How to Pick the Right Coordinating Colors for your Decor

No matter how good your eye for color, knowing some basic color theory can help ensure that every item in your home is in harmony. There are three basic types of color scheme: monochromatic, which uses different shades and values of the same color; analogous, which uses colors that are next to each other on the color wheel; and complementary, which uses colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. By sticking to these schemes, you create balance and elegance in your living space every time.

Paint sample cards show options for monochromatic color schemes.

Step 1

Determine what kind of mood you want to create in each room.  If you want a room to be calm and sophisticated, plan to use a monochromatic color scheme.

If you want it to be peaceful and beautiful, plan for an analogous scheme.  If you want it to be bold and eclectic, plan for a complementary scheme.

Feel free to select different schemes for different rooms. 

Step 2

Select a base color for a monochromatic room.  Using a paint sample card, choose three shades of that color, one pale, one dark and one in the middle.

Plan to make the pale shade dominant in a bright room or the dark shade dominant in a dim room; use the contrasting shade for trim and accents.  For example, in a monochromatic bedroom, you might paint the walls a pale, shimmery lavender, cover the bed in a dusty purple bedspread and decorate it with royal purple accent pillows.

Step 3

Choose a color scheme for a room right next to the first room.  Using a color wheel to make sure you're staying within an analogous or complementary scheme, choose three colors, one of which should be a shade of the monochromatic color in the previous room.

For example, if you want the hallway outside the bedroom to have an analogous color scheme, you might choose a sky blue for the wallpaper, a navy blue for the wainscoting and a pastel purple for the window dressing. 

Step 4

Continue moving from room to room, always carrying one color from the previous scheme into the new scheme.  If you want the living room next to the hallway to have a complementary scheme, you might paint the walls a sunny yellow, select marigold curtains, find furniture with a birch finish for birch's yellow undertones, and hang an accent painting of a blue flower on a focal wall.

Things You Will Need

  • Paint sample cards
  • Color wheel


  • Add visual interest to monochromatic rooms by using patterns. Use three different prints: one big or loud print such as a paisley, one calmer print such as a stripe pattern, and one small or subtle print such as a detailed floral pattern. Make one print dominant in the room and use the other two as accents.
  • Balance complementary rooms by primarily using shades of one color and adding the opposite color only as an accent. It also helps if you use washed out or dark shades of the accent color rather than bright, vibrant shades. A room with kelly-green walls covered in bright red accents is overwhelming, but a room with moss-green walls and the occasional splash of dusty brick red is classy and interesting.

About the Author

Stephanie Mitchell is a professional writer who has authored websites and articles for real estate agents, self-help coaches and casting directors. Mitchell also regularly edits websites, business correspondence, resumes and full-length manuscripts. She graduated from Syracuse University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theater.

Photo Credits

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