THE MIRACLE OF A WHOLE HOME COLOUR PALETTE
(And how to get the look)
In last week's blog post we looked at the reasons your home just doesn't look cohesive, why it feels as though something is missing, and we asked what do show homes have that our homes lack?
And the answer? Cohesive looking homes have a little magic ingredient. It's called the whole home colour palette.
So for most of us when we decorate, we take it a room at a time and we choose perhaps pinks in one room, blues in another and greens in the next. But this means that your home doesn't have flow from room to room. Your home looks disjointed and as if each room could belong in any house.
One way to create a unified scheme is to select a limited colour palette throughout your home, re-using the same colours in different rooms. Why would you want to do that? Restricting yourself to one set of colours is actually a good thing for several reasons: firstly it stops us from choosing colours on a whim; secondly, it ensures that your whole home feels cohesive, as if each room belongs together; and finally, by restricting your choices it makes shopping so much easier. After all, if you only have three or four colours to play with, it's an easy yes/no to many items. In short, having a whole-home colour scheme makes life easier!
What does a whole home colour palette mean?
A whole home colour palette, as the name suggests, means using the same palette of colours throughout your whole home. Now this doesn't mean that every room has to look identical as you can use the colours in different ways in different rooms. Let's look at an example...
In the home above the colour scheme is predominantly a neutral palette of grey, black and white, with yellow added to bring a pop of colour. Although the same colours are used in each room, they are used in different ways. In some rooms the walls are light grey, in others they are dark grey and in others they are white. Yellow has been used in different ways in different rooms: within accessories, within soft furnishings, within the bathroom tiles and within artwork.
You don't just have to stick to neutrals either. In fact, the more colours you choose (within reason), the greater the flexibility you have within each room. The home below uses a wider palette which includes pale lilac-grey with yellow and aqua-blue.
The wall colours in the bedrooms vary from taupe-grey chevron wallpaper (top left) to pale blue (top right), pale grey (middle left), white (middle right) and mid- grey (bottom right). Accents of aqua blue and yellow are used in some- but not all- of the rooms. Each room is very different, yet they also look cohesive and have a sense of belonging.
So how do we achieve this?
Creating a whole home colour palette isn't rocket science, but it does require commitment and planning. I've broken down the whole-home colour palette into easy to follow steps. Grab the workbook below and follow along with the instructions.
1. Choose a foundation neutral.
Choosing a foundation neutral acts as a backdrop for the other, stronger colours that surround it. The foundation neutral needs to be fairly pale, and not a strong colour in it's own right. A good foundation neutral would be pale grey, taupe, cream or a pale colour of a colour you like (pale blue for example). Your foundation neutral will be used for large spaces (such as walls) in connecting areas of your home, such as hallways and landings.
2. Choose a dark foundation neutral
Take your foundation neutral and make it darker. Look at your foundation neutral on a colour strip in a DIY store and choose a colour at least 3 shades darker to ensure there is great enough contrast between the two. This will become your first accent colour. So if your foundation neutral was a pale blue, your dark foundation neutral might be navy blue. If your foundation neutral is pale grey, your dark foundation might be charcoal for example. Use your dark foundation neutral for statement walls, to highlight architectural features such as chimney breasts, or choose accessories in this colour within the room. If you are looking for a more subtle and grown-up feeling in a room, then you can stick to your foundation and dark foundation neutrals without bringing in any other accent colours.
3. Choose your accent colours.
Once you have your foundation colours in place, the fun begins: it's time to choose your accent colours! Let's dive into a tiny bit of colour theory.
The key to getting an accent colour to work well is to choose colours which create contrast. Using colour wheel theory can help us to choose the best colours that create contrast, whilst still going together with your other colours.
If you're looking for a calming scheme, choose tints and tones of one main colour (so light blue, mid blue and dark blue for example). Alternatively, choose colours which are next to each other on the colour wheel (analogous colours).
If you want a high contrast scheme then pick accent colours which sit across from each other on the wheel, for example red and green (complementary).
The more colours you have, the greater combinations you can play with in different rooms, so choosing three or four colour accents works well for whole house schemes. Choosing a triad of colours, evenly spaced around the colour wheel works well, as does the two colours which sit either side of a colour's complement (like blue with red-orange and yellow-orange for example). If you really want to go for it, try using a tetrad (four colour scheme). Just make sure that you don't use too much of any one colour in the room or you will overpower the space. Use one or two accent colours in a room, rather than all of them at once.
You can have a play around with different colour combinations using an online colour palette selector. If you want some help with that, grab my video tutorial below which shows you how to create a colour palette using the free website, Coolors.
4. Decide which colours each room will have
So once you've selected your colours, it's time to plan how they will be used in each room. Remember that your connecting spaces will usually be painted in your foundation neutral. This is because you know that it will go well with all of your accent colours. Remember last week we talked about sight lines? Well if you're in a connecting space you are likely to be able to see other rooms, and you will want to ensure that they all look cohesive. Starting with your foundation neutral helps with that.
Now take each room in turn and decide which colour you want the walls to be. I always advise people to keep walls fairly neutral or pale, unless you are trying to make a WOW impact. Colour is almost always best brought in through soft furnishings and accessories rather than big expanses of paint.
The wall colours can vary from room to room, as long as you are sticking to your colour palette. You can even use your accent colours as your wall colours, although I advise you to choose a very pale tint of your accent colour, unless you're looking for a wild look. So you may have a soft grey in one room (your foundation colour), but a pale yellow (one of your accent colours) in another.
Next decide which of your accent colours you will use for your accessories and soft furnishings. You may want a highly coloured room, where you are using several of your accent colours, or you might want a more pared down look where you use just one or two accent colours, or just your neutral foundations.
You can mix and match this within one home too; so a child's room could have all of the accents, whereas in the master bedroom you may decide to restrict the colours to the more neutral elements of the palette.
5. Try out your ideas on a mood board
Once you have your ideas in place and your colours worked out, make sure that you create a mood board for each room in your home and put them side by side to check the flow. You could even create one complete whole-home mood board. Although it seems like a bit of a faff to create a mood board (I know you want to dive in and begin), laying the paint, fabric and finishes out side by side really helps you to see which items go together well and which may need further thought. Check out this blog here about why mood boards are so important (and how to make one).
Now remember, you don't have to change your whole home overnight, but if you have a colour plan in place, as you move forward in your decor, you know that you are going to be creating a more cohesive scheme, and a home that flows from room to room.
When you restrict yourself to a limited but cohesive colour palette, you will start to see the magic happen. The miracle that is a well-coordinated, well-designed cohesive home.
So let's get going. Have a go at creating a whole home colour palette. Which colours will you include in your scheme? Let me know in the comments below.