How To Pick Colors For A Room

If you are re-decorating, chances are you may be struggling with how to pick colors for your room. Help is on the way! Find out how to choose a color scheme in 5 easy steps that anyone can do.

How to choose a color scheme for a room

Last week, I went through my process for creating a whole house color scheme that helps to create rooms that flow.

But you may have been wondering how I actually pick the actual colors that I use in each of my room makeovers (like my recent master bedroom makeover that I’ll use for an example).

Even with my whole house colors selected, there are still a lot of options to choose from!

So you guessed it…I have another process for choosing the specific room color palette to use.

It does start with the whole house color scheme, so if you haven’t picked those colors out, you might want to do that first.

Keep reading to find out how to choose a room color scheme in 5 easy steps.

Or if you prefer, watch our summary video:

Step 1:  What Do You Want The Room To Feel Like?

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Velvet green settee with cushions and throw blanket

The first step for choosing a color scheme for your room is to figure out what you want the room to feel like.

Colors have personalities and can change the way you physically feel in a room. So picking a main color that has the right vibe will help your room to “feel right”.

Color personalities

Red:  exciting and emotional.

Orange:  energizing and fun.

Yellow: optimistic and cheerful.

Purple: spiritual and creative.

Blue:  soothing and calming.

Green:  serene and fresh.

You can find all the details about room color meanings HERE.

Don’t forget though, if you have picked out your whole house colors, your choice here should be in that list.

Step 2:  Find Some Inspiration

A floral duvet with purple, blue and white flowers and green leaves

The next step in picking your room color palette is to find some color inspiration for your room.

There are only three rules:

  1. This inspiration should include the color(s) you chose in Step 1.
  2. It should be a color combination that you love.
  3. The main colors in the pattern should come from your whole house color scheme (assuming you’ve chosen one).

You can get your color inspiration from anything as long as you love the color combination.  Here are just a few of the inspiration sources I have used to pull my color choices from:

  • magazine picture
  • piece of art
  • area rug
  • curtains
  • sofa or chair that you already own (and love)
  • tile
  • wallpaper
  • hotel room
  • flower garden
  • a collection that you love
  • a piece of clothing that you look good in
A purple room with a green settee and blue shelf matching the colors in a duvet

For my master bedroom makeover, I found a floral duvet with purple, blue and green on a gray background that I absolutely love.

All of those colors are part of my whole house color scheme and create a relaxing feeling (step 1) which is exactly how I want feel when I’m in my bedroom.

A purple bedroom with white and purple curtains and area rug

I was also lucky to find a piece of art* and an area rug* that had the same kind of floral pattern and the same colors. They would also have made good inspiration pieces.

Step 3:  Do You Want This Room To Be Cozy or Airy?

A cozy black and gold home office

Step 3 of the color selection process involves figuring out if you want your room to be cozy or airy.

This helps determine whether the wall (and ceiling colors) should be darker or lighter.

Dark colors tend to make the room feel cozy, intimate and dramatic.  Think of a den or a library where you want to feel like you can curl up in front of the fire with a good book.

An airy pink and white home office with a black and gold desk

Light colors (like I used in my upstairs home office) make the room feel airy, light and expansive.  

Think of a great room in a beach house where you want to feel like you can smell the salty sea air.

While your room may not have the extremes of these 2 examples, decide whether you prefer to have more of an open, airy feel or a cozy, intimate feel for the room.

The main color in your room should be light or dark depending on your answer to this question.

A dark purple bedroom with a white fireplace mantel

I decided to go for the cozy feeling in my bedroom, which is why I chose one of the dark colors from the duvet for the walls.

Step 4:  Apply the 60-30-10 Rule

The 60-30-10 color rule

The fourth step in learning how to choose a color scheme for your room is a design rule you can use if you’re not sure how to use your inspiration colors.

To create a room that feels very pulled together and comfortable but still interesting, apply the 60-30-10 rule.  

This means that the room should be decorated 60% one color, 30% of a second color and 10% of an accent color.

Although not always true, the color breakdown usually looks like this:

  • The 60% is usually the wall color.
  • The 30% is usually reserved for large pieces of furniture, curtains and/or area rugs.
  • The 10% is used for accessories, artwork and other accent colors.

If you’re lucky, the inspiration that you chose will already have this breakdown the way you want it and you’ll be able to just copy it.  If not (mine didn’t), you will need to decide which colors you want to use for each of the categories.

Use your answer to the “cozy or airy” question to help you figure out what the 60% color will be.  Choose a darker color on the walls if you want the cozy feel, and a lighter color on the walls if you want an airy feel.

For more details, read about the 60 30 10 rule and how to use it.

Step 5:  Pick the Color Tones You Want To Use

Dark purple master bedroom with its color palette below

This is where you get more specific about the tone of each color in your color scheme (are you using pink or burgundy?) and what neutral colors (do you prefer ivory or grey?) you will use.

If your room can be seen from other rooms in the house, try to choose at least one color (and two is better) that is used in both rooms so that there is a common color element that ties them together.  

It doesn’t have to be used in the same proportion…it can be an accent color in one room and the wall color in the other.  Your eye will automatically pick up the similarities and see the two spaces as having some common ground.

I always use my “go to” color from my whole house color scheme in every room.  Doing so has the advantage that I can move the “go to” color accessories and furniture pieces between rooms very easily and they always fit in.

Hopefully after this process, you have a pretty good idea of what colors you would like to have in your room.

But now you’re probably thinking…how do I make sure I pick the right paint color to go with these?

We’ve got you covered! Check out our tips on how to pick the perfect paint color.

Other color decorating tips you might like

Or browse all of our color tips.

Comments or questions on how to choose a color scheme for a room?  Tell us in the section below.

This post was originally published on November 2, 2015 but was updated with new content on June 7, 2023.

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  1. I get a lot of design emails, and yours are always so easy to understand And apply. The way you break it all down is what I often use when I am talking to Redesign clients because it makes sense to them! Thank you!

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Thanks, Amy! I try to make it easy for everyone to follow, so I’m happy to hear that 🙂

  2. I’m OBSESSED with your duvet cover!! Where did you find it?

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Hi Cassie…unfortunately, my duvet cover has been discontinued. But it’s made by Designer’s Guild and they have other patterns that are similar. You can try their site ( or do a Google search for “Designers Guild duvet cover” and see what comes up.

  3. I like your inspiration rules for picking a room’s color palette. My sister wants to hire painters for her single-family home. I’ll share your tips so she can choose color schemes more easily!

  4. Could you please tell me the paint colors you used to create this palette? I absolutely love everything about this room!

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Thanks SL! Here are the paint colors:

      Dark Purple – Benjamin Moore “Shadow”
      Black – Valspar “Dark Kettle Black”
      Blue – Benjamin Moore “Southern Belle”
      White – Benjamin Moore “Ivory White”

      I didn’t paint anything in the light purple or the green (they were in the fabric colors), but you could probably use Benjamin Moore “Spring Violet” and Benjamin Moore “Spring Valley”.

    2. Wanda Simone says:

      Sorry…the blue was Southern Belle (slightly darker version of Watertown).

  5. Excellent site! Thank you for sharing your ideas.

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Thanks, Mary! I’m happy you found it helpful 🙂

  6. Hi, I am moving into a rented house with brand new red carpet in the lounge.. I also have a new mustard yellow sofa, any ideas for colour to accent? Purple ? Pale green? Navy ? Light grey?
    I also gave a painting of a sunrise which has blues, orange yellow red and green in it!

    1. Hello Marion, Your lounge is going to be stunning! I love the colors. I think vibrant purple accents would definitely add to the wow factor. Happy moving!

  7. Sheila k McDonald says:

    I found your site some time ago but never had time to really check it out. Well I have now and I love your site. This will be my “go to” site going forward.

    1. Wanda Simone says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Sheila! I’m happy you find the site helpful 🙂

    2. Shirley J Allen says:

      my color preference is pink/ mauve/taupe. My concern is too girly for my husband

      1. Wanda Simone says:

        Hi Shirley…sorry for the late response. To keep it from being too girly, I would go with taupe as the main color and use the pink & mauve as accent colors. You never know, he might like it 🙂

  8. I just found your web site and absolutely love it. Can you please tell me where you purchased your bedroom comforter and rug from. Thanks.

    1. Thanks, Deborah! I got the duvet from Neiman Marcus (although it looks like the King size is sold out…you can find it elsewhere online if you search for the pattern “Designers Guild Alexandria Bedding”). The area rug came from