Colour in Design: Decorating with Colour Theory

colour theory decorating with colour

Decorating your home is about finding pieces that express your personality. And the colours you choose to decorate with play a huge role in how your space looks and feels. Adding colour to your home should be fun! Our Summer Design Session was all about using colour theory to decorate your home, and we’re recapping key points on today’s blog.

Colour Theory Basics

Colour Theory explains how different colours relate to each other. We use the colour wheel as a visual example of these relationships. The wheel is made up of primary colours (red, yellow, blue), secondary colours (orange, violet, green) and tertiary colours (all of the colours between primary and secondary).

Complementary colours are opposite each other on the wheel, like red and green, blue and orange, purple and yellow. Because they’re opposites, these colours look striking when paired together.

Analogous colours sit next to each other on the colour wheel, like blue, blue-green, and green. Combining them gives you some colour variation, but still feels harmonious.

The colour wheel can be divided in half into “warm” and “cool”. Reds, oranges and yellows are warm; greens, blues and purples are cool. When two colours are paired together, the warmer one advances and the cooler one recedes.

colour wheel
source: pinterest


Transform your Space with Colour

Darker colours advance, or look like they’re coming towards you, while light colours recede.

  • Dark coloured paint, furniture and décor makes a large room feel cozy.
  • For the opposite effect, light walls and décor make a room feel more spacious.
  • Most rooms have a mixture of dark and light pieces. But if you want to make a small room feel bigger, or vice versa, keep this rule in mind when choosing colours for paint and large pieces of furniture.

The same rule applies to warm and cool colours: warm advances and cool recedes.

  • Decorate with warm colours to make a space cozy.
  • Feature cool colours to add the illusion of more space.
  • Warm and cool are relative terms. If you pair two cool colours together, the “warmer” colour will advance.

Colour doesn’t just change how a room looks. It also impacts how you feel. We all have our own colour preferences, but each colour is associated with certain emotions:

  • Red is energetic and aggressive. It also stimulates appetite, which is why so many restaurants use it in their branding! Red might feel more appropriate in a kitchen or dining room.
  • Pink can feel energizing, but not in an aggressive way. Pink is a very popular accent right now!
  • Blue is calm and serene, which makes it especially popular for bedrooms.
  • Yellow is cheery, vibrant and works well as an accent colour.
  • Green is calm and soothing. Greens are becoming popular paint choices, and can give your room a nature-inspired feel.
  • Black brings glamour and sophistication; some designers say every room should have a signature black piece. Black also makes whites look brighter. Use black accent pieces or hardware to bring out crisp white textiles, cabinetry or tile.
  • White is calm, peaceful, and goes with every other colour!

Decorating with Colour

Make decorating decisions easier by choosing a set of colours for each room. If you’re trying to make a room look larger or evoke a certain mood, you can use colour theory to select a palette of three or four shades. To balance out accent colours, remember to include neutrals like grey, cream and brown in your colour palette.
Having trouble choosing a palette? Pull colours from an item you love, like a rug, accent pillow or piece of wall art, then build the rest of your room!

60-30-10 Rule

This interior design rule helps keep colours proportional. Aim for 60% of the room to be in a dominant colour (usually a neutral), 30% in a secondary colour, and 10% accent colour. In a complementary colour scheme with green and pink, you could decorate with 60% greys, 30% pink, and 10% green. Showcase your brightest accent colour in small, focused places to help it stand out.

Complementary Colour Schemes

You don’t have to work with saturated shades for complementary colours to work. Instead of primary red and emerald green, try combining pale pink and green. Another way to use complementary colours is with one vibrant accent and a neutral based off the opposite side of the colour wheel, like vibrant pink with a pale or pastel green.

Analogous Colour Schemes

Decorate with analogous colours to keep your room looking harmonious. Neighbours on the cool side of the colour wheel — like blue and violet — can make a room feel fresh and open. On the flip side, analogous colours like orange and yellow make the space feel warm and cozy.

Monochromatic Colour Schemes

Use multiple shades of the same colour to create a monochromatic space. This is a great look for rooms where you want to evoke a certain mood. Monochromatic works especially well in simple, relaxing spaces like bedrooms. To keep the room from looking boring, include both dark and light versions of your chosen colour and lots of textured accents.

It’s an especially good time to shop colourful new décor! Save up to 40% on home accents from now until May 25th!

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