I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the questions I get asked most about is how to choose paint colours. And more specifically, how to choose paint colours that coordinate well with one another throughout an entire home. So for those of you who are wondering about how to choose a whole house paint colour scheme, this post is for you!
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NOTE: If you’ve received a copy of my Coordinating Paint Colours Guide previously, skip ahead to the EASY PAINT COLOUR SCHEME FORMULA section near the bottom of this post. If you haven't received it and you want it, click here for a copy or read below.
WHOLE HOUSE PAINT COLOUR TIPS
1. START WITH THE MOST IMPORTANT ROOM
One of the very first things to determine when selecting a colour palette for your home is where you will spend most of your time. For most people the answer will be the kitchen or living/family room. Choose the paint colour for this room first.
2. IDENTIFY THE CONSTANT ELEMENTS
Before you even think about which colour(s) you "want" in your home, you need to identify any elements that will not change within the space. For example; flooring, cabinets, a countertop, brick or stonework on a fireplace or any expensive furnishings that you are unlikely to replace. Use a neutral colour from the fixed elements as a starting point for your colour palette. Ideally, you'll want to choose a neutral that is visible in or works well with the constant elements so that the space feels connected.
3. NOTE THE TRANSITIONS
Look to see where the wall transitions are in your home. The number of transitions you have may limit your options. For example, if your walls have rounded corners then you will have a harder time transitioning colours from room to room because there are no obvious edges to end each paint colour on. Note the layout of your space as well. If it's open concept, you'll need to consider how each paint colour will look from room to room in an open space. Even better, choose only ONE colour for the common areas of your open concept home, unless there are clear transitions.
4. USE PAINT SAMPLE CARDS TO GUIDE YOU
The paint sample cards that each paint company provides are designed to coordinate well together. For a fail-safe colour scheme, choose a colour from a paint sample card, as well as one shade lighter and one shade darker to work with throughout your home. Try to stick to no more than three colours for the common areas of your home (kitchen, living room, entry and hallways). Bedrooms and bathrooms can be a little different if you want to play around a bit with colour.
5. USE TINTS AND SHADES OF YOUR MAIN PAINT COLOUR
Another safe way to coordinate paint colours is to ask your paint supplier to lighten or darken your main paint colour. Use the following guidelines to assist you:
Lighten or darken a colour by 25% for a subtle variance of colour
Lighten or darken a colour by 50-60% for a notable variance of colour
NOTE: Lightening or darkening a colour does change the essence of the colour. Be aware that different undertones may appear with the altering of a colour. Check out my post on How to Choose the Perfect Paint Colour to ensure you're happy with your paint selections.
6. COLOUR INSPIRATION
If you're not a fan of neutrals and colour is more apt to inspire you, a great place to look for inspiration for your colour scheme is art or fabrics. Find a piece of art or a fabric that includes the colours you are drawn to and use it to match paint colours.
Source: Tonic Living
7. CHOOSE A COLOUR SCHEME
There are a ton of colour schemes to choose from, but in the spirit of keeping this uncomplicated, we'll only discuss the three most common types of colour schemes. See below.
NOTE: Consider how you want the space to feel before deciding on a scheme. If you need help with this, you may want to check out my DIY Interior Design Course. Among several other topics, it also includes an explanation about each of the colour meanings and how to use colours in a space to create a desired feeling. It also includes a list of all of my favourite paint colours and access to my trade discount for paint.
THE THREE MOST COMMON COLOUR SCHEMES
Complementary colour schemes combine a tint, shade or tone of a colour with a tint, shade or tone of a colour on the opposite side of the colour wheel. Eg. yellow and purple/violet.
Best for lively spaces.
Analogous colour schemes use any tints, shades or tones of colours that are side-by-side on the colour wheel. Eg. blue, blue-green and green.
Best for calm, relaxing spaces.
Monochromatic colour schemes use any tint, shade or tone of ONE colour.
Eg. Dark brown, brown and beige.
Best for modern spaces.
EASY PAINT COLOUR SCHEME FORMULA
1. PICK A NEUTRAL PAINT COLOUR
Use one neutral paint colour throughout the space for any walls that connect rooms together like halls, and open living spaces. If you have an open concept home that has architecture that helps to create clear transitions, you can use coordinating paint colours on the walls if you prefer more dimension throughout your space, but don’t choose anything too high contrasting because it will break up the space too much.
NOTE: Neutral doesn’t necessarily mean beige, grey or greige. You can choose any colour for your neutral, just make sure it isn’t too saturated or you will tire of it quickly.
2. PICK A WHITE PAINT COLOUR
Pick a white paint colour for ALL trim and mouldings to unify your entire space.
NOTE: You don't need to do this if you have wood trim and would like to keep it. However, you should ensure that the stain on all trim and mouldings is consistent.
3. PICK TWO COORDINATING PAINT COLOURS (OPTIONAL)
Choose two coordinating paint colours for neighbouring rooms if you prefer more variety in your home. Otherwise, stick with one paint colour for your common areas as mentioned above.
4. CHOOSE A SATURATED PAINT COLOUR (OPTIONAL)
If you plan on adding an accent wall to your space, use a saturated colour that pulls colour from the inspiration piece in your space.
A NOTE ABOUT POWDER BATHROOMS
Powder bathrooms offer a great opportunity to do something fun with colour. Go wild or stay neutral - the choice is yours!
NOTE: If you decide to make a statement in your powder bathroom, make sure the colour still coordinates with the rest of your space.
A NOTE ABOUT BEDROOMS & OTHER BATHROOMS
Bedrooms & bathrooms are personal spaces and therefore have their own personalities. Feel free to use any colour for these spaces.
NOTE: If your bathroom is the main bathroom used by guests, stick to a colour that coordinates with the common areas in your home.
So that's the gist on how to choose paint colours for your whole home. If you'd like to understand how to use colour to create a desired feeling in your home or you'd like to narrow down the options for colour choices, check out my DIY Interior Design Course. It includes a list of all of my favourite paint colours, a colour meanings guide and access to my trade discount for paint, as well as over 20 interior decorating topics including; the key components of good interior design, why your home is your personal brand, how to determine your design style, where to start your design project & how to stay organized, how to create a functional floor plan, the domino effect's impact on interior design, smart shopping tips, and so much more!
Not into taking a course? Sign up for my Design Tribe. I share helpful interior decorating and design tips on the regular, as well as free cheat sheets, guides and templates.
Certified Interior Decorator, eDesigner & Founder
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