How To Create A Whole House Color Scheme (Even If You Love Color)

Creating a beautiful, cohesive look for your home isn’t hard to do if you use this one simple decorating technique – a whole house color scheme!

Using a whole house color scheme along with some room color psychology and tips for picking the right paint color helps me select the right colors for my room makeovers every time.
How To Create A Whole House Color Scheme (Even If You Love Color)

Whole House Color Scheme

One of the things that people always comment on when they come into my house is how all of the rooms seem to flow from one to the next.

It’s not that hard to do if all of your walls are painted the same color. Or you use the same neutral color palette everywhere.

But that’s definitely not the case in my house (my walls are blue, purple, pink, black and silver).

So what makes the rooms in my home look like they belong together even though they aren’t the same?

I have a whole house color scheme.

What Is A Whole House Color Scheme?

Basically, a whole house color scheme is a selection of colors that you use in varying amounts to provide a cohesive look throughout your home.

This repetition of color is what helps to make sure that your house flows from one room to the next.

My version of choosing a whole house color palette doesn’t actually involve picking specific colors. Because I love color so much, I would find that impossible to do for the whole house all at once.

Instead, I pick color families and then use a few rules to apply those colors to my rooms when I’m decorating.

Why Do You Need A Whole House Color Palette?

Besides making your house look good, there are actually a couple of other benefits to having a whole house color scheme.

First, it reduces the number of color choices you have when you are updating a room.  When it comes to choosing color, the biggest problem is usually that there are just too many options available. A whole house color scheme makes that process so much easier and faster. However using color families still gives you some flexibility to update your colors as you go.

And, if you like to move your furniture around as much as I do, you get an extra bonus! A lot of your furniture and accessories will “go” in most of your rooms…so you’ll have lots of ways to rearrange them.

How To Choose The Colors For Your Home?

You may be saying this sounds good in theory, but how do you choose which colors to use?

It’s really not as hard as it sounds.

To create your whole house palette, you are going to pick 4 colors from the basic color wheel, using the steps below.

Don’t worry…these are just the color families that you will be using to decorate your house, not the actual colors themselves. For example, choosing the Red color family includes all of the colors that are derived from red such as pink, burgundy and fuchsia.

Also, these aren’t necessarily wall colors…just colors that you will be using in the rooms, so don’t get too worried that it will be too much color. You will NOT end up with bright purple, green and orange walls (unless that’s the look you’re going for).

There are no rules about which colors you can choose at this stage…so don’t limit yourself…it’s okay to choose colors that you think won’t go together at all.  You’ll be surprised at what can work!

You will also notice that there are no neutral colors (white, black, gray or brown) in this selection.  This is because almost all neutral colors in decorating have a color as a base, so you can choose them later as part of your color selections.

Step 1:  Figure Out If You Are a Warm or Cool Color Person

Warm vs Cool Colors on the color wheel

People with different personalities tend to have different ideas about how they want their home to feel.  Color can play an important role in providing that feeling. And getting that feeling right is really important to making your home feel “right” for you.

So the first step to figuring out your color scheme is to figure out whether you want your home to be the place you go to get re-energized or to relax.

The warm colors (yellow, orange, and red) tend to be stimulating and can actually make rooms feel physically warmer.  They are perfect if you want to come home to feel re-energized.

The cool colors (blue, green, purple) tend to be more calming and relaxing.  They are perfect if you want to come home to de-stress.

This is not an “all or nothing” decision but just a guideline to the types of colors you are drawn to and will make you feel the most at home.

Step 2:  Choose The Go-To Color For Your Home

Step 2 is to pick your “go to” color. This has to be a color that you love and would be happy using in all of your rooms (because you probably will!).

Ideally, this color should fall into the energizing or relaxing category that you chose for yourself in step 1.  If you decided in step 1 that you want to be energized at home, this should be one of the warm colors.  If you decided that you want to relax at home, this should be a cool color.

At this stage, we are only choosing from the 6 main families on the color wheel: yellow, orange, red, purple, blue and green so hopefully this is an easy choice.

Personally, I chose my favorite color as my “go to” color since I never get tired of it! If you’ve seen my house, you’ve probably guessed it’s blue.

Step 3: Pick A Warm Color

Just using the colors from the color wheel, pick a warm color (yellow, orange or red) that is not your go-to color.

And again, don’t be worried that you don’t want bright red in your house. This is just the color family…picking red also means you can use blush pink or burgundy or anything in between.

Step 4: Pick A Cool Color

Now do the same thing with the other side of the color wheel. Pick one of the cool colors (green, blue or purple) that is not your go-to color.

Step 5: Pick an Accent Color

Finally, pick one more color that can be used as an accent color.

Choose your whole house colors from the color wheel
My whole house color scheme

When you are finished, you should end up with 4 color family choices from the wheel.

How Do You Use The Whole House Colors?

So now that you have selected your color families, you’re probably wondering what to do with them.

Here are the “rules” I use to make the whole house color scheme work.

1. Decorate Using Your Whole House Colors

Rule 1 is probably pretty obvious. When you are picking colors for a room, narrow your choices down to only the color families you selected. Believe me, you will still have lots of options!

That doesn’t mean your non-selected colors can’t appear anywhere in your house. If you didn’t choose yellow, but you find a painting you love with some yellow in it, by all means use it. But those colors should not appear often and should never be the focal point of your room.

Now before anyone gets too nervous about having to pick bright colors for everything, you can choose any shade within these color families. So it can be as dark or as light as you want it to be.

Which is where neutrals like black and white come into play. Pretty much all neutrals have a color tint in their base. So you can still use them with this scheme. Just make sure to pick ones that have the right color tint in its base.

2. Use Your Go-To Color A Lot

My next rule is that your “go to” color should be in every room in your house. It doesn’t have to be the main color in every room and it doesn’t always have to be the exact same shade, but it should be there.

Living room in blue and white

In my living room, blue is the main color.

The walls are blue, the sofa is blue and I have a lot of blue accents everywhere.

Office in black and gold

In my downstairs office, the paint is a blue-black, which is why it co-ordinates well with the blue elsewhere in the house.

And the area rug has a big blue flower in the middle of it just to tie everything together.

Bedroom in purple, black and gold

In my purple bedroom, blue plays a support role in the inside of my bookshelves, but is still a focal point in the room.

Blue and white ginger jars on a white shelf
The ginger jar accents in my office

In my pink home office, it is only an accent color in the blue and white ginger jars.

You’ll notice I use those blue and white ginger jars a lot! I love them and they’re an easy way to provide consistent color in the different rooms.

3. Adjacent Rooms Should Share At Least 2 Colors

Rooms that are beside each other need to share some colors in common in order to pull your eye from one room to the next. This is what creates the feeling that they flow.

So make sure that adjacent rooms have at least 2 colors in common.

The repeated colors do not need to be the exact same tone in both rooms, but they should be close enough that the eye seems them as similar.

As an example, using a lighter and darker shade of turquoise in adjacent rooms would work fine. But having turquoise in one room and periwinkle blue in the next won’t be seen as the same color so you won’t get the flow effect you’re going for.

4. Vary How The Colors Are Used

However, the colors don’t have to be used in the same way in every room.  It actually makes the rooms look more interesting when they’re not.

The wall color in my living room is what I used to paint the inside of the bookcase in my bedroom.

The gray background of my duvet echoes the silver wall color in the bathroom.

5. Pick Your Wall Colors From Your 3 Main Colors

When it comes to picking your wall colors, the choice should be narrowed down a little further…to only the first three color families that you chose — either your “go to” color, the “cool” color or the “warm” color. Leave the accent color as an accent.

Of course, you don’t have to use all three (like I did). And as I stated before, neutral colors that have one of these colors as a base is another option if you don’t want to go too bold.

6. Use A Warm Color and a Cool Color In Every Room

To keep rooms feeling balanced (not too cold or too hot), I like to include one of my warm colors and one of my cool colors in every room.

They don’t have to be in the same proportion, however…sometimes some pink flowers in my blue living room are all the warmth that is needed to brighten up the whole space.

7. Use The Same Black And White Paint Everywhere

Once you have found a black and/or white paint color that you like, re-using the same color everywhere that you are painting black or white immediately helps to tie things together.

It also makes it really easy to do touch ups later on since you won’t have to worry about getting the right one in the right place. I haven’t always been very good at following this rule and I have the mis-matched black paint touch ups to prove it 🙂

8. Keep Surprise Colors Off The Beaten Path

If you do want to use a wall color that doesn’t tie in that well with the rest of your house, pick a room that can’t be seen from your main living area.

This is what I did with my office. It’s in the bonus room above the garage…the only room on the second floor.

So because it is isolated from the rest of the house, it can be a totally different color and not cause issues with flow in my house.

9. Use Your Whole House Color Scheme To Pick a Room Color Scheme

Hopefully you have figured out your own whole house color scheme and are ready to put it to work!

The next step in the process is to choose a color scheme for your room, which will be so much easier now!

Do you have comments or questions about creating a whole house color scheme? Tell us in the section below.

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18 Responses

  • I really love what u wrote❤️❤️
    And i
    Choose go to color:green
    *i won’t using it in furniture only in decorating*
    Warm color:red
    Cool color:purple
    Accent color:blue
    so now i need to understand how to use them and sorry but i like gray and i need to use as go to color how can i fix this problem i like gray in rooms and living and dining 🤷🏻‍♀️

    • Hi Rawan…there’s no problem using gray as your go-to color. It goes with everything 🙂 If you’re going to use green as your main furniture color, I would look for a gray that has a green base to it. That way, it will tie in with your furniture and look beautiful! And it is only paint. So if you do make a mistake with the color, you can always paint over it…much easier to change the color of your furniture!

  • But my go-to color is gray it is my favorite color how can i follow steps??
    Iam really so nervous 😩 that I can’t paint my new big apartment well i feel bad please help me

  • Hi Wanda this was a very informative article. My question is different but I thought you could help me after reading this article. The kitchen and livingroom are open floor plan. My wood furniture is espresso I have aqua and brown checked accent chairs a gray couch but looks so much like brown we put it in the living room. There are white shelving units on both sides of the fireplace. I have a beautiful darker teal table in front of the window. The rug is brown and aqua. It’s so dark in the livingroom but I dont know what to do. I bought the furniture 10 years ago when we had this house built. Those colors were in at the time. My problem is I have to make use of the accent chairs but I can replace the rug. My color scheme is aqua red brown. We want to paint the walls a lighter aqua. What color would you suggest I use to get rid of the brown. The couch is ok pillows will make that work. We can always paint the dark furniture white or cream our kitchen cabinets are white. I hope I havent confused you. I’m just so desperate to change our livingroom but dont know how. We spent alot of money on those chairs they recline and noone knows it. They are very nice chairs. I just wish there was no brown. Any help you can give me will be great I love the color of aqua its my favorite color. The red is just an accent color so I can change that too.
    Thank you
    HUGGS Terrie

    • Sorry…I hit send before I was finished 🙂 I also had the brown and aqua a few years ago so I know where you are coming from 🙂 Would it be possible to go with a gray that goes with your couch instead of the brown? If the couch goes with the brown now, you might be able to lighten up the room by going with a lighter shade of gray in a similar tone. That way the chairs would still go but wouldn’t be the main color. In any case, I think I would look for an area rug that has the colors in it you want and use that as the inspiration for the rest of the room…once you find something you like, then you can use it as the jumping off point to help you decide what to do with the rest of the room. Hope that helps!

  • Thank you for this amazing article! My husband and I are buying our first house, and I’m so excited to have a whole house to decorate! For my colors I am considering-
    Go to color: Yellow
    I absolutely love yellow and teal together. But I know that can teal be a greenish and bluish color. So how does that work with the color scheme? I know I’m probably over thinking this! Thanks!! 🙂

    • Hi Victoria…congratulations on buying your first house! Since you love the yellow and teal combination, I would use the teal as your main cool color and go with a different shade of green as your accent color. Generally, you would use the “go to”, “warm” and “cool” color selections more often throughout your home than your accent color. Hope that helps!

  • Hi Wanda, Such an amazing article! Thank you so much for sharing this knowledge..
    I had a lot of questions about selecting a color scheme for the entire house and after reading your article i have got confidence in proceeding with the challenge 🙂

    I have selected the colors
    go to color – blue
    warm color – orange
    cool color – purple
    accent color – yellow

    Ours is an open floorplan – living and dining in one rectangular room

    In living room, our furniture is in cognac and navy blue..
    I would like to go with orange color curtains in the living room

    1. i dont want the same color curtain in the entire room (living and dining), i thought of taking a printed orange fabric for dining and solid orange fabric for living but its again the same color.. i am not sure how it would look like..
    kindly let me know your comments..

    2. I have also thought of peach or turquoise color curtains in the living room but they are not in my color scheme

    • Hi Deepthi…I think your idea to have printed orange fabric in the dining room and solid orange in the living room would work well. Using the same color orange will tie the two spaces together but not have them totally matching.

      Also, it is possible that peach or turquoise would work, too. Peach is a lighter tone of orange and turquoise is a shade of blue. You would just need to make sure that the other oranges and blues that you are using the room have similar tones–leaning more towards the red/pink side of orange to go with peach, and learning more towards the green side of blue to go with turquoise. And then you would probably want to use the peach or turquoise in a couple of other places in the room (like vases, candles, etc.) to tie the curtains in. I have seen some stunning rooms that use both navy/peach and navy/turquoise combinations so it is definitely possible!

  • Barbara Anderson here again. Colors chosen were :Green(main color)yellow (warm color)blue(cool color) Red(accent color)
    Problem: open floor plan, furniture I ordered is taupe(looked greenish in photo). Other furniture is green and brownish in open floor plan. Carpet has red and green in it in one area over my hardwood floors. Haven’t brought carpet for other dining and living room sections. How do I get my green, blue, yellow and red tided into my open floor plan? Kitchen is near also with reddish brown cabinets and brown&black granite. Help! 4 sections need help. 1 dining, 2 living room areas and kitchen. Then bedrooms come next. How do I send you pictures of everything?

    • Hi Barbara…Open floor plans can be a bit tricky 🙂 As a first step, (if you haven’t already) find an inspiration piece that has the colors in it you want to use in your room. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something you will actually put in the room…could be a piece of fabric, area rug, artwork, piece of clothing, a picture of another room…anything that you like the color combination. Then we can use that to pull out the colors for your space. You can email the pictures to me: [email protected].

  • Thanks for a wonderful article about using colors in a home. Here are my chosen colors.
    Green(go to color)
    Yellow(warm color)
    Blue(cool color)
    Red( accent color)
    My walls will all be beige for now. I’ll try to post pictures later after furniture arrives. Oh, I followed you on Instagram too.

  • This is very helpful. Now I just need to settle on colors! One question—as a renter I’m stuck with off white walls and beige carpets. (And I HATE Browns). Any ideas how I can work around it and still use colors I love. For example my bed frame is black and gold—how do I combine the two neutrals and make them work? And not like I’m just trying to ignore the beige?

    • Hi Annie…You could put some area rugs down on top of the carpet so that the beige is less noticeable. It tends to become a background (like wood floors do) if you put something on top of it. Since it is a neutral, you can combine it with most other colors. If you’re having trouble visualizing it in the room, try to find a piece of clothing, some fabric or a picture that has some beige and the colors you are using in it. That way you can see how the colors work together. Then look for accessories like cushions, throws and candles with those same colors to pull it all together. So for your black and gold bed frame, it shouldn’t be too hard to find 2 or 3 black and beige pillows to put on the bed. Then maybe add a couple of black and gold candle holders with beige candles on the bedside table, an ivory vase that has black or gold trim and a picture that has the colors in it. Usually if you can add 3 things to the room that include the color you are trying to work in, that is enough to make it feel like it belongs.

  • Hi Wanda. Thank you so much for this article. Amazing info. Itmakes so much sense. I understood about a colour scheme to tie your whole house together, but I was concerned this might make it all too borning. Your article has made it so much clearer and given such great tips and tricks and the reasons behind certain choice. Following with keen interest. Melissa

    • Thanks, Melissa! I love color too much to follow the “paint all your walls the same neutral color” advice that a lot of people give for whole house color schemes…so I had to come up with a different way. I’m glad you found it helpful 🙂

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