9 Steps To Picking The Perfect Color Palette

You'd be hard pressed to find anything more important to the design of a room than the color scheme that holds it together. Every room has a color palette, even the ones that are all or mostly one color. And while the style and period of the furniture and the architecture of the room are both huge contributing factors to determining the personality of a space, almost nothing decides the feel of our rooms as much as the colors that we choose to fill them with. So whether the project in front of you will be designing akid's room, a bedroom or the home office/workout room that you've always dreamed of, picking colors is certain to be the first thing you're likely to do, if only because none of your other choices (e.g. furniture upholstery, pillows, drapery, etc.) will make any sense until you do.

There are a lot of different ways to decide on a color palette. There was a time when decorating all had to be by the book, but today there are a lot fewer hard and fast rules.

In the end, you're looking for something that suits your tastes and expresses your point of view and choosing the right colors is a great, big step towards doing just that. Of course, there's a reason why there are rules - and no, it's not just so that they can be broken.

If interior design isn't your first inclination, or you're not really sure what good design is, but you're sure you'd like to live in it, then it's probably good to start by coloring within the lines. Follow this simple how-to to help you choose a color scheme for your home. Learn to mix colors and fabrics and how to repeat color throughout the room. Read some of the principles of decorating and learn how to use coordinating fabrics and dressmaker details.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: Varies

Here's How:

  1. First, choose a style (formal or casual) and a theme for your room (such as American country, English garden, techno modern).

  2. With the style and theme in mind, decide on an 'anchor' fabric that has 3 or more colors.

  3. Use the background color from the fabric as a wall color.

  4. Pick a mid-toned color from the fabric for flooring and large furniture pieces, which could be a solid or patterned design. Upholstery can also be done in your anchor fabric or coordinating fabric.

  5. Use the brightest colors from the fabric for accessories and accents like welting, picture mats, and decorative pillows.

  6. Place your anchor fabric in at least three places in the room (upholstery, pillows, curtains, etc).

  7. Use coordinating fabrics in other scales (larger or smaller) as accent fabrics on chairs, pillows, cording, and tablecloths.

  8. For example, to use an 'anchor' fabric with an American flag design: use white (the background color) for walls, navy (a mid-toned color) on floor, blue and white ticking on the sofa, and red (the brightest color) for accessories and accents.

  9. To continue this example, the coordinated prints could be the blue and white ticking stripe, a navy star print fabric, and a red and white mini-check used on chairs, curtains, and pillows.


  1. Repeat colors evenly throughout the room, and in at least 3 places.

  2. Adding dressmaker details in cording and trims is one way to disperse color and add interest.

  3. Divide color use to approximately 60% of the room in the background (lightest) color, 30% in the mid-tone color, and 10% in the brightest, accent colors.

  4. Don't be afraid to experiment. Too often people get shy about color and worry about trying new things. While it's always important to keep an editorial eye, embracing color will bring a whole new level to your decor.


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