Interior DesignUncategorized

Understanding Color

By May 22, 2017 2 Comments

Today we are breaking down color and getting our geek on. Yes, Interior Designers like to geek out about color and we are no exception. Guilty as charged.

Color is one of the most dominant perceptions of the physical world and one of the most important and powerful tools for interior design. At the same time color is one of the most complex physical and psychological elements to understand and use correctly.

Your color scheme also reflects a part of your personality and culture and the feel you want to bring to your space.

So what is Color?

The color of an object – your table, bedding, sofa etc. is conveyed by the color of light the object absorbs and the amount of light it reflects to your eye.

For example, a blue sofa looks blue because the blue color absorbs or subtracts most of the color of light except blue which is reflected by your eye. Colors created with pigments are called subtractive colors.

Like all other aspects of Interior Design, a single color does not exist in isolation, it effects and is effected by surroundings, color and by the color of light hitting it. So when choosing a color scheme for your home you have to carefully consider how light will effect the color.

As most of us know there are three primary colors…red, yellow and blue. Those are the primary colors for pigments. But when you mix two or more of those colors together you get an endless array of colors. Adding black or white to those colors gives you different shades of one color. If all three primary colors are mixed together equally you will get black.

Colors Have Three Basic Qualities:

  1. Hue – basic color
  2. Value – describes the degree of lightness or darkness of color in relation to black and
  3. Intensity – The degree of purity of the color

If you are choosing a paint color for your home we always recommend painting a sample swatch on the walls or object first to see how the surface absorbs the paint color. The color will probably change a bit depending on the color of your wall or object.

There are several systems created to describe color but the most common one is the Color Wheel.


We call the colors on opposite sides of the Color Wheel complementary colors. The colors located beside each other on the wheel are non-complementary colors.

Effects of Adjacent Colors and Lights:

Complementary colors reinforce each other. When you place two complementary colors together side by side each appears to heighten the others saturation. That’s why when decorating it’s important to use contrasting colors as focal points. Non complimentary colors blend together and don’t make much of a statement.

Also it’s important to remember that a color placed against a darker background will appear lighter than it is, while a color against a lighter background will appear darker than it actually is. A neutral gray will appear warm when placed on a  blue background and cool when placed on a red background. Now you know why finding the perfect gray can be so difficult!

Light color will appear lighter against a dark background. Found on Pinterest.

Lights: in general lights that have a particularly strong hue component will intensify colors with similar hues and neutralize colors of complementary hues.

Effects of Color on Spatial Perceptions:

Hue, Value and Intensity can be used in many ways to affect the appearances of a space and objects in it and here are some designer tips to get the most impact of color in your space:

  1. Bright, warm colors tend to make an object like a piece of furniture larger while a dark color will make it appear smaller and heavier.
  2. Light, neutral colors extend the apparent space of a room. That’s why we love whites, creams and grays. However, you may want to make a room feel more closed in and cozy. That’s when you would go with a dark color.
  3. Warm colors tend to advance while cool colors recede.
  4. A high ceiling can be lowered by painting it a darker color.
  5. Color can be used to modify the spatial quality of a room. For example, a long, narrow room can be “widened” by painting the side walls with a light cool color while painting the end wall with a darker warmer color.
  6. Individual pieces of furniture can be made more prominent if they are much lighter than the background. Conversely a large object can appear smaller if it’s color is light and similar to it’s background.
  7. The 60-30-10 rule is a timeless decorating rule (suggestion) that helps you put a color scheme together easily. Use 60% of your space for dominant main color, 30% for secondary color and 10% for accent color. But we know every project is unique so this rule can certainly be broken.

Dark Furniture will appear heavier against a light background. Source: Tres Studio

Light Color furniture will appear lighter and wider. Source: Pinterst 

Light Paint makes a space feels wide and open. Source: Le(v)a&Bo 

Dark paint makes a space feels more closed in and cozy. Source: Idyll go him


Happy Decorating!

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Rob says:

    OMG Thank you so much regarding the above mentioned principals. I painted my pad dark grey and though I was ear bashed by all around on how wrong this would be EVERYONE is in love with it now! I just need to find the furniture LOL!

    Thanx again people….

  • Wendy Stringer says:

    I forgot all about the 60-30-10 rule and now my daughter has bought a new home and we are just stuck completely on its features and and accent wall With white fireplace being espresso to match the kitchen cabinets.
    This helps us….if she will understand her dark brown accent wall, cream paint, white trim….and her love for blue_green, deep red, and warm yellow Along with gold frames is really pushing the scheme a LOT. Reigning her in is a bit hard AND SHES SOOO STUCK! She said her vision is stuck.
    Thank you for your help!!!!

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