Selecting colors that pair well together is much easier once you consult the trusty guide we all learned in elementary school- the color wheel. Whether complementary, analogous or split analogous, the color wheel helps make selecting colors a breeze. Remember, for pigments, white is the absence of color and black is all the colors combined. Even once you’ve selected a color combination, add in white, black or neutral colors to round out your room.
Let’s start with primary colors– blue, red and yellow. These colors combine to form all the other colors in the color wheel. It’s rare to see a room decorated with all three primary colors but this Manhattan home design by Damon Liss shows that it’s possible. Yellow dominates with small bursts of red, blue and yes, even green. Not a primary color but we’ll let it slide. The blonde wood and neutral furniture keep the space feeling sophisticated while still being welcoming. Perfect for a home with little ones.
If there is one particular color you want to bring into your space, a good way to create richness is by using analogous colors, those colors next to each other on the color wheel, as designer Bailey McCarthy showcases in her Chicago living room. Blues and greens, reds and oranges, purples and pinks. All pair nicely because they are a primary color and a secondary color with the same primary color as its base. This living room pairs deep shades of greens and blues together harmoniously. Using analogous colors has the benefit of keeping a very similar feeling throughout the space.
Complementary colors are those across the color wheel. Sometime referred to as contrasting colors, because of their placement, these pairs are particularly pleasing to the eye because they use entirely different wavelengths. Complementary colors create spaces with more tension than those with only analogous colors. When decorating with complementary colors, choose one to be the main focus and add accents with the other. We also recommend choosing a vibrant shade of one and a muted shade of the other. Here the dark navy sofa dominates with small accents of a coral-y orange show up in the rug and window trim. Neutral white and brown balance out the space.
Lastly, instead of using direct complementary colors, consider split complements. Select one color and then use the two colors that flank its direct complement. In this bedroom, the slightly-purple maize blue is directly across from yellow-orange on the tertiary color wheel, so designer Leah Ball Steen paired it with vibrant orange and yellow. It’s a lot of color but the yellow and orange play well together and the cool blue tones it down.
Not all great color combinations are part of one of these relationships. For instance, blue and yellow are fantastic together even without the orange, while some traditional pairings are hard to pull off without feeling cliche. (Red and green decor that doesn’t feel like Christmas?) But when you have a room that needs freshening up, the easiest option is to start with the colors you have and add one more that fits in one of these patterns. If your existing colors are bright, add a muted version. If your space is most neutral, select a bright hue. Most of all, have fun! You can always paint the walls again.