for your room.
Today we’re take the stress out of crafting a color scheme, and Annie has four easy steps to palette perfection:
1. Get touchy-feely. Determine what kind of ambience you want the room to have—light and ethereal, energetic and stimulating, romantic and relaxing, for instance—and home in on colors that evoke those moods. For example, one of Annie’s favorite colors is bright fuchsia, but because it’s such a punchy hue, she rarely uses it in her bedroom; instead she’ll use less saturated pinks, like rose and coral, in the bedroom, and save fuchsia for the living room or home office.
2. Choose a focal point. For Annie, this is often an interesting area rug, a piece of furniture or wall art, or a favorite antique. She usually pinpoints her initial color, a secondary color, and one or two accent colors from this item. For a neutral scheme, which will make the focal point stand out even more, choose an initial neutral color either from the focal object itself or a “blank slate” neutral like white, sand, or dove grey. For a bolder room palette, go with what speaks to you, and choose your favorite color from the focal object.
3. See what’s next door. Continuity between rooms is important, so take a look at the room adjacent to the one you’re redecorating. Can you use a lighter or darker shade of the same color on the walls? Or can you find a color with a similar undertone to the one in the adjacent room? You can also reverse the color scheme from the adjacent room—for example, if your dining room has sky blue walls and chocolate brown furniture, you could paint the living room walls chocolate brown and pick up a sofa upholstered in sky, with armchairs featuring a pattern that incorporates sky blue into the mix.
3. Add secondary and accent colors. The traditional thinking is that the mix should look something like this: initial color, 60%; secondary color, 30%; accent color, 10%. This is a safe guideline, but not a set-in-stone rule. Play around until you achieve the balance you like best, and even add a second accent color in your accessories for an extra bit of pop.
4. Try a color app. If you’re not crazy about the idea of spending several days sifting through paint chips to get just the right mix for your room, try a smartphone or tablet app, like Sherwin-Williams’s ColorSnap or Behr’s ColorSmart. These allow you to snap a photo of your focal object, and will automatically suggest a color palette with up to five different hues. They might not be exactly what you’re looking for, but provide a great starting point, which you can then refine at the paint store to create your idea room color scheme.