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Whether you are starting with a clean slate or adding to an existing design, selecting a color palette for your room or home can be a daunting task. As designers, one of the first courses we take in design school is Color Theory. It is something I use each and every day. Simply put, color theory helps us understand the color wheel and how colors on the wheel interact and the feelings they elicit. The color wheel is tremendously helpful to any type of artist. In fact, you may want to pick one up at your local art supply store for reference. They are very inexpensive.

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All colors start from three primary colors: Red, Yellow & Blue.

By mixing these three colors in different combinations, nine more basic colors are produced. That makes 12 basic colors on the wheel. The relationships these colors have with each other fall into 4 different color schemes, or color harmonies, that we will review and that you should find very helpful when considering a color palette for your home.

Complementary Color Scheme – These are colors that sit on opposite sides of the color wheel from each other. This combination will produce a lively and exciting palette, especially if you are using colors at the full intensity. For example, Red & Green…





 Monochromatic Color Scheme – This scheme only involves the use of one color in various shades. This generally produces a restful and peaceful effect.  Coral, peach, light pink…





 Analogous Color Scheme – This scheme uses several colors that sit next to each other on the color wheel. This generally produces a harmonious feeling and they can be mixed without clashing because they share a common color. Green, gold, orange…





 Triadic Color Scheme – These three colors are equally spaced on the color wheel. They generally provide an exciting but well-balanced color scheme. This is a theme we often see in children’s rooms.  Pink, yellow, blue…


Adding white to any of these colors will produce a tint (aka pastel).  The same rules apply.

Once you have learned these basics I think you will find it easier to select colors that are pleasing to your eye and have the desired effect that is appropriate for the room!

Lorrie Browne is a licensed Interior Designer and creator of  This is where Lorrie shares her decorating expertise with easy-to-follow tips, practical advice, and hundreds of online retail sources with people that love a well-decorated home. 

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