There are certain rules that designers rely on to select color palettes for a room or house. While these can be handy tricks for ensuring a well-styled room, they are just guidelines. I'll share some of those here, before getting into some nuances for putting together a palette you love, regardless of the method you land on.
Probably the most common formula designers use to select color palettes is called the 60-30-10 rule. This means that 60% of the room is comprised of the primary color, 30% of a secondary color, and 10% of an accent color.
60% would be for things like: walls, large furniture pieces, a rug
30% for: smaller furnishings, bed linens, curtains
10% for: decorative accessories, artwork, a pillow or two
Another rule is the 110%
This allows you a second accent color at an additional 10% so the 60-30-10 rule becomes the 60-30-10-10 rule. BUT, while it’s not a documented design rule, I personally prefer something more like a 55:30:15:10 ratio. Play around to find your preferred ratios.
Finally, a recipe for a dramatic, yet polished look is a monochromatic palette.
Your main, secondary, and accent colors will be varying shades of the same color, but generally you use them in the same 60-30-10 proportions.
Light, warm grey walls, sofa, and coffee table
Darker warm grey arm chairs, rug, and a couple throw pillow for the sofa
Charcoal side table, throw pillows, decorative accents, and floor lamp
In selecting a color palette, it’s important to consider how you want house to feel. Certain colors are said to convey certain emotions (i.e. blue for calm, red for intensity) but in fact it’s often the SHADE of a color that has more bearing on the feel of a room. For instance, navy blue feels very different from sky blue. Sky blue feels very different from cobalt.
While you may think of yourself as a “warm color” person and decide that blue, green, or purple wouldn’t be welcome in your home, there are actually warm and cool shades of every color. Consider the examples below.
Every room in your home does not need to share the exact same palette. Some rooms may use more of one color than another, and some may leave a certain color out altogether. Just be sure to keep common threads throughout the main rooms in order to maintain a sense of flow and cohesion. Bedrooms or any rooms in which you don’t have direct lines of sight from the major rooms can have a different feel or scheme.
Now…are you ready for that number one secret I teased to creating your color palette?
Start with an inspiration piece!
This is something I’ve done intuitively before I studied design, and something even my design-obsessed mother had done for years in the house I grew up in. She had a couch and loveseat in the 80s that had pink and peach flowers and those pinks and peaches became the primary colors throughout our entire house for years to come. People always commented on how they loved the décor and never would have thought to use those colors. It was simply the product of having used an inspiration piece! Side note: we later lovingly referred to that seating group as the “Golden Girls” set. Later, I learned that this is the exact way professionals begin designing spaces.
Starting with an inspiration piece does so much for you.
1. It simplifies the process of selecting a color palette (the piece does it for you!)
2. It’s easier to find a wall color to match your textiles or art than the other way around
3. It ensures you’ll have a statement piece in your room
If you employ this trick next time you decorate a room from scratch, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble and find it much easier to create a successful design!