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Determining Color Schemes

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Photo from Randall Furniture

Although there are volumes written on the subject of color theory. Your choices when it comes to picking out a color scheme for a room in your house may seem rather daunting. The following is one simple method for creating a room with that "pulled together" look.

  • Step 1) Pick a Pattern
    Almost every room has a pattern in it somewhere. It might be in a picture, a rug, the bedspread or on an upholstered piece of furniture. It is much easier to start with the pattern, than to try to find a pattern to fit into a given color scheme later on. From the colors in your pattern, we will create the palette for the room.

  • Step 2) Choose Three Colors
    From within your pattern select three colors; a light color, a medium tone and a darker color. These three colors will form the foundation of your color scheme.

  • Step 3) Use Your Light Color As The Background
    Color your walls and floor with a soft version of your light color. You may choose to "knock it down" with a touch of white or gray if it seems too vivid for use as a background color. It is pleasing to the eye to have your floor color a bit darker than your walls and ceiling. This helps to "ground" the room.

  • Step 4) Put Your Medium Tone On The Largest Pieces
    Window coverings and large furniture pieces will take the mid-tone color - especially if it has a tinge of the wall/floor color mixed into it.

  • Step 5) Add The Darker Color As An Accent
    Now sprinkle in the darker color on the accessories and small furniture pieces. Use these for punch and distribute them evenly throughout the room. By rotating the three colors you can place a greater emphasis on the background or furniture. Your eye typically will gravitate towards the darker, brighter colors.

Color Schemes
The feeling of a room can be created by using different combinations or values of color.

For a calm, quiet room, select a neutral color and apply different shades or values of that color to the various elements of the room. This is a popular approach as it allows you to vary the look of the room by changing the accents and accessories. Add interest to the room with the use of a variety of textures on the floor, walls and furniture.

Related Colors
For a relaxing effect, select a color scheme composed of related colors: greens and blues or rose and peach are two examples of this approach. Keep the values (strength) similar for a pleasing look. Use a color wheel to help you select colors that are similar (adjacent).

Strong Contrast
A stimulating, lively environment is created by using colors that are strongly in contrast with one another. You can select similar colors (as above) in their dark, vivid hues, or select complementary colors-those opposite one another on the color wheel. Either way, the effect you achieve is attention-getting.

Once you have decided on a color scheme, bring your samples home. Look at them at different times of the day, and in both natural and incandescent light. As you make decisions on the placement of colors in the room, keep in mind that darker colors will tend to fade over time more than lighter ones. Be sure to take into consideration any existing pieces that will remain in the room as well as the various wood finishes present.