Color is a powerful tool, especially when it comes to interior decorating. It sets the theme, establishes the mood you’re aiming for, and ties a room’s design elements together. A monochromatic palette is the easiest and simplest way to pull off; it’s when the number of colors increase that’s challenging.

Whatever your decorating style—bohemian, eclectic, minimalist—it won’t hurt to learn a thing or two about making colors work for you. The best way to do this is to learn about the color wheel and how you can use it to come up with color palettes that are not only pleasing to the eyes but can also calm or stir the soul.

War and Peace

The monochromatic look uses analogous colors—those that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel, whereas the “War and Peace” look uses color that are opposite each other. Mistakenly referred to as “contrasting colors,” they are in fact inverse colors. Contrast doesn’t refer to colors per se but is based, rather, on their hue, value, and saturation. In the image above, the sitting room furniture uses a combination of magenta and green. The color combination works well on a neutral background.

A Song of Ice and Fire

If you’re considering color options for a room, a good idea is to contrast warm colors with cooler ones to get a balanced overall look. The color wheel can be divided into the warm and cool halves; the yellow to red violet half (the top half in the main color wheel image) represents the warm hues, while the greens and blues (the bottom half in the main color wheel image) represent the cooler hues. The image above shows how the red and orange tones offset the cool gray of the sofa.

The 60-30-10 Code

Professional interior decorators utilize a specific guideline when it comes to color, usually referred to as the “60-30-10 rule.” Basically, it shows you how to combine three colors in decorating a room. Choose a main color to be used as the base (60%), a secondary color (30%), and one to be used as accents (10%).

The trick lies in how much of each color you use; use too much of one and it will drown out the others, making them look like an afterthought. On the other hand, the use of too many colors will make your space look overly busy. The image above shows how this “rule” can be used on patterns as well. The bedroom features approximately 60% of a bold floral pattern, 30% of a geometric one, and 10% of a complex, intricate one.

Through these simple methods, you can see that color combination—in any room—is not really a complicated affair. All it takes is some basic knowledge of the color wheel and some tried-and-tested color combinations that you can use as starting points. With the help of the color wheel, you can get the color scheme you want and use and combine colors and patterns like a professional.

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