By using our website, you agree to the use of cookies. Okay

If you have cookies turned off, many of our wonderful features won't work!

A Rainbow of Possibilities: Color and Design

Written on 12-12-2017

Choosing Color

Haven't we all heard, at some point, that the world isn't always so black and white? Never has this been truer - or more literal - than in the world of design, or in one of its best friends: color. So how do professional designers paint by design? How do they select that perfect color combination for interior design? From complementary color painting to accent paints, pros everywhere take a surprisingly thoughtful and purposeful attitude when they intend to paint by design.

The Psychology of Color

Colors are more than just pretty decorations, of course, and they can serve some surprisingly serious - and specific - purposes, if applied correctly. Cooler hues, such as various shades of blue, can soothe and calm, while lime green can curb hunger.

"The 'buzz' about color is usually called 'color psychology'. But the effects of color are subtle and significant, physical and psychological," HGTV explains in their complementary color painting piece ( "To get started, select a favorite color drawn from artwork, rugs, dishes, accessories, or furniture pieces as a main color or accent."

But what if you need a few basics beyond initial selection? Home Guides offers several fantastic pointers, as well:

  • Paint and carpet colors should complement each other for a harmonious, balanced look, while anchoring a background for furnishings and accessories.
  • Neutral colors are great for carpeting, as they allow more flexibility with wall color, furniture and accessories. Multicolored neutrals with small flecks of color camouflage stains and spills. Pick one of these flecks for use as the wall color. The most common multicolored neutral is beige carpet with flecks of light and dark brown.
  • Groupings of three in design schemes are aesthetically pleasing. Use three coordinating colors on the largest surfaces of the room such as walls, flooring, and windows.
  • To find your favorite hues, look through your wardrobe or study the upholstery patterns on your furniture. Notice how certain neutrals make nice pairings with other hues such as blue and brown, green and brown, gray and yellow, or taupe and violet.
  • Test your colors with sample boards.

Lighting and Color

When it comes to color and the natural lighting that illuminates it, consider the four cardinal directions, and the angles from which the sun will pour its natural rays of white-yellow light.

"The amount of natural light in a room affects color perception. Light also intensifies or lessens based on which direction the windows face in the room in relationship to the sun's arc across the sky," tells us. North-facing windows give off a hint of blue light, accentuating a blue carpet and pale blue walls.

Article continues below:
West-facing windows favor warm oranges, which saturate warm hues like red, orange, and yellow. East-facing windows have a dose of green, making greens appear more vibrant. South-facing windows reveal the most intense, bright light of all, making marked differences between shades, tints, or tones.

ColorMatters adds its own two cents regarding lighting, "metamerism is a phenomenon that occurs when colors change when viewed in different light sources." For instance, they lament, when beige flooring displayed in a showroom lit by warm incandescent lighting ends up installed in an office with cool fluorescent lighting, that quintessential essence of what makes beige so appealing is sucked out of it. So consider your materials' ultimate destination.

Amber Hobbs

So where do we begin? Amber Hobbs of H&H Interior Design lends her wisdom to those just beginning to study color combination for interior design: "Choose your flooring material first and build your color palette up from there," she says, "and pull accents from the colors in the carpet to build a comprehensive palette."


Adventure Orange
Orange Paint
Sherwin Williams
Adriatic Sea
Blue Paint
Sherwin Williams
African Gray
Gray Paint
Sherwin Williams
Aesthetic White
Off White Paint
Sherwin Williams
Antrim Carpets

Jenn Celestino

Others go for a more material-related approach to interior design matching colors, such as Jenn Celestino of Method Studio, who tells us that her approach to material and color is simple: "I look to materials to bring in textures within a space and tend to be cautious when it comes to color.

Article continues below:

I typically stick to neutrals and bring in color through items that can easily be switched out," like graphics, fabrics, artwork, and accessories, she explains. "Color inspiration for me comes from a company's brand, and I use that brand subtly to allow for the architecture of the interior space to shine."


Medium Grey
Fade Relief Tile
Greek Villa
Off White Paint
Sherwin Williams
Hamilton Blue
Exterior Paint
Benjamin Moore
Century Collection
Benjamin Moore

Kathryn Thompson

As far as interior design color matching tips go, one professional brings yet another method to the madness. Interior designer Kathryn Thompson works off carpet hues: "I like to select carpet tiles that have a great base color to work with. I also like to have a little accent color in the pattern to help create interest."


Gray Paint
Sherwin Williams
Quartz Stone
Ice Stone
Hem Tile
Knock Out Orange
Orange Paint
Sherwin Williams

For some of the best possible instruction on color and design available, check out ColorMatters' exclusive online course, titled Foolproof Color Formulas for Interior Design. Enroll now using coupon code 'colorninja' - and receive a $100.00 discount off the course's regular price.


Register to leave a review.

modernsample logo

Page printed from on 2020-03-30