Interior Colors for Home Staging
DIY Home Staging Tips
for a faster, more profitable home sale

Neutral design interior picturesAdd pops of color with accessories

Interior colors for home staging should be chosen to make your home appeal to as many potential buyers as possible. 

Changing paint colors is one of the easiest (and cheapest!) ways to update your entire home. The trick is to select paint colors that relate and flow from room to room.

Bold, bright or dark paint colors will likely turn many buyers away, because they will be thinking about all the repainting they will have to do. Most home buyers just want a "move-in-ready" home.

Limit your interior colors for home staging to earth tones and neutrals. Neutral wall tones create excellent backdrops for the color you are going to add later during the final staging, with furniture, draperies, artwork, and accessories. Added color will simply "pop" against a neutral canvas.

Balancing room color schemes

When using color in a room, use the 60-30-10 rule: 

  • 60% of a room is usually a dominant color - This is typically the color on the walls.
  • 30% of a room is secondary color - This may used in the furniture, drapes or a carpet.
  • 10% should be an accent color - Accent colors can be the “pops” of color that brighten and add excitement to a room. Use color in accent pieces like pillows, accessories, artwork, throws, and flowers. 
Living room design interior picturesA good ratio of colors in this living room

The accent colors and patterns you choose for a space should be evenly distributed throughout the room. Don't place all your accent colors (and patterns) on one side of a room and neglect the rest of the space.

Complementory interior design picturesBlue and orange complementary color scheme

Apply complementary colors in unequal amounts by using the 80-20 rule:

  • Complementary colors are two colors placed opposite each other on the color wheel. See color theory.
  • The predominate shade should be 80% and the second color, 20%.
  • If used in equal proportions, complementary colors will compete with each other, creating a jarring effect that may make some people feel anxious.

The complementary color scheme in this bathroom works well, because the background is very light and neutral, whereas the orange-colored accessories can be removed if buyers don't like them. Let's say you reversed the colors; with bright orange tile instead of a pleasing neutral. Bright orange is very "taste specific" and may cause you to lose home buyers.

As a rule, you avoid using strong colors on the walls, floors and tile when you are neutralizing your home for sale. (See depersonalizing your home)

Neutral colors

Neutral color paletteNeutral color palette
  • Neutral interior colors for home staging include black and white, all the grays in between, beige, taupe, and earth tones. 
Bedroom design interior picturesThis beautiful monochromatic bedroom is done in neutral grays
  • Neutral colors are the easiest to decorate with because they blend well with most surroundings and work successfully in all room designs
  • Neutral color schemes don't have to be boring! Neutrals can be very stylish and sophisticated, as in the beautiful bedroom on the right.
  • Art galleries always showcase artwork on a neutral background, because this allows the pieces to stand out better.
  • Examples of interior colors for home staging that most people love; beige, taupe, ivory, coffee tones, honey, butter, golden, wheat, blue-green, mossy green, brown, blue-gray, and gray.
  • Gray is a sophisticated color and very trendy at this time. Gray complements all other colors and serves as an excellent backdrop for brighter colors, allowing them to shine.
  • Light neutrals and earth tones have the widest appeal among home buyers and will complement most people’s furniture.

Interior colors for home staging

Classic room designs begin with one main color and one or two accent colors. Start by finding one main color you like; perhaps drawing color cues from a favorite fabric, area rug or a piece of artwork. 

Bedroom design interior picturesA mostly monochromatic room with green accents

You probably chose these items because you found the colors appealing, so why not use one or the other as a starting point? Just remember that one color should dominate while others serve as accents.

The easiest and cheapest way to prepare your home for sale is to paint all of your walls in the same neutral hue. Each room will look slightly different, because color changes under varying lighting conditions.

An easy way to create color flow is to use lighter and darker shades of the same color throughout your home.

A fan deck or paint color swatch from any home improvement store can help you select interior colors for home staging. The great thing about paint sample strips is that they take a lot of guess work out of choosing paint colors, as they contain one color in several different values.

Value: Varying degrees of light and dark-- the "brightness" of a color.

Select a monochromatic color scheme. Doing so will help with the flow from room to room.

Try to stick to a color palette of no more than 3 to 5 different colors in your entire home.

Remember to keep paint colors neutral; save the exciting colors for accessorizing.

Paint colors for home staging

I love Benjamin Moore paint because it is highly saturated, so it has really good coverage. Sometimes you can get by with just one coat of paint.

Go to Benjamin Moore to view a great selection of interior colors for home staging. Following is a list of some of my favorite colors from Benjamin Moore's Pottery Barn Color palette spring and summer;

  • Calm: #2111-70 - A relaxing white for any room.
  • Navajo white: #947 - If you must have white, this is also a good one.
  • You are my sunshine: #302 - a soft pale yellow.
  • Monroe bisque: #HC-26 - This is one of my favorite decorating colors! Looks good everywhere, but if you lack good natural light you may want to choose a color of lighter value.
  • Coastal path: #AF-380 - This shade has a rich greenish undertone and is of medium value.
  • Hazy skies: #OC-48 - Pale grey.
  • Sandy hook gray: #HC-108 - Medium-dark grey. Good color for a bedroom.
  • Sparrow: #AF-720 - Dark grey. Great color for an accent wall or powder room.
  • Solitude: #AF-545 - Medium value blue. Good bedroom color.

Take note that paint color palettes change every few years, so if you are looking for that favorite color you used in the living room 3 years ago, you won't find it! Most paint stores now have the technology to match a color that is no longer in favor, you just need to bring in a color sample.

Benjamin Moore's 2015 color palette

Benjamin Moore 2015 color sample

The Benjamin Moore 2015 color palette has some great interior colors for home staging:

California Cool - Any of the following cool colors will look beautiful in the bedroom, especially a master bedroom:

  • Blue Hydrangea 2062-60
  • Oxford Gray 2128-40
  • Harbor Fog 2062-70
  • Blue Danube 2062-30/Accent

Quiet on the Set - These romantic, luminous and pale taupes and minimal pinks would also look great in the bedroom:

  • Soft Sand 2106-60
  • Halo OC-46
  • Pink Damask OC-72
  • Silver Fox 2108-50

Traditional Twist - Roses, wineberry to deepest plum. Use the Portland Gray as a background, and darker colors as accents:

  • Port Gray 2109-60
  • Old Claret 2083-30/Accent
  • Carter Plum CW-355/Accent 
  • Caponata AF-650/Accent 

Green Earth Tones - Beautiful selection of greens from nature:

  • Antique Jade 465
  • Guilford Green HC-116
  • Timothy Straw 2149-40
  • Jack Pine 692/Accent

The effect of lighting on paint colors

Color changes according to the type of lighting you have in a room. A color that you are happy with in natural light will look completely different under incandescent lighting.

Neutral bedroom design interior picturesMonochromatic bedroom flooded with natural light

You have to ask yourself; what kind of natural light does the room have? Are you going to be using the room mostly at night under artificial lighting or during the day? Is the room facing north or south?

Also consider the room that you will be adding color to, and view your paint samples under all lighting conditions, and at different times of the day.

Many paint companies offer small sample-size containers of paint that you can take home and paint on your walls before you commit to larger cans. 

  • Incandescent light will typically add a warm yellow cast to colors. 
  • Fluorescents will add a cooling gray cast. 
  • Halogen bulbs produce a very white light and have little effect on color tones. 
  • Colors that look vibrant in natural light will often wash out under incandescent lighting. 
  • Be wary of using dark colors in rooms facing north--they will appear darker. Warm paint colors will cheer up a room with a northern exposure.
  • Paint colors will seem lighter and brighter under a southern exposure. Tone them down by painting in cool neutral colors.

Think of each room in your house as a vertical space, mimicking nature; Floors could be a darker value, wall colors a medium value, and the ceiling in the lightest values.

If you follow this basic rule, you should succeed. Of course, this rule is not written in stone!

Color flow from room to room

Interior colors for home staging should flow gracefully from one room to the next, especially if you can see adjoining rooms, as in open-concept living areas. You can achieve this by painting all your walls in the same paint colors, in coordinating colors, or in lighter and darker shades of the same hue.

Living room interior design picturesNeutrals and earth tones create good flow between the two rooms.

To expand visually a space (or hide ugly moldings), use the same light color on walls, baseboards and trim work. Doing so will cause unattractive features to recede, or seemingly blend into the walls. 

Another way to develop flow and create continuity is to have one recurring color from room to room. For instance, the color of a wall in the living room can be carried over into the dining room in the form of an area rug, upholstered dining chairs, a tablecloth, artwork, and so on.

Color undertones

How many times have you painted a wall and the color wasn’t what you expected? What appeared to be ivory in the paint can turned into a pale pink once up on the walls. How does that happen?

Paint swatches

The undertone is not always readily apparent until it is paired with other colors, or under certain lighting situations. It's like a secret color hiding within the paint!

When you first look at a color you see what is called a "Masstone." This is the color we all recognize right away. Hidden within the masstone is the undertone, not always easily identified.

A color is created by mixing two or more colors together. The color that is used in greater proportion will determine the undertone of the color. For instance, if more green was used than any other color in the mixing, then green will be the undertone. 

Hold a paint sample color against your furniture, kitchen countertops and cabinets, the flooring, different lighting conditions, green plants and so on. You will be amazed at the undertones that pop out.

Years ago, I rushed home with my 4 cans of what I thought was a luscious taupe paint. I got to work painting my house exterior right away. After I had almost completed one side, a neighbor drove by and asked why I was painting my house purple. Puzzled, I stepped way back to look, and was shocked to see that lilac undertones had taken over! Eventually, after 2 more trips to the paint store, I got it right.

Using color to create illusions

Color is the key to all successful decorating— it can work magic by visually expanding or shrinking space, raising and lowering ceilings and even effect our dispositions. 

You can trick the eye by using certain colors in the right places. Color can make objects visually advance or recede, and knowing where and how to use them can help you highlight focal points or camouflage ugly features of your home.

Monotone color scheme living roomA monotone color scheme will make a small room appear larger
  • For instance, a hideous brick fireplace will, most likely, be the focal point in your living room. Maybe you can't afford to tear it down at this time-- you just wish it would disappear. You can visually make that fireplace recede and diminish in size if you paint it the same color as the walls beside it. (See painting interior brick)
  • Proper color combinations can deceive the eye into thinking that a small room is larger than it really is, or take an awkward space and make it less noticeable. 
  • Pale colors reflect light, and when combined with lots of natural light can visually expand a small room by giving the impression of pushing back the walls.
  • Dark colors absorb and deflect light and give the impression of the walls closing in on you.
  • Cool colors appear to retreat, while warm colors seem to advance.
  • Interior colors for home staging should have a combination of cool and warm colors in the design palette, but one or the other should dominate.  
Monotone interior colors for home stagingMonotone bedroom design
  • Minimize the length of a long narrow room by painting the long walls a light color and the end walls in a darker warm shade of the same color. Because darker colors advance, this gives the effect of "squaring" the room.
  • Paint a too high ceiling in a dark paint color and bring that color down a foot or so onto the wall-- you really won't notice the line on the wall. The dark color will make the ceiling appear closer.
  • Paint colors that work well in small spaces are whites, neutrals, pale grays, blues, lavenders and greens.
  • Visually lift a low ceiling by painting it white or a light pastel hue.
  • To make a small room feel larger, paint the walls the same color as the drapes.
  • If your room has ugly window trim or is broken up by numerous doorways, windows, and nooks, paint them the same color as the walls to unite all the broken areas.
  • For over-sized rooms, use a combination of warm and darker colors. The dark colors will make the room seem cozier and more intimate. 

What is the difference between monotone and monochromatic color schemes?

Both schemes use only one color and rely heavily on the use of textural elements and plants to keep them from being boring. Done properly, both designs will create a sophisticated and restful space that will make a small room appear larger than it actually is.

The monochromatic color scheme employs different tones, shades and tints of one color. For example, you will find a range of light and dark values of that one color in a room.

The monotone color scheme uses one color with very little variation in value, saturation and brightness. Done correctly, the monotone color scheme can be very calm and soothing. 

  • Browse through interior decorating magazines or look online for ideas. Study room designs that appeal to you and try to determine what it is that makes them successful. Use a favorite picture as a starting point for selecting interior colors for home staging.
  • Paint your basement and hallways in light colors, since they are usually too dark.
  • Try a coordinating color on an accent wall to add excitement to a room or to draw attention to a lovely window, fireplace, or other architectural detail.   
  • If you have a lot of bumps and dings in your ceilings and walls, use a flat paint. Because it doesn’t reflect light, imperfections on walls and ceilings are less noticeable. Unfortunately, flat paint is not very scrubbable.

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