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!
Whole House Color Scheme
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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
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.
You might also like: Room Color Psychology: How Paint Colors Affect Your Mood
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.
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.
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.
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.
In my purple bedroom, blue plays a support role in the inside of my bookshelves, but is still a focal point in the room.
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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This post was originally published on June 11, 2018 but was updated with new content on September 30, 2020.