Living Space

Foolproof ways to choose a color palette

Tribune Media ServicesJanuary 4, 2013 

Good examples of complementary color combos are blue and yellow, black and white, or the Christmas favorites, red and green.


It’s the one thing designers say will make an immediate change in a room. It can create a look that makes a statement about a home and the people who live there. It’s also inexpensive and easy to change: color.

Unfortunately, this aspect of decorating gives us fits, but by following a few guidelines you can find colors that strike just the right tone.

Color saturation

If there’s a color you’re crazy about, one of the easiest ways to incorporate it is to use all the shades in its range, from lightest to darkest. By employing this color scheme, you’ll have a tone-on-tone look that’s elegant and chic. Adding an accent color or balancing it with a touch of black or white is another way to make your favorite color come to life. Or, keep everything in the same shade if you want an uber-cool, chic look.

Get neighborly

When color shades are too similar, the result is monotonous. Yet, if you don’t want to put very dramatic colors together, such as red and black, look to color neighbors. These are shades that are neighbors on the color wheel, and therefore, well-suited for one another. Good examples are orange and yellow, red and pink, blue and green, brown and beige. This is a quick and easy way to add interest but not color that feels jarring.

One way to employ this technique is to use one color for walls and paint and another for furnishings. Pulling in a beige accent in a brown upholstery fabric will help make the furniture and the room feel unified and cohesive.

Vibrant coloring

Fearing the bland plight of builder’s white, homeowners can select colors that are opposite one another. These are often called complementary and, although as different and opposite as salt and pepper, they go well together. Good examples are yellow and blue, black and white, or the Christmas favorites, red and green.

Selecting colors that are opposite on the color wheel is lively and balanced simply because they do contrast. If one is too bold, try one shade much darker or much lighter, for a distinctive look.

Next is to decide what feeling you want your colors to have. If cool and elegant come to mind, then buttercup yellow probably won’t be your first choice, but a cashmere almond hue might suit. Focus on the feeling and then use the techniques for color choices. You’ll get the right shade every time.


News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service