Creating A Vibrant Color Story In Your Home
Words + Photos by: Madison Wetter
If you are at all like us, you spent at least a good five years post college living in an apartment. Apartment buildings that are not kind to the people of the design world, might I add. And by that I mean paint. Is it too much to ask for a little splash of color here and there? It feels a little bit like being a kid thrown into a sandbox with no playground. Like, what am I supposed to do with this beige box? But then, finally, you purchase a home or move into that space where there are no rules or you write the rules. You could decide to paint the walls Barney purple if you want! EUREKA! But, wait, do I actually paint the walls purple? Will purple go well with my yellow bedroom? Like, again, what are you supposed to do with this beige box?
As someone who loves bold colors, planning a fluid palette for our new home was a job I took pretty seriously. I had Pin boards on Pin boards on mood boards on paint swatches coming out the hooha. We purchased a newly constructed home that had a subtle, albeit bland, beige on every single wall. We wanted a home that had color movement and energy so it was clear that our new home needed to be spiced the F up. The problem was I didn’t know how to do that without creating color chaos. I legit had flashes of the McDonald’s playhouse or a Ryan Air flight running through my head. Not great.
Now, there is a ton of advice out there from people more large and in charge than I, but I like to challenge precedent and break a few rules now and again. When Googling “how to choose a paint palette for your home” you will encounter many articles using words like “analogous” or “complementary”. Definitely do some reading on these color relations to understand how colors work together. Once you’ve educated yourself, throw that information into your back pocket and wing it! Only kidding...sort of!
My Color Palette
Here was my “wing it” palette planning for distinct and vibrant colors in the home. It’s important to note that these guidelines focus mainly on the paint color in every room. However, the color and balance of the furniture you use in a space is equally as important. Your favorite credenza can look wildly different on a new background. So keep that in mind as you begin to plan and don’t be afraid to tape swatches up on your walls for a week or even paint a small section of your wall to test it out.
Limit your palette to between 3 and 5 distinct, non-neutral, colors. This range will give you enough umph for good contrast but decrease the chance of the crazy. Think paradox of choice - there is a sweet spot. These colors will comprise 80 - 90% of all the color in your home. You’ll see our color palette a few bullets down.
Choose 2 or 3 neutral bases. Neutral colors play well with almost any color. You can use these to balance out your spaces and bring consistency between rooms. In our home we have chosen walnut brown and white or ivory.
To start building your palette, begin with the one color you absolutely cannot live without. For us it was dark blue. I like to build a palette in Google Slides using colored shapes. It’s a great visual medium for seeing how your colors will play with one another and you can easily swap and experiment with all the colors. You can also copy and paste pictures of your current furniture or furniture you are looking to buy to build the bigger picture using a mood board.
Stuck with just one color?! Don’t fret! You can obviously take a look at analogous, complimentary colors or other color relationships. I won’t judge you! If you are looking for an easy tool, I love Sessions Color Calculator. It allows you to plug in one color and see colors that are related in a number of different ways.
In our case, we inherited some artwork that we wanted to make work in our space. We started with our must-have color of blue and then used these pieces of art to inspire most of our color story. Don’t feel obligated to stick to what a color calculator tells you. Let’s be real, rarely do the items we own, buy, or inherit line up perfectly with the color wheel. That’s what keeps it fun and interesting and where the next tip comes in handy.
SECRETS REVEALED! This may seem so obvious and simple but it was something I had to discover on my own. I call it color threading and it’s a lot easier than it sounds. In short, a color story can easily work together if it’s thoughtfully threaded together. What does that mean, Madison?! Using our home as an example, you’ll notice that every room has its very own and distinct prominent color. However, every room also incorporates at least one prominent color from another room in the house. We’ve intentionally thread our colors beyond the doors. Let me show you….
Looking at the pictures above, you will notice that the prominent color in our dining room is a vibrant mustard yellow. In our guest suite, the prominent color is a deep dark teal green. Two very different colors. While these colors are wildly different, the nightstand is mustard yellow and so is the velvet pillow on the bed. The accents were inspired by the yellow in the dining room and help to create a consistent thread between the two rooms. On the flip side, the chairs in the dining room are also a shade of green. We also leveraged our neutral thread using a white duvet cover in the guest suite that mimics the color of the rug in the dining room. It’s also the same neutral base that we have included in our living room with the white sectional. These small, but consistent, touches make the rooms feel intentional and relate them to one another.
Want another example? Take our master bedroom painted in terracotta orange. For starters, we’ve got that same neutral magic happening here with the white duvet. Dagnabbit, where is the rest of the terracotta throughout our home?! Plants baby...it’s all about the plants. We knew we were going to have a lot of greenery in our home so we decided to put many of our plants in terracotta pots. It’s a subtle pop of this color found in the nooks and crannies of our home. It’s super subtle but makes the color in our master bedroom less random than it might be otherwise. Also notice that on the vanity in our bedroom we have a subtle pop of yellow and a subtle pop of green that pull in from the guest bedroom and the dining room. The blue pillow on the bed pulls from the dark blue paint color we used in our office space.
Well, there you have it. My method of mixing a ton of crazy colors together cohesively and pretending it’s normal. There’s a lot of mumbo jumbo above because I like to talk. But, in short, here it is: limit the number of colors, create a palette to visualize your color story, keep a consistent neutral base and (most importantly) thread at least one prominent color from another room as an accent color in your other spaces. Lastly, remember that it’s always a process and the perfect balance rarely happens overnight. Heck, I am still finagling things over here! Keep it fun and keep it interesting!