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How to Create a Whole Home Color Palette + Perfect Color Hack

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A whole home color palette is an important step in creating a cohesively decorated home. Here’s exactly how to create a beautiful color scheme for YOUR home – plus a hack for perfectly coordinated colors every time!


Today I’m showing you how to create a color palette for your whole home – PLUS one hack that will ensure you choose perfectly coordinated colors every single time!

The reason I’m sharing this is that one of the questions I get asked all the time is “How do I choose colors for my house?” Most often, someone is asking about a single color, like a paint color, or a rug color.

But really colors should be chosen with your entire home in mind. And for this you should have a plan – a whole home color palette.

 

collage of images with text showing a whole home color palette

 

Why a Whole Home Color Palette?

After choosing your unique decorating style, choosing a whole home color palette is the most important step to creating a beautifully decorated home.

Along with your style, your color palette ties all your rooms and spaces together to create that cohesive flow we all want. Even if you are decorating gradually over time.

It can also be the key to helping you to choose decor wisely, without wasting any more money. Which will be much less frustrating than never knowing what to buy or constantly buyings things that don’t work in your space!

Put simply, having a plan for colors throughout your home will make the rest of your decorating choices so much easier!

a white shiplapped fireplace mantel with two cozy chairs and footstools, illustrating a neutral home color scheme

Get Yourself a Color Wheel

In order to really get the hang of choosing colors, I highly recommend getting yourself a decorator’s color wheel. You can find one on Amazon here

an interior design color wheel

It will really help you understand and choose colors for your home well. 

Related: How to Use a Color Wheel for Decorating and Choosing Colors That Work

Color Scheme vs Color Palette

“Color scheme” and “color palette” tend to get used interchangeably, which is totally okay. I use them both all interchangeably all the time.

But in case you were confused by the terms, here’s what they actually mean:

  • A color scheme is the general framework used to put your colors together. It’s based on the color wheel and color theory. 
  • A color palette is the specific colors you choose for your home. It includes the names of your paint colors 

Basic Home Decor Color Schemes

There are four basic home decor color schemes or color frameworks that you can work with when planning your home’s color palette: 

1. Monochromatic

One-Color Scheme – also called monochromatic this color scheme uses any one color and all of its shades, tints or tones. This scheme is very easy to implement and is a good place to start if you are unsure of yourself and your color choice, or if you like a subdued and subtle look.

6 squares showing a monochromatic paint palette

2. Complementary

Two-Color Scheme – also called complementary, this color scheme uses any two colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel. This scheme is typically a high contrast look with colors such as red and green or orange and blue.

complementary color scheme shown on a color wheel

3. Split-Complementary

Multi-Color Scheme – also called split-complementary, with this color scheme you choose one main color and then the two colors on either side of its opposite. It offers rather a dramatic look.

split complementary color scheme shown on a color wheel

4. Analogous

Related Color Scheme – also called analogous, this color scheme uses one main color and up to six neighbors next to it on the color wheel.

analogous color scheme shown on a color wheel

Related: Color Theory Simplified for Your Whole Home

An Important Note About Undertones

So, what are undertones?

All colors – including white – are made up of other colors. Those other colors create something called an undertone.  

a paint fan deck showing several shades of white paint colors

There are two types of undertone, warm undertones and cool undertones.

In general:

  • Warm colors with undertones like red and yellow feel cozy. 
  • Cool colors with undertones like blue and green feel calming.

Undertones matter in your home decor because they affect how your eyes see the colors you use. 

You can learn more about how to identify undertones here.  

Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Choose Your Colors

There are few other things to consider before you choose your colors too.

How do you want your home to feel?

Because colors evoke feelings, you will want to choose colors that evoke the feelings you want in your home. For example, red is stimulating and blue is calming. Do you want your home to feel relaxed and cozy or invigorating and energizing? 

(Read more about room color and how it affects your mood here.)

Decide how you want your home to feel overall and choose colors that will help create those feelings. 

What colors do you love?

Choosing a color that you love, will help ensure you won’t get sick of it any time soon. Granted if you love big bold colors, you may not want to go and paint every single wall in that color. But your favorite colors – in clothing, home decor, cars, etc. – can be a great jumping off point for your whole home color scheme. 

My favorite color happens to be black. Just one look at my everyday wardrobe and my favorite T-shirt that reads “black is my happy color” will tell you that.

Check your closet for some great cues as to your most-loved colors. 

What colors are you stuck with?

Undoubtedly, you will have some things in your home that have to stay. Whether due to budget, time or talent, you will need to take stock of these unchangeable elements in your home.

Some of these things may be flooring, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, counter tops, faucets, wall tiles, etc.

Unless you’re planning on renovating these as you decorate, they are fixed and—like it or not—play into the color palette you will choose for your decorating. 

Pay attention to those fixed things and their undertones:

  • What is the undertone of your home’s woodwork?

Observe or choose the major wood tones in your home. If you have dark walnut hardwood floors throughout your home and you don’t plan to change those, that is automatically your major wood tone. Or if you have oak cabinets in your kitchen, oak railings by your stairs and oak cabinets in your bathroom, that is automatically your major wood tone. You can choose 1-2 wood tones as well to use in occasional furniture pieces like side tables and chairs. But pay attention to the undertones in the existing or planned wood items.

  • What is the undertone of your home’s metal finishes?

Observe or choose the metal finishes in your home. Metal items also have undertones that play to the colors on the color wheel. Golds and bronzes have yellow-orange undertones and are warm-toned metals. While silver and chrome are ever so slightly blue and are therefore cool-toned metals. Make note of what metal finishes are already in your home.

entry table with decorative scales, artwork on the wall behind and a lamp to show a color scheme of neutrals

How to Create a Cohesive Color Palette – Without Every Room Looking the Same!

The key to creating a great color palette for your house is to use a limited number of colors – and to use them in different ways in each space. This will give you that cohesive flow you want, without every room looking identical. 

Easy Steps to Create Your Whole Home Color Palette

1. Choose a white

You need to choose a white that will carry throughout your house. This white can be used on doors, baseboards, crown moulding, ceilings, inside cabinets and closets. 

Just remember not all whites are the same and you can learn how to choose white paint here. You need to pay attention to the undertones of the flooring, wood and metals that you are stuck with and choose a white accordingly. 

For example, if you have oak kitchen cabinets, oak flooring and oak railings (all with warm undertones), and you’ve chosen:

  • a monochromatic or analogous (shades of the same color or colors next to each other on the color wheel) color scheme, you will want to choose a warm white. 
  • a complementary (opposites on the color wheel) color scheme, you will want to choose a cool white. 

2. Choose a neutral

Much like your white, your neutral color will be used throughout your house. It will be what you use in hallways, open living spaces or connecting rooms. 

Go-to neutrals are a beige, taupe, cream, gray or even greige.

Your neutral can even be a toned down, subtle version of a color you love. Your neutral will provide a backdrop for all your other colors. 

3. Choose one main color 

Pick one major color to carry throughout the house. This can be any color you adore.

This main color isn’t necessarily a paint color for your walls.

It’s just one of the main colors you’re going to use in your whole home color palette.

If you aren’t a color lover, or are a little afraid to mess up your colors, you can choose a muted version of your favorite color. 

4. Choose a second color

  • If you’re using a monochromatic color scheme, this will simply be a lighter version of your main color.
  • If you’re going with a complementary color scheme, this will be the color directly opposite your main color on the color wheel
  • If you’re going with a split-complementary scheme, this can be one of the colors on either side of your main color’s opposite.
  • If you’re going with an analogous scheme, this will be one of the colors on either side of your main color. 

5. Choose a third color

This will be another coordinating color, keeping in mind which of the 4 color schemes you chose from above.  

  • If you’re using a monochromatic color scheme, this will simply be another light version of your main color.
  • If you’re going with a complementary color scheme, you won’t have another color
  • If you’re going with a split-complementary scheme, this can be the other color on beside of your main color’s opposite.
  • If you’re going with an analogous scheme, this will be the color on the other side of your main color. 

THE best hack for choosing colors that work perfectly together every time!

Want to know my biggest hack for choosing colors?

Pull all your colors from an inspiration piece.

This can be a multi-colored couch or a bedspread, a piece of art or even a swatch of fabric you LOVE.

Professional designers have already spent the time to put the colors together to create these things, so take advantage of that and pull your individual colors from a great piece!

Now what?

Now it’s all about how and where you use each of those colors in your home. 

Tip: You don’t have to use these exact colors…you can always go with a tint (lighter) or shade (darker) of the colors you’ve chosen. Just remember to use the palette you just created as a guide!

Our Whole Home Color Palette

We have a neutral home color palette, filled with monochromatic shades of taupe, with a little black and grey thrown in for grounding. 

monochromatic paint palette shown in six squares

Of course, we don’t use all those colors in every room in the same way or in the same proportions. Our house is very open though, so we did opt to use the same white (SW Eider White) on all of our main floor walls. But where and how we use the other colors varies by room. 

farmhouse style entryway with church pew style bench, numbered wire baskets underneath, to show a home color scheme

a monochromatic dining room with beiges to show the color scheme carry through the house

white shiplap kitchen butcher block counters black island to illustrate where we use our accent colors

winter living room with black shiplap wall and neutral decor to finish showing how we use a monochromatic neutral color scheme in our house

Be creative with your colors, paint accent walls or even furniture with your accent colors. Use one of your colors on cabinet hardware, or in a vase you love. By using the same colors throughout, in different ways, your decor will flow nicely from room to room! 

Bright bedroom with a desk under a window with words on image to show how to create a whole home color scheme

How are you doing creating your whole home color palette? Did you base it on a favorite color?

I'd love it if you'd share:

Student love

I found my style and was able to bring our small space together by creating a cozy and inviting home...

Danae C.

I loved the lesson on color theory, and also THAT YOU TOLD US EXACTLY WHAT ORDER TO DECORATE IN!

Erica L.

My ah-ha moment was when I realized how much time and money we have spent in the past couple of...

Cheryl P.

I love your easy process to determine my style. I've also learned that my style has changed over the years and seasons...

Sheryl R.

Your explanation of paint colors was the light bulb moment for me! Your explanation would have saved us from painting...

Pat Jensen