Room Design Color Schemes

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What are your favorite room design color schemes? Do you favor lots of color or do you prefer the soothing calm of a monotone color palette, as in the picture to the left?

Color is deeply personal, most of us have a favorite color by the time we're three years old! Our favorite decor style usually develops later.  Do you know how to put the two together successfully?

Color is one of the keys to successful decorating— it can work magic by visually expanding or shrinking space, raising and lowering ceilings, even effecting our dispositions. 

Below are some of the most popular room design color schemes. Learn how to put these color palettes together successfully.

Analogous room design color schemes

Analogous Color Scheme

An analogous room design color scheme is created when you combine three colors that lie side by side on the color wheel. Typically, one color is dominant and the others secondary in prominence. You see an example of this above; the bedspread color is dominant and the pillow colors lesser in importance.

The primary, secondary and tertiary colors in this design scheme are harmonious and occur naturally in nature. Examples of this are the colors you see in fall foliage; red, red-orange and orange. Another example can be found in camouflage colors where no specific color stands out from the others.

Analogous color schemes are used often in interior decorating to convey intense emotion and mood. This is something to consider when you select your colors, as in the joke about using yellow hues in a guest room to keep visitors from staying too long!

Analogous color combinations can encompass three to five hues with just one primary color.

When designing a room using an analogous color scheme, use the 60-30-10 rule:

  • 60% of the room should consist of a dominant color; walls and ceilings. 
  • 30% should be a secondary color; upholstered furniture, for example. 
  • 10% of your color scheme should be an accent color to provide visual interest to the room, usually in the form of accessories, like pillows and throws. 

Analogous color combinations work well in informal rooms such as, bedrooms, family rooms and dens.

Complementary room design color schemes

Complementary colored bedroomThe orange pops against the blue in this complementary-colored bedroom.

Complementary color schemes use hues that are direct opposites on the color wheel. These color combinations work best when one color dominates over the other. Complementary colors complete and enrich the other.

Examples of complementary color combinations are red-green, blue-orange, and yellow-purple. If you get the color saturation right, the colors can scintillate, or sparkle against each other. If you get it wrong, this can result in tension caused by the colors vibrating off each other. The effect can be jarring, so a deft hand is required when designing a room using these color combinations.

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.
  • The predominate shade should be 80%, 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 if you are staging your home for sale, because the background is very light and dominate, using the 80/20 ratio successfully. The orange towels contrast nicely and are in good proportion against the tile. It would most likely be a deal breaker for buyers if the colors were reversed, with bright orange tile instead.

Complementary color schemes work successfully in formal rooms like dining and living rooms, or in contemporary style rooms, such as the children's bedroom pictured above. See how the orange in this room pops next to the blue. 

Monochromatic room design color schemes

Blue monochromatic room designBeautifully designed blue monochromatic living room. Photo by

This low-contrast color scheme is the most successful color palette for small room design.

Monochromatic room design employs a single color in varied tones, shades and tints. This one color can vary greatly in value and saturation, creating a sophisticated and restful space as in the bedroom above.

Done incorrectly, a monochromatic color scheme can be bland and boring. Monochromatic color schemes rely heavily on natural and textural elements to create interest. Designer, Alyssa Kapito, states, "when you remove all color from a space, texture, tone, and lines become so much more important."

Monochromatic room design color schemes can create harmony, visual cohesion, and a sense of relaxation in any room, making it the perfect color scheme for home staging.

Any color can be used in monochromatic room design, but typically, colors used for the purpose of home staging are neutrals like whites, beiges and grays. Imagine a monochromatic room using all red, yellow or green, floor to ceiling as the color palette! It can be done successfully with careful application.

Many people may yawn at the idea of a room that is basically designed around one color, but by incorporating variations in tones and textures, accessorizing with glass, objects from nature, greenery, basketry, you can create a feeling of spaciousness and sophistication.

Monochromatic color schemes also provide the perfect backdrop for displaying artwork.

Where to start with this look? 

If you are timid, start with the lightest color possible of the hue you like and build from there. You can always add darker tones gradually. If something pops out at you, creating a jarring feel, you may want to remove it. After all, this style is all about harmony and relaxation.

Be sure to bring in texture through fabrics, plants, basketry, wood, glass, and metal from lamp fixtures, etc.

Monotone room design color schemes

This sophisticated color scheme focuses on one color with very little variation in value, saturation, and brightness. This is not the easiest design to achieve, but if done properly, can result in a stylish, fresh room with a calm and open feeling. On the other spectrum, if done poorly, the result will live up to its name, monotone... boring!

Like monochromatic room design, this design relies heavily on warm textural elements, pattern, and contrast to make it successful.

Monotone living roomThis monotone living room is lovely, with structural white accents and interesting textural elements. Photo by

The monotone color scheme can be calm and soothing and has the effect of enlarging space, making it an ideal room design color scheme for small spaces and home staging.

How to get this look:

The monotone look can be rescued from total blandness by accessorizing with subtle patterns, greenery, glass, metals, wood furniture elements and textural features in fabrics. Mix different textures of fabrics, like smooth, shiny satins, knitted throws, velvets, or something more rustic.

Introduce wood accents to your room. Wood will add warmth to a monochromatic room. Be sure that the wood colors don't stray too far from the color of your palette.

Add texture in the form of greenery. Plants add life and interest to any room. Add texture through fabrics, patterned tiles, area rugs, lamp shades, and wall art. 

Don't forget to accent with metal, in the form of light fixtures, artwork, furniture arms and legs.

Like the monochromatic style, the monotone look also creates a great backdrop for artwork and collections. 

White is typically used in combination with monotone and monochromatic color schemes, in the form of window trim, molding, doors and door casings.

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