Selecting a color palette for a single room is simple enough. But deciding on an overarching color scheme for an entire home, from the guest bath to the basement? That’s another story. It involves flawlessly mixing rugs, paint colors, upholstery, prints, artwork, and furniture finishes across 1,500-plus square feet, without a single off-putting hue or stray pattern pop. Could it get any more daunting?!
Fortunately, Havenly designer Heather Goerzen assures us that it’s not as hard as it looks. “Planning out your homes’ color palette ensures visual flow throughout your space,” she explains. “With a little forethought, you can eliminate jarring color moments, like having a loud, bright blue bathroom next to a warm minimalist living room.”
With a bit of planning and a few design principles in mind, you can easily create a cohesive, whole home color palette that unites your entire space. But before we get into her thoughtful tips, let’s start with the basics:
Primer: Color Wheel 101
Excuse us while we throw it back to third grade art class for a minute. The O.G. color wheel is a great source of inspiration when selecting accent colors for your space. If you don’t remember how a color wheel actually works, don’t worry — we’ll fill you in:
First, locate your dominant color on the color wheel (notice that black, white, and shades of grey are not included here). The colors on either side of your dominant hue are considered “analogous,” or adjacent colors, and will add depth and variation to your main color. For example, blue’s analogous colors are purple and green.
The colors across from your dominant hue are complementary colors. So, green’s complementary color is pink, blue and orange are a pair, and so on. Obviously, these matches are a bit more bold, but it’s a surefire way to create a high-contrast palette for your home.
Lastly, monochromatic color palettes include different shades of the same color. It’s basically the design version of the ombre hair trend and a great option if you lean more minimalist and understated.
1. Establish your mood
Before we even get to color, first decide how you want your home to feel. Different colors cue different moods, so reverse engineer your palette starting with the ideal atmosphere. Want something that feels relaxed and calming? A neutral, organic palette could suit you, or maybe even grounded nature-inspired colors. Is playful and energetic more your speed? Go big and bold with a more vibrant whole home color palette.
2. Survey your home
Before you commit to a paint color or a vibrant rug, take a moment to walk the length of your floor plan. Stand in each space, hallway, and doorway and take note of the other areas in view. For example, if you’re in your hallway and you can see both a bedroom and powder room simultaneously, you want to make sure those spaces harmonize and talk to each other. Keep in mind that neutrals can create visual “breathing room” to bridge two more colorful rooms.
3. Select your dominant tone
Secondary colors and vibrant accents are essential, but selecting your dominant hue will set the stage for your whole home color palette. We know, this part can feel a bit overwhelming. Take a step back and remember that at a baseline, your home should be filled with colors that suit your aesthetic and make you happy. Let your heart and gut guide you, and if you’re stuck, consider turning to your closet for inspiration. If it’s filled with blacks and neutrals, a minimalist color palette will likely suit you. If all your clothes range from navy to pale blue, then this is probably a good jumping off point for your home. Lots of muted rusts, greens, and sands? You might be someone drawn to organic earth tones.
4. Consider your homes' architecture
Not only do you want to love your color scheme on a personal level, it should feel natural within your home, too. For example, if you have beautiful, rich wood floors or exposed ceilings throughout, a super cool color scheme might feel like a mismatch whereas a modern high-contrast ensemble is just the ticket. Or, if your home leans more traditional, consider a more muted, timeless color scheme.
5. Remember: repetition is key
You of course want to weave the dominant tone throughout your home, but try to do so in new and interesting ways. In the above home, for example, blues are seen predominantly in the sofa and rug in the living room. The hue is carried through to the wallpaper in the nursery, the bedding in the bedroom, and the cabinetry in the kitchen. The color is consistent throughout, but the variation in application (from furniture to cabinets) keeps it feeling fresh and unexpected.
6. Work within a spectrum
You definitely don’t want a dated “wedding color scheme” look, where you have the exact same two accent colors repeated throughout the space. Instead, work within a color spectrum. If you’re drawn to earth tones, for example, use a really light terra cotta in one space, and a more spicy rust in another. They’re shades of a similar tone, instead of the exact same color repeated throughout.
7. Add in an unexpected pop
Whether it’s a bold pattern or a vibrant color, adding a “wow” moment or two keeps things interesting. Remember, the goal is cohesion without monotony — feel free to weave in an unexpected but complementary color via a statement chair, surprising wallpaper or tile, or even a signature piece of bold art.
8. Consider shared spaces vs. private spaces
Working within your whole home color palette, go for something more versatile and understated in shared spaces, like the living room, dining room, and kitchen. Conversely, feel free to get a bit more bold and playful in more private spaces, like a small powder room, main bedroom, or even a kids playroom.