A Guide to Paint Color Schemes For Each Room

colorful living room

Creative freedom is a cherished experience most of the time, but picking a color scheme for your home isn’t one of those times. Too many choices and numerous paint-swatch comparisons will leave you overwhelmed. But there is a process that can help you figure out what works best for each room. Here’s your guide to paint color schemes.

Why Is Color Harmony Important?

A kitchen painted with various bright pastel colors
Photo Credit: pixelshot / Canva Pro / License

Painting a space is generally considered the easiest and quickest way to transform the mood of an area. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to picking a color scheme for your space because those choices are highly subjective. 

You don’t necessarily have to follow every interior design theory out there or the color wheel to create a soothing color palette that feels right for your home. The key is to curate a cohesive palette that links all the rooms with color and gives a more intentional look. A thought-through color relationship between different rooms affects how harmonious your living spaces feel. 

A nice flow between spaces can also uplift any kind of decor and furniture pieces. Unrelated colors make the house feel like a disjointed series of spaces, and you don’t want that. The colors should blend seamlessly from one room to the next and create a nice visual continuity. 

What’s the Vibe?

A living room, kitchen, and staircase painted with various shades of white and gray
Photo Credit: 4787421 from Pixabay / Canva Pro / License

Humans are visual creatures, and color is an important part of what you see and how it makes you feel. Color influences how relaxed or intense you feel when you enter a room. 

Bold colors create an energizing vibe, while cool greens and blues tend to foster a cozy atmosphere. Neutral paint colors take on a variety of looks depending on how you pair them, and pastels create an airy, open vibe. 

So the first step in choosing the right colors for your home is to decide what mood you want to set for each space. Are you going for a calm, soothing bedroom? Do you want a bright and stimulating workspace that encourages you to stay alert and focused? What’s the dining room vibe, a casual space that encourages socialization or a more formal, neutral room?

Whatever “feeling” you’re going for in a room, keep that mood in mind when browsing colors. Tune into what your mind visualizes when you imagine “cozy” or “formal” and pick your first set of colors to start with.

Follow the Light

A living room with many windows painted gray, white, and beige
Photo Credit: phototropic / Canva Pro / License

Pay attention to the amount of natural light entering your rooms and how it impacts the color of the walls. Try to judge different hues of a color shade on walls in natural light because it has nearly uniform intensity over the entire spectrum. 

If you take the same bucket of blue paint and apply it to two rooms – one that gets ample sunlight and the other with very little natural light exposure – it will look like two different shades of blue. 

However, the same color may also appear different as the sunlight shifts and you turn on your supplemental light. For instance, fluorescent lights add a blue tone to your room, while incandescent lighting emphasizes warm tones and yellows. 

Spend a day or two in the room(s) you’re considering painting and observe how light, both natural and supplemental, affects the color. If you’re setting up a new room, experiment and decide the type of interior lighting your room will have. This includes light from lamps, lighting fixtures on walls, and how light from these sources affects color in fabrics, furniture, and other surfaces. 

Use the Color Wheel to Visualize

Hands of an interior designer working with palette for choosing colors
Photo Credit: berezkophotos / Canva Pro / License

You might have left the color wheel in high school art class, but it’s quite a tool to help solve your adult color-choice dilemmas. Don’t worry. You don’t have to learn color theory to get color ideas from this wheel. The color wheel includes three types of colors:

  • Primary Colors: Red, blue, and yellow
  • Secondary Colors: Formed by mixing two primary colors such as orange, green, and purple. On the color wheel, they appear between two primary colors that create them. Like, green appears between blue and yellow. 
  • Tertiary Colors: Formed by mixing secondary colors with primary colors such as yellow-orange, blue-violet, and blue-green. On the color wheel, they fall between primary and secondary colors used to create them. For example, red-violet is between red and violet on the color wheel. 

How does this help? The color wheel essentially puts all the colors and combinations in front of you to mix and match and find two or more colors that work well together. With the turn of the color wheel, you can see how colors might relate and look next to each other. 

Pick a color or theme and look across the color wheel to pair, unpair, and see what color combinations you like. Or, you can choose colors based on the color wheel with one of the following approaches:

Monochromatic Color Scheme: Pick only one color and use the lighter and darker shades of the same color in your space. This works great for neutral colors such as beige, gray, cream, greige, off-white, or white. 

Analogous Color Scheme: Choose three colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel. The middle color should be the most dominant color, such as blue-green, green, and yellow-green, as it (green) is showing up in all three. 

Complimentary Color Scheme: Select two colors opposite each other on the color wheel. One color will be a “warm” color and the other a “cool” color, creating a nice balance and contrast.

Split Complementary Color Scheme: Add a third color to the complementary color scheme and you get split complementary colors. Pick a main color, find its complementary color across from it on the wheel, and add one of the colors adjacent (next) to the complementary color. For example, blue is your dominant color, orange is your complementary color, and red is the third color. 

Match the Sight Lines

A kitchen and living room painted gray and white with black accents.
Photo Credit: Curtis Adams from Pexels / Canva Pro / License

Mixing and matching is always fun, but make sure the colors in different rooms create a nice visual flow. What does that mean? It means that when you stand in one room, oftentimes you can see other rooms from there – they’re in your sight line – and paint in both rooms should work together.

Here’s how: If rooms flow into one another in an open floor plan home, pick a main color and paint the adjacent room a shade lighter or deeper. Say the living room connects with the dining area and you use different shades of the same color, this will define each room as a separate space while also maintaining a visual connection. 

Contrasting colors for different rooms are defining and bold, but they should somehow tie to the overall theme of your home. An easy way to achieve cohesiveness between different colors is to start with the largest or the most prominent space in your house and pick lighter or deeper hues of the same color for other rooms in sight. 

Find Harmony Between Light and Dark

A kitchen with black painted cupboards and white walls next to a living room with white walls and black accents.
Photo Credit: victorzastolskiy / Canva Pro / License

Colors have values, described as light, medium, and dark. A single color, say blue, comes in various values – you can have light, medium, or dark blue. Using all three values in each room creates a nice contrast and flow throughout the house, but it’s important to find the balance. 

Light colors make rooms feel more open and larger, while dark colors make spaces feel cozy and small. A general rule of thumb is to go from dark to light, starting from the floor and moving up to the ceiling. 

Use lighter color values on walls and ceiling, medium values for large furniture pieces, windows, and carpeting, and a dark floor to ground the space. Going dark to light vertically is the real “cookbook” way to make any space attractive without much risk. 

Warm vs. Cool Colors

A Japanese-style bedroom painted a warm beige color
Photo Credit: Navamin studio / Canva Pro / License

Warm colors are usually hues of orange, yellow, brown, red, pink, and white with warm undertones. These colors possess a naturally fun energy to them and feel exciting and bold, while cool colors such as greens and blues tend to be more calming, airy, and light. 

Combining warm and cool hues smartly, you can create an ideal atmosphere based on the type of mood or energy you want in each room. For instance, cool tones create a nice and relaxed kitchen area, while warm oranges and browns make a cozy bedroom choice. Or, a bedroom with cool grays and warm honey tones creates an overall restful effect, but the two opposites create enough spark for the room. 

The 60-30-10 Rule

A kitchen with a white floor, gray counters, light wooden countertops and backsplash, white cabinets, and a white ceiling
Photo Credit: Max Rahubovskiy from Pexels / Canva Pro / License

This is a classic decor rule that is designed to help you create a balanced color palette for your space. It states that 60% of your room should have a dominant color, 30% should have a secondary color or texture, and the last 10% should be an accent. 

How do you apply it? 

  • The 60% dominant color is the overall color or the background of your room. It’s the “first impression” color, the color you will perceive when you first look at the space, like “it’s a gray room”. 
  • The next 30% is a secondary color in your space that compliments the main color in a way that sparks interest in the room. Use this color half as much as you used the main color. Usually, these are moderate tones we discussed earlier. 
  • The remaining 10% is your fun zone, the accent wall color. You can go bold or subtle here, depending on the vibe you’re creating. This 10% could give your room a distinctive character or add to its neutrality. 

The key to nailing this rule is to choose colors that work together in harmony yet have enough dissimilarity that they don’t look monotonous. For example, 60% pale yellow, 30% navy blue, and 10% forest green create an interesting visual treat for the eyes. 

What’s the Decor Like?

A living room painted green with green and brown furniture
Photo Credit: Photocreo / Canva Pro / License

Color psychology states that color can affect behavior and perception. Colors have the power to make us feel energized or calm, edgy or relaxed, happy or sad. To tie the look and feel of your rooms, look around at the kind of decor you have. Is it more traditional with goldens, yellows, and rust-colored pieces or more contemporary with bold-colored decor items? 

Select your interior paint color scheme in a way that doesn’t make your decorative elements stand out awkwardly. When you enter the room, everything in your vision should blend well.

Perfect Your Undertones

Another important tip to select the right color scheme for your home is to understand color undertones. It’s the color underneath that affects the overall hue of the paint. It could be a cool, warm, or neutral undertone. 

For instance, you won’t be able to tell the undertone of a set of gray paint colors if you see them individually. But if you look at them together, you might see some greys have blue undertones (these are the “cool” greys) and some have a yellow or pink tone (the “warm” greys). 

Once you learn to recognize undertones, you will be better able to see what colors work together and build a cohesive color scheme. 

Unify Colors With the Trim

Light brown walls with a white trim
Photo Credit: Curtis Adams from Pexels / Canva Pro / License

Using the same shade of white paint color throughout the house on trims simply creates a flow and ties together room to room. White or a light-colored trim makes all the rooms and areas of your home feel connected. 

It’s best to select the wall colors first and then choose the perfect shade of white for your trims that works well with all the wall paint. Pure white, for example, contrasts crisply with bolder tones and harmonizes well with softer ones. 

Here are some fool-proof color schemes for every space in your home, from the living room to the kitchen. 

Living Room Colors

The part of your home where most of your time is spent needs to be homey and cozy. After taking lighting, decor, and furniture pieces into consideration, see if any of these color combinations work for you:

  • Jewel tones: Rich jewel tones are deep shades of red, purple, and blue. Use colors like these when creating a bold corner or area.
  • Pale greens and blues: These two are the most calming colors. Use shades of green and blue to create a soothing atmosphere in any living area.
  • Bright whites: White paint color creates an airy backdrop that offers ample room for customization. Accent walls or adding a pop of color is easier to blend in with white walls. 
  • Earthy neutrals: If playing safe, always go for neutral colors. Beiges, browns, tans, or greys in a living room work with any kind of decor and vibe. 

Bedroom Colors

A favored choice for bedrooms all around the world is neutrals

  • Neutral colors: include browns, whites, greys, blacks, and tans, and all their shades. Neutral paints support and complement any type of accent. 
  • Pick a base color: See which shade of taupe, beige, or another neutral goes with the lighting, decor, and furniture in your bedroom. 
  • Explore accents: Once you’ve nailed down the base hue, explore different accents and accent colors. Bolder hues of rich purples, deep reds, warm oranges, etc add character to bedrooms without overpowering. 

Kitchen Colors

The kitchen is the heart of a home. An inviting, happy-vibe kitchen never goes out of style. An important factor to consider is lighting in the kitchen. 

  • Natural light brings out subtler, softer shades while artificial lighting is perfect for bolder tones. So, choose according to the light and its source your kitchen receives. 
  • Browse through different tints and shades of different colors. Take swatches and see how light affects each color. 
  • Greens, yellows, neutrals, and oranges look great in most kitchen areas. 
  • You may decide to use different paints for your cabinets and kitchen walls to add variety.

Ready for a Makeover?

Once you’re done selecting the right color for each room, keep the swatches ready and call in a professional to turn your vision into reality in the most efficient way. Reach out to local painting pros, who are qualified, trained, and experienced to ensure a clean and hassle-free paint job.

Main Photo Credit: archideaphoto / Canva Pro / License

Farah Nauman

Farah Nauman is a freelance writer and an accountant based in Pakistan. She spends most of her time combating the South Asian heat and being a mom to her three fluffy cats and a dozen little Aloe Veras in her house.