10 ways to… choose a colour scheme

The first step is the hardest, as Marie de Vichy-Chamrond (you remember) said. Decorating’s no different: the choices can be overwhelming. To make it easier, we have some great ideas on just how you might begin your colour scheme planning…

1 Make it harmonious

Grab yourself a colour wheel or search online – you’ll find them widely available. A harmonious scheme takes three colours from alongside each other on the wheel – for example blue, blue-green, green. They’ll create a scheme with variation, but you know the colours will sit beautifully together.

2 Work with the light

Thinking about the natural light that reaches your room is a good way to begin your scheme planning. North-facing rooms have colder light, so choose warm colours such as creams and gentle pinks if you prefer pales, or perhaps reds or purples, if you want to go bolder. South-facing rooms are easier – but do test shades first as no one likes a wall that is literally dazzling when the sun shines. [Above: Swedish collection by Vanessa Arbuthnott]

3 Go for historical style

If you live in an old home, or a new one but the look appeals, why not take inspiration from a period palette? Bringing the colour combinations and finishes straight from the historical ranges created by paint manufacturers to your room is a simple route to success.

4 Create contrast

Go to your colour wheel again. Pick a first colour, then look at its direct opposite on the wheel. This is the shade you want to use as an accent in your room scheme. You only need small doses of your accent – cushions, part of a fabric pattern, a painted chair – but it’ll have a vibrant effect.

[Below: Harmony collection, Prestigious Textiles]

5 Steal a scheme you’ve seen

Spotted a room you love? Then pay it homage by making the look your own. This isn’t wholesale reproduction, though. Look at the room’s main colours, and how much of each is used. You don’t have to put them in the same places, but if pink is an accent in the room you’ve fallen for, using it on all four walls in your room is probably overkill.

6 Use tints and shades

Picking just one colour sounds like a piece of cake. And it is, but make sure you use both lighter tints and darker shades to create interest, as well as incorporating neutral areas to give the eye a break from your chosen colour.

[Below: Judith wallpaper, Gabriel collection, Sandberg]

7 Stretch the space

Room too small or looks like a corridor? The proportions or shape of your room are a great prompt to a colour scheme. Pale shades recede from the eye, and will make it feel more spacious; equally darks can bring a far-away wall nearer, correcting the dimensions of a long room.

8 Try modern

Whether your home is new or you love a contemporary interior, a largely neutral or white look is a good option. To be sure of success, use different neutral tones, or add an accent with black. Neutral patterned wallpapers work well, too.

[Below: Pumblechook super emulsion paint, Fired Earth]

9 Deal with dark rooms

Sometimes you can’t fight nature – or the nature of your room. If it doesn’t receive much natural light, then you may think you have to start with light colours. Instead, consider rich, vibrant and good in artificial light.

10 Evoke a mood

Colour has tremendous power to create an atmosphere in a room, so starting from the mood you want is a fabulous idea. Need a lively, stimulating environment for a dining area, for example, and a brilliant orange wall could be the answer. If you want a soothing and relaxing feel, then the greens or blues you’d find in nature make a great starting point.

[Below: Provence collection, Villa Nova]

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Sarah Warwick, Guest Editor

View all posts by Sarah Warwick, Guest Editor