10 Tips for Choosing a Color Palette


You guys seemed to like my tips for decorating a rental, so I made a new category called Tips & Advice where you can conveniently find all of my advice posts. I'll start doing these a little more often too--so if you have a topic you'd like to see me tackle, let me know in the comments! Today I wanted to talk about color. Color is really powerful--not only does it make a huge difference in how something looks, but it even affects your mood! You've probably heard how different colors are associated with different feelings: red with passion and anger, orange with creativity and energy, greens with relaxation and calm, etc. But choosing colors is definitely not as simple as thinking, "in my office, I want to feel energized, so I'll decorate with orange." The colors we like are all deeply personal--and what makes someone feel happy might make someone else feel irritated. Plus, there are sooo many different shades of every color. Just standing in front of all the paint chips at the hardware store is enough to make a girl feel overwhelmed! Here are some tips to help you narrow down your options and choose a color palette that is true to you--whether it's for a room you're decorating or a party you're planning. I'd love it if you chime in and share your tips as well!

1. Think of your home the way you do your wardrobe. Look through your closet and see if there are any colors that stand out. If you wear a lot of peach, chances are you'll also like it in your home. Likewise, if mustard yellow is unflattering on you, you might not want to pick a mustard-colored sofa. Think about how you put together an outfit too. Keep your main pieces neutral (like a pair of jeans) and use trendy colors (like bright neon) in the accessories. A favorite outfit can be fabulous inspiration for decorating a room!

From outfit to room

2. Remember color theory from art class? Choose complementary or analogous colors to form a pleasing palette. Complementary colors are on opposite sides of the color wheel (like green and coral). Analogous colors are next to each other (like purple and blue). Our eyes are drawn to these type of color combinations--just google "color theory" if you'd like to know more about it. So the next time you're unsure what to pair with your favorite color, try making a combination using the color wheel! It's a great place to start.

Complementary colors | At Home in Love

Analogous colors | At Home in Love

3. Draw colors from your favorite memories. There are specific shades that we instantly feel an emotional connection to because of something from our past. For example, you might love the color of the coral peonies from your grandma's backyard, or mint ice cream (your favorite growing up), or the color of the ocean at the beach where you went on your honeymoon. It could be negative too--the color of split pea soup, which you were forced to eat as a kid and always hated, or the pink of pepto-bismol, which reminds you of being sick. These are different for everyone, but I bet you have a few hues that always trigger some memories. Draw from those good memories--that's a perfect starting point for a color palette that is true to you!

Draw colors from memories | At Home in Love

4. Pair soft colors with brighter, more saturated hues of the same color family. This keeps pastels from being too babyish, and bold colors from being too "in your face." Think soft pink with fuchsia or mint green with emerald.

Use soft tones with saturated ones of the same color

5. Don't feel like you have to restrict yourself to just two colors. A lot of people think if they use several different colors it will look messy and chaotic, so they pick two and stick to those. While that kind of a palette can definitely work, it's also really restrictive. And it can feel a bit forced and too perfect without any other colors in the mix. I say, start with a couple colors as your base, but feel free to add other ones that you like as well. A good rule of thumb is to repeat each color you introduce at least three times--that will look cohesive and intentional, not haphazard.

Don't restrict yourself to just two colors

6. Incorporate neutrals to give the eye a break. If you have bold walls, bright rugs, and colorful furniture, it's going to make your eyes hurt no matter how well the colors go together. Use lots of neutrals! Wood, natural fibers, and stone work well as neutrals, as well as white, cream, and grey.

Incorporate neutrals

7. Look through your recent pins for color themes. If you're struggling to figure out what colors you like, go to your pins and see if you can find some color themes. From looking at mine, I can tell right off the bat that I'm always drawn to blues and pinks...it's true!

Look through your recent pins for color inspiration

8. Take inspiration from a piece of art or a photo you love. Pull colors from it to use in your house (or party). It could be of anything--a scene from nature, a photo of some lovely flowers, even an old vintage postcard. If you already have a pillow or a rug that you love, that could also be the "piece of art" that inspires the rest of the room.

Color inspiration

9. Create an inspiration board to help you visualize how it will all come together. This board could be digital--a collage of your favorite inspirational photos--or physical, with swatches of fabric, paint chips, and magazine tears. Either way, it doesn't have to just be photos of other rooms that you admire...it could be anything to convey the mood and colors that you're going for. I like looking at wedding inspiration boards to get ideas. Even though I'm not planning a wedding anymore, I still get inspired by the fresh color combinations!

Tips for choosing a color palette

10. Last but not least, be true to yourself and trust your instincts. If you've never liked purple, don't try to decorate with it just because a magazine article says it's the newest thing. If you decorate from the heart and pick colors you truly love, you're much more likely to feel at home with the color palette you choose. So no matter how much you learn about pairing colors, trust your heart over your head!

Well, there is a lot more I could say on this topic, but it's getting late and I should probably go to bed!! So I'll let you guys finish up the post. What tips have I missed? How do you go about choosing a color palette?

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  1. Posted by kelsey on Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

    lady, these are amazing tips! filing this away
    kw ladies in navy
    $50 anthropologie giveaway!
  2. Posted by Debbie on Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

    A great post ! I don't know how to file this away :) but, these principles are very helpful. Color is very personal. These tips are perfect!
  3. Posted by Debbie on Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

    PS: I often find a painting or picture that I love. That often is how I choose colors.
  4. Posted by Marilyn on Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

    This was very helpful. I look forward to using some of these tips when decorating my home!
  5. Posted by Sara on Thursday, June 27th, 2013

    Fab post!
  6. Posted by Felicitas on Friday, June 28th, 2013

    Loved your tips! I love to use nature as color inspiration. Take a look: http://entreieteconheci.com/es/category/cores-lover/
    Bye! Felicitas