How To Choose A Color Scheme For A Room in 5 Easy Steps

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

Choose A Color Scheme

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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 color scheme 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?

Color affects the mood of a room
Color affects the mood of a room

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.

For more details about color psychology, 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

This floral duvet was the inspiration for my master bedroom makeover color scheme
My duvet was the inspiration for my master bedroom makeover color scheme

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
Pick colors from your inspiration to use in the room
Pick colors from your inspiration to use in the room

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.

Art and area rugs work well as inspiration pieces
Art and area rugs work well as inspiration pieces

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?

My downstairs office / den has a cozy feel because of the dark colors
My downstairs office / den has a cozy feel because of the dark colors

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.

The light colors in my home office upstairs give it a much more airy feel
The light colors in my home office upstairs give it a much more airy feel

Light colors (like I used in my upstairs home office) tend 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.

I chose a color scheme for my bedroom to make it feel more intimate
I chose a color scheme for my bedroom to make it feel more intimate

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 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 color breakdown for the room should be 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.

Step 5:  Pick the Color Tones You Want To Use

Master bedroom color palette
My master bedroom color palette

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.

Comments or questions on how to choose a color scheme for a room in 5 easy steps?  Tell us in the section below.

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12 Responses

  • 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!

    • 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”.

  • 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!

    • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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

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