It's the one thing designers say will make an immediate change in a room. It can create a look that makes a statement about a home and the people who live there. It's also inexpensive and easy to change: color. Unfortunately, this aspect of decorating gives many fits, but by following a few simple guidelines you can find colors that strike just the right tone.
If there's a color you're crazy about, one of the easiest ways to incorporate it is to use all the shades in its range, from lightest to darkest. By using this color scheme, you'll have an elegant tone-on-tone look. Adding an accent color or balancing it with a touch of black or white is another way to make
your favorite color come to life. Or keep everything in the same shade if you want an uber-cool, chic look.
When color shades are too similar, the result is monotonous. Yet, if you don't want to put very dramatic colors together, such as red and black, you might look to color neighbors. These are shades well-suited for one another and are neighbors on the color wheel. Good examples are orange and yellow, red and pink, blue and green, brown and beige. This is a quick and easy way to add interest but not add color that feels jarring.
One way to employ this technique is to use one color for walls and paint and another for furnishings. Pulling in a beige accent in a brown upholstery fabric will help make the furniture and the room feel unified and cohesive.
Fearing the bland plight of builder's white, homeowners can select colors that are opposite one another. These are often called complementary and, although they are as different and opposite as salt and pepper, they go well together. Good examples are yellow and blue, black and white, or the Christmas favorites, red and green.
Selecting colors that are opposite on the color wheel might seem jarring, but in fact they're lively and balanced simply because they do contrast so well. If one is too bold, try making one shade much darker or much lighter, for a distinctive look.
Recently out in paperback, "The Color Scheme Bible: Inspirational Palettes for Designing Home Interiors" (Firefly, $19.95) offers 150 ideas, from using color to make a room look larger to making it work throughout a room.
In addition to other tools for reimaging your home's design, the HGTV Home Design & Remodeling Suite ($49.99 at officemax.com) allows you to use digital photos of your home and change the paint colors. Many paint companies offer free software that lets you see your home as it would look if painted with their color palette.
The Interior Design Color Wheel ($8.99 from amazon.com) identifies what is a complementary, monochromatic or harmonized color scheme, offering tips on the back of the 8 1/2-by-11-inch wheel, which is in a protective three-ring binder sleeve.