Choosing colors for a space is one of the key steps in the decorating process. After all, color is a very transformative element that can evoke feelings and help you capture the overall look and vibe you are searching for. It can also be a great expression of you and your personal style.
It can feel a little overwhelming to make this choice because there are so many options, and you may be drawn to a lot of them. Even though you can play with different color schemes in different rooms, narrowing it down and deciding on one even for just one room can often seem like an impossible feat.
The process of choosing colors for rooms is a lot easier when you understand a bit about the psychology behind each color. When you know what you want to achieve in the space and how the right colors can play a role in bringing that to life, you can make much more informed decisions. It’s also a lot of fun once you’ve found your direction.
To take some of the guesswork out of choosing colors, I’ve put together four questions you should ask yourself when choosing the right colors your home. I’ve also included a worksheet with some color ideas that you can download at the end.
These questions are just to get the ball rolling. The more you know about what you like, the easier it will be for you to make design choices that fit your lifestyle and personality.
Choosing Colors for Your Home
1 How are you going to be using the room?
The first thing you need to think about is how you plan on using the room. Every space has a different function. For example, maybe your family room is a casual place where you hang out with the kids every night to relax and blow off some steam. Your living room, however, is where you hold your weekly book club or host afternoons with your mother-in-law, or maybe it’s just where you like to get some quiet time with a good book and a glass of wine.
In the family room, you would probably want to use colors that were more gender neutral and could withstand some wear-and-tear. Light colors aren’t the best choice with kids, at least on the bigger pieces like the sofa and area rug. In the living room, however, you could go with something a little more elegant and not have to worry so much about light colors being affected by dirt or spills.
2 What kind of atmosphere do you want to create in the room?
The next thing to ask yourself is how you want to feel in the space. Color not only reflects style and personality, but it also helps cultivate a certain mood. What type of mood do you want your room to convey?
For your master bedroom, perhaps you want it to have a serene, quiet sense of calm so it feels like your own personal retreat. You may want to be reminded of that trip to Bali you took every time you crawl into bed at night. Or, you may want it to be more passionate and romantic, like your honeymoon in Italy. These two concepts would require entirely different color palettes to capture the right vibe.
Similarly, an exercise room would need to be energetic so you feel powerful and ready to take on your workout routine, while you may want your master bathroom to be the place you want to unwind in afterwards. Bright orange walls would work in the former, but not the latter (if you want it to be soothing).
3 How much natural light does the room get?
Lighting has a big impact on color and mood. After all, color is a reflection of light, so it’s important to take it into account when choosing colors for a space. The type of lighting and the amount of light a room receives has an effect on how colors look in a space. Any kind of light can change the way a color appears. That’s why it’s important that always test paint colors in the room they’re going to be used in before making a final decision.
If a room has almost no natural light, whites and lighter colors will reflect whatever light is available. This will help open up the room and make it feel larger. Dark colors, on the other hand, will absorb light and make the room feel even darker. And if it’s a small space, those darker colors could also make it feel even smaller.
Natural light is the best type of lighting because it shows the truest color. If you currently have your windows covered up or trees are blocking them from the outside, consider using lighter window treatments and trimming back the trees to allow more light in. Keep in mind natural light changes throughout the day and is affected by the direction the room faces, so when testing paint colors, put samples on all four walls. One wall could end up looking entirely different from the rest depending on where the light comes in. For example, if it faces north the room will get less natural light.
If the natural light is limited, you’ll want to use colors that brighten things up (along with good artificial lighting, which you’ll also want to test your paint colors under). You can also use whites and lighter colors to reflect more light into the space.
Getting a room’s lighting in order and understanding how it works will help you make better informed decisions on color.
4 What words would you use to describe your personality?
Regardless of what people may say the “rules” are to decorating, the bottom line is – it’s your home. It should be a reflection of your and your family’s unique personalities, lifestyle and whatever inspires you the most. “Rule” #1 to decorating – there are no rules! Just helpful guidelines.
If you would describe yourself as outgoing and energetic, you may find you are drawn to bold, vibrant colors. If you prefer a more understated and reserved style, neutral or softer colors could make you feel most comfortable. Sometimes the opposite can even hold true. For example, if you are “on” all day and continuously surrounded by bright colors, you may want your home to be in a neutral or serene color palette so you can relax and unwind.
It’s important to think about what you are drawn most to and how the environment in your home can cater to your daily needs to enhance your life. Above all else, your home should be a place where you feel relaxed and inspired, however that may manifest itself to you.
If you’re feeling confused about where to start with choosing colors, I hope this guide helped give you some direction and get you on the right track. To organize your answers and get some color ideas, download the free worksheet!