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.
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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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”.
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
The next step in picking your room color palette is to find some color inspiration for your room.
There are only three rules:
- This inspiration should include the color(s) you chose in Step 1.
- It should be a color combination that you love.
- 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
- sofa or chair that you already own (and love)
- hotel room
- flower garden
- a collection that you love
- a piece of clothing that you look good in
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.
Step 3: Do You Want This Room To Be Cozy or Airy?
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.
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.
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 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
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
- The latest paint color trends
- Common color decorating mistakes (& how to fix them)
- Why you should paint your walls and ceiling the same color
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.