Colorful Rooms: How to Add Color to Every Space

Colorful room with pink and orange accents on white backgroundWe’re big believers that your decor should reflect your personality and the things you love. When you walk into a room, it should make you feel something, and no element draws on your emotions more than color. We’re sharing all of our favorite ways to add your favorite hue and to create colorful rooms that express your unique point of view.

Pink, orange, and gold color palette for living room1. Start with a Palette

Find Your Inspiration

The first thing you have to do is start with a color palette. Sometimes this is the hardest part because there are so many options! We suggest looking to your wardrobe to see what colors you love to wear. Or find a great painting, rug, or fabric as a jumping off point.

In the palette above, we started with a peony pink Suzanne Kasler linen and built out the other elements from there.

Add a Complimentary Color

Living room with pink and orange color palette from Ballard DesignsOnce you have a favorite color, find an accent to use as a compliment. A color wheel is a great place to start.

Creating a Whole Home Palette

Do this for each room in your house and compare each room’s palette together. On the podcast, designer Ashley Whittaker talked about how her team creates whole home palettes for her clients. She may use different palettes from room to room, but they all work together and compliment one another. She also had some create tips about value and tone which we’ll discuss below.

If you’re struggling to pick an accent color, think about the emotion you want the room to have. For example, say you have a living room that you want to decorate with blues. For a relaxing space, you may choose a sage green to work with your blue pieces. Or if you want something with a fun energy, a vibrant tangerine will achieve that. Think about colors in the emotions they evoke and use those emotions to round out your color palette.

In the living room above, we started with the bold, pink drapery panels as our dramatic moment, then we added touches of orange to give the pink room an energized feel.

Add Neutrals

Once you have your main color and your accent color, choose neutrals (at least two) that will coordinate. White, tan, gray, black, or wood tones will support your main colors and bring depth to your palette.

Once you have everything picked out (main color, accent, and neutrals), you should have 5-7 different colors and shades that you’ll be using in this one room. Now, if you’re creating a whole home palette, you may want to come up with a palette of 12-15 colors.

In the room above, you can see that despite the bold prints and color, we have lots of neutral pieces like a white sofa, gray rug, natural fiber rug, and white slipcovered pieces. We chose white, a little bit of gray, and washed wood tones for this space.

Value Versus Tone

On a podcast with designer Ashley Whittaker, we talked about value versus tone. It’s a great way to think about color and adding color to your room in a way that you won’t have to worry about every item matching exactly. Here’s how she explained it: tone is the type of color so a dark teal and a light, spa blue have the same amount of blue-green but they’re different values of that same color. The value is just the lightness or darkness.

So if you’re adding pieces to your room, the same tone of that color in varying degrees of lightness (or values) will all look good together. We love mixing pastels with jeweled tones because they are often similar tones, just in different values.

2. Add Drama

Every room should have a few wow moments — pieces that are impactful and really anchor the whole room. A great way to create that drama is to use a bold color either on the wall or on a large piece of furniture. It could be a bookcase, a piece of upholstery, or a vibrant curtain panel like we did above.

3. Draw Your Eye Around

Once you have that big focal point moment, repeat your main color in smaller ways in other parts of the room. Add some coordinating accessories, pillows, and art so that your color is evenly dispersed throughout the room.

A colorful living room with accents of orange from Ballard Designs4. Work in Your Accent Color

Maybe you’re going for a monochromatic look in which case you won’t use an accent color, but in most rooms, we like to have a second (and sometimes even third) color that will work together with your main color to bring energy to the room. It seems counterintuitive, but in a colorful room, an accent color will make your main color stand out.

Accents can be both large and small. Maybe have a large piece of art in your accent color, or it could just be pillows or brightly color books. This is a place where lots of pieces in varying values can help your room feel more energized.

5. Have Some Fun with Color

This is decorating after all! There’s no need to take things seriously, so play with your colorful room and take risks in small ways. Try wrapping a stack of books in paper of your accent color. Or bring in flowers in a shade you wouldn’t normally pick.

Looking for more color inspiration? Check out these posts below: 

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Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.