Color in Interior Design

Color in Interior Design

In interior design, color sets the mood. In fact, according to psychology research, the colors in our surroundings impact how we feel and behave on a subconscious level. These conclusions are hardly surprising to hear, of course, since most people naturally make associations between colors and moods, such as correlating red with the emotion of anger, blue with the feeling of sadness, or yellow with the idea of chipper happiness. With so much influence over how we feel and perceive a space, the colors of an interior design should be selected thoughtfully and strategically to enhance well-being.

Selecting the room color palette for an interior design is also one key way to establish ambience and solidify stylistic theme. The colors you choose for an interior design can re-enforce thematic statements and help unify physically separated design and decor elements throughout a space.

How to Create A Successful Color Palette for Your Home Interior Design

There are different ways to structure color palettes, and no matter what type of palette you assemble, it is important to strive for color harmony. Color harmony refers to the aesthetic balance of colors within a palette–a harmonious palette makes use of complementary colors in a balanced and striking way while a chaotic (and likely less aesthetic) color palette may invite too much competition between different color elements that can feel distracting or overwhelming in an interior design.

Learning about color theory and the traditional types of color palettes can help you make strategic and aesthetic color palette choices in your interior design.

Before diving in, there are a couple of vocabulary terms you may want to get familiar with:


Adding black to a color produces shades of that color


Adding grey to a color produces tones of that color


Adding white to a color produces tints of that color

The Main Types of Color Schemes in Interior Design

Monochromatic Color Scheme

Monochromatic color palettes use one color and create variations by adding black to produce its shades, grey to produce its tones, or adding white to produce its tints. Since monochromatic color palettes only make use of one color, the palette itself creates a thematically cohesive look throughout the design, regardless of other style elements. With a monochromatic color scheme, the designer has the option to work with progressions and gradients or use different tones, shades, and tints to create emphasis and accents.

A monochromatic room color scheme is useful in homes with different interior design styles throughout or especially busy designs that contain more positive space than negative space.

Analogous Color Scheme

Analogous color palettes are similar to monochromatic color palettes in that they rely on limiting colors to only one section of the color wheel. An analogous color palette uses colors that are next to one another on the color wheel, or colors within a color family.

Using an analogous color scheme in your interior design is a safe way to add a variety of color while still remaining thematically unified and stylistically cohesive throughout. This type of color palette may use more than three colors and expand to cover a larger portion of the color wheel, as well.

Complementary Color Palette

Complementary color schemes tend to energize and excite because they combine colors that are opposite one another on the color wheel. This high level of contrast between colors can help call attention to key style elements within a room or generate interest throughout an entire space.

Complementary room color schemes can sometimes feel bright, busy and ‘noisy’ because the colors in use create visual dissonance and juxtaposition. For this reason, complementary room color schemes are not as commonly used in homes and residential interior design.

Triadic Color Scheme

The triadic color palette is so named because it is comprised of three colors, equidistance from one another on the color wheel. A triadic color palette can be striking and bright to the eye because these color harmonies tend to juxtapose and energize rather than blend and harmonize.

Unlike the complementary color palette or split complementary color palette, the mash-up of colors in a triadic color scheme are often used in interior design to create striking and visually distinct designs.

Tetradic Color Scheme

The tetradic color scheme essentially draws a rectangle across the color wheel to select two pairs of complementary colors. This color scheme is bright and exciting, with almost an element of alarm or urgency to the coloring. In fact, these color schemes often pop up in nature in animals that use coloration to deter predators from attacking.

A tetradic color scheme can be difficult to subtly and elegantly pull off in any setting and is not typically the type of color scheme used in most residential interior designs. Still, for the added effect of an interesting surrounding with plenty of visual stimuli, you can use the tetradic color scheme.

Helpful Hints about Color in Interior Design

Clearly, color is a key element in any interior design, and choosing the right combination of hues for your home design may take some careful consideration You can try some of these helpful tips when choosing a room color palette for your interior design at home:

1. Know Your Color Families

Colors may be categorized into broad families of colors, such as cool colors, warm colors, or neutrals. In interior design, using color families strategically can help you achieve the overarching mood and ambience you hope to set.

Color psychology suggests that cool, organic colors promote calming sensations, while warm and bright colors may encourage a higher energy reaction. For this reason, most interior designers would probably steer clients to choose color palettes with predominantly cool colors for areas such as the bathroom and bedroom while experimenting with bolder warm colors in rooms such as the kitchen or home office.

2. Matching Up with Furniture

Even if a lot of the colors you are picking out are intended to go on walls, the colors you choose for your color palette should harmonize with furniture, decor, and other elements in your interior design, as well. You may gain inspiration for your paint color choices by glancing around the room and noticing which colors are most commonly found in your furniture, flooring, decor, and more!

3. Lighting Can Affect How Color Looks in an Interior Design

The color you fell in love with in broad daylight may fall flat when your yellow-y lamp shines on it at home, so it is important to consider how different lighting conditions may impact your color choices in your home interior design! Hint: in some cases it’s actually the existing lighting that needs to be updated!

4. Don’t Forget the Value of Neutrals

Picking neutrals to include in your color palette isn’t boring or lackluster–in fact, striking the right balance between colors and neutrals often creates show-stopping elegance! Too often, clients overlook variations of neutrals that would serve as beautiful elements in their color palette. Today there are literally hundreds of whites, off-whites, and browns available and it’s a shame these hues are typically overlooked because they can truly add depth and dimension to an interior design

5. See the Bigger Picture

Sometimes as clients select color palettes for a particular room, they begin to hone in on details and forget to consider how the colors in that room will harmonize or compete with colors in the next room over. If you would like to create a more unified style throughout your home, consider choosing color palettes for different rooms that still adhere to a common theme or work well together.

Ask an Expert for Color Help

The color choices you make at the beginning of your interior design project will set the tone for the overarching theme and style of your room down the line, so it’s important to consider your options carefully and make an educated decision you can be confident about as you progress through your interior design transformation. For additional help with color selection, you can always consult an interior designer–an experienced designer is not only educated in color theory but also has experiential knowledge about the types of materials and textures available to you within a particular color scheme and can help you develop and even expand your interior design project.

Published by AmyChris Interior Styling

Aspiring interior designer

14 thoughts on “Color in Interior Design

  1. Good article. Where are you located? If you are in Canada you could show the Johannes Itten color wheel in the article, because in Canada Johannes Itten is in public domain since 2018. USA will have to wait another 20 years for that (USA copyright period being 70 years after the death of the author).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As I said, I liked your article and reading it this was the only thing I would have added, but ultimately if people pay attention, they can google things based on your article. Anyhow, this Johannes Itten color theory is one of my favorite subjects. I am into painted furniture as well and this book was a big help to me at the time.


    1. Thanks for the idea and suggestion maybe I can make my own graphic of a color wheel to make it easier for folks to follow along! I have a physical color wheel I use as a guide for mixing paint and I guess I just assumed everyone was as much a color nerd as you and me and might have one around the house too hahaha


  3. Great article. When my sister built her house (on her business property so she will never move), I asked her what color she would be painting… She said cream because it goes with everything. Does it really? I thought. Anyway I did convince her to paint a couple of rooms with some color. It’s not easy for people to put color in a house for some reason, but I love too! I can always paint over it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the appreciation 🙂 you know the funny thing is my mom is one of those people who just feels it is too risky to add color to her home and I grew up in such a white and off white home with really minimalist Scandinavian style furniture and it really felt boring and depressing to me (I’m hypersensitive) – I think that’s one reason I’m such an advocate of having fun with color and style in interior design today! Thanks for sharing your story and I’m glad you were able to ultimately convince your sis to try some color!

      Liked by 1 person

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