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Decorating Made Simple
Decorating Made Simple
Solutions for adding color to your home

Decorating Made SimpleDecorating Made Simple is the Perfect “How to” Guide for Creating Colorful Interiors.

Decorating Made Simple combines basic color theory with classic color stories in an easy to understand format that is immediately applicable to your own decorating projects.

This guide is both a primer for the beginner and an inspirational tool for the decorating expert.

Getting Started - Location, location, location

Whether you’re sprucing up the dining room for the holidays
or preparing the nursery for that new addition, most
decorating projects start with a particular location or a
special occasion in mind. Having identified the space,
the next step is to identify a source of inspiration
upon which to build your palette. What inspires you
could be as close as the cushion on your couch or as
far away as your last vacation destination. Inspiration
also comes from fashion, nature and art. Assemble
items that appeal to you, whether they are fabric
swatches, paint chips or photos cut from magazines.
They are your starting point.

Take a good look at these items and notice just
what colors attract and hold your attention.
Chances are those are the same colors that
you find in the personal palette of your wardrobe.
Are you drawn to the warm hues of reds and yellows?
Or do you find blues and greens feel better to you? If you’re worried about missing the latest “trend” just remember what fashion designer Yves St. Laurent once said, “Fashion fades, style is eternal.” Don’t forget, it’s your space; you have to feel comfortable in it.

Color Basics

Color BasicsHue - Is another name for color, it can also refer to a color family.

Shade - Is a color or hue that is mixed with black or gray.

Tint - Is a color or hue that is mixed with white.

Value - Is the relative lightness or darkness of a color.

Now that you’ve mastered the basics, it’s time to take it to the next level. These next characteristics are what make a color “complex” but not complicated, and therefore more visually intriguing. There are a few basic terms in your color vocabulary that will help you articulate your needs and express verbally and visually the look that you’re trying to achieve.

The temperature of a color is relative to itself and to the colors that surround it. Reds, oranges and yellows are usually considered warm colors while blues, greens and violets are cool colors. When warm and cool colors share a space, their respective temperatures are intensified. Intensity is associated with brightness or dullness. Intense colors are pure colors with little or no gray. These are referred to as high intensity colors. Low intensity colors have more gray in them and as a result tend to be more subdued. Tangerine and lemon are two good examples of high intensity colors. These colors will enliven any space. Terracotta and wheat are low intensity colors that have a soothing effect. Undertones are found in all colors except primary colors. Primary colors red, yellow and blue are single colors, while all other colors are a mix of colors. An undertone in a hue hints at a second subtle color or the color beneath the color. Olive is a good example of a green with yellow undertones. Pairing olive with yellow will emphasize the olive to a greater degree than if you decide to down play the yellow undertone by using its complement, which is red.

How Light Influences Color

How Light Influences ColorLight is probably the single most independent factor that influences color in a room. Paint, fabrics, wallpaper are all affected by light. That’s why it is so important to “test” a color in a room before committing to that color.

There are three types of lighting conditions in a room: direct and indirect sunlight, and artificial lighting. Direct and indirect sunlight are diffused through a room either through a window, door or skylight. Direct sunlight is consistent throughout the day and is thought to be the ideal light source. Indirect sunlight varies throughout the day and therefore affects the color in a room. Artificial light can be divided into warm and cool light. Florescent lights have a cool bluish cast that tends to flatten colors.

It is a bit harsher and sometimes causes hard surfaces to appear harder. Incandescent or halogen light throws a yellow cast. It tends to highlight a room’s colorations with a warmer more comfortable ambiance.

Warm and Cool Palettes

Warm & Cool Palettes

The color wheel can be divided into half, with warm colors on one side and cool colors on the other. Warm colors like red, yellow and orange tend to heat up a room. These colors are considered energetic and stimulate activity. These colors are a good choice for kitchens, dining rooms, living rooms, and play rooms. Warm colors tend to advance and therefore close in a room. Use warm colors to cozy up a large room.

Warm & Cool Palettes

Same Room - Two Looks

Warm colors advance and cool colors recede. These photos showing the same room taken at the same angle demonstrate that perfectly. The photo featuring the warm colors appears much closer to you while the photo with the green hues looks like it was taken from a distance.

Cool colors like blue, green and violet are quiet and tranquil colors. They are best used in rooms that call for relaxation and calm. Use cool colors in bedrooms, bathrooms, dens and nurseries. Use cool colors in sunny rooms where they act as a counter balance to direct sun light. Cool colors are recessive; they give the illusion of pushing back walls thereby making a small room look larger.

The Impact of Color on a Room

Light colors reflect more light and thus make rooms appear
larger. Light colors tend to open up a space. Light, pale
colors work best in rooms with little or no natural
lighting as they make the best use of reflected light
especially during the day. If the room is to be used
at night under artificial lighting conditions, colors of
a medium value can also be used to great effect.

Dark colors reflect less light thereby closing a space in.
Darker colors impose a certain mood on a room. Darker
colors are perfect for making a dramatic statement and
are best suited for areas that have a specific
purpose like a formal dining room or an entry
way. Dark colors can also make a large room
look cozier. However dark colors should be used
sparingly as these intense hues can become
overwhelming after a while.

It’s important to note that whether you chose a light or a dark color, large areas of color appear much darker once they are painted. Of course most rooms will have a measure of some light and dark colors in the room whether as paint, floor covering, furnishings or accessories. To achieve color balance and harmony between light and dark in a room you have only to look to nature for a perfect example of how to combine light and dark colors. In nature you find darker colors at your feet (the forest floor or grass), medium values at eye level (trees, flowers etc.) and lighter colors above (the sky, clouds).

Color Influences Color

So far we have looked at the impact of light and space on color. But did you know that color also affects color in a room? Colors are affected by the other colors that surround them. Placing two colors next to one another may enhance an environment or create color dissonance depending on the colors used. Using gray with white may cause the white to look dirty due to the proximity of the color with the darker value. Colors of high and low (black and white) contrast define a space more precisely whereas colors of similar hues and values create a softer environment.

Color Terminology
Color Terminology
Monochromatic ColorsMONOCROMATIC schemes utilize colors from the same family on the wheel. This will include all the light tints, dark shades as well as the clean and muted versions of that color family.
Complementary ColorsCOMPLEMENTARY color schemes use colors opposite each other on the color wheel. Used together, this combination of warm and cool colors creates excitement and energizes any décor. Opposite colors are perfect as accent colors in a neutral décor.
Triadic ColorsTRIADIC schemes use three colors that are equally spaced from each other on the color wheel. Similar color values can be used, such as primary colors for children’s rooms. Colors can also be arranged in varying degrees with one color dominant, another color as secondary and the third color as an accent.
Analogous ColorsANALOGOUS schemes use colors of the same temperature near each other on the wheel. These schemes evoke a specific mood, such as calm and tranquil or warm and inviting.
Split Complementary ColorsSPLIT COMPLEMENTARY color schemes combine the two colors on either side of a color’s complement. This combination of colors adds variety to a room in a pleasant but active way.
Double Complementary ColorsDOUBLE COMPLEMENTARY color schemes are created by using colors that are next to each other and then finding their opposites on the color wheel.

When shopping for paint, remember to bring your cushions, fabric, wall or floor covering samples with you. While you’re in the paint store, use the take home chips in the display to locate your accessory colors as well. Assemble a collection of paint chips that best represents the colors found in your décor. Create your own mini-fandeck comprised of your personal color palette and take it with you every time you shop for your home decorating needs.
Mono - it means one
Monochromatic Colors

Monochromatic ColorsA single color family is all it takes to create an atmosphere of understated elegance that doesn’t compete with the sweeping staircase in this room. Tints and shades of orange throughout give this home a total look. Talk about making an entrance!

Hint: Use variations of the same color in accent pieces - fabrics or carpet in other rooms - to tie everything together.

Rules of Attraction
Complementary Colors

Complementary ColorsColors found on opposite sides of the color wheel tend to enhance each other’s intensity. See how the cool hue of the dusty blue walls enhances the warmth of the yellow and orange hues found in the thr ow pillows and the painting? A sense of ease permeates this space creating a perfect environment for cuddling on the couch or lingering over brandies.

Hint: Consider using a single color on your walls and then add pizzazz with accessories like cushions, flowers, vases and lamps. In complementary colors of course!

A love triangle of color
Triadic Colors

Lighting conditions in this room will change the way the color is perceived. The direct sunlight shining through this bay window will provide a true representation of the colors in the room. Here colors are at their most vibrant. In the evening, the artificial light from the recessed incandescent lights, table lamps, and the fire will tone down the colors considerably.

A bit of black in a room will enhance all of the other colors in a space.

Hint: It’s a good idea to “try out” a color. Purchase a quart of paint to do a patch test on the wall to see how it looks under various lighting conditions.

Welcome to the Neighborhood
Analogous Colors

Analogous ColorsThe warmth of the oak floor is repeated in a “stepped” analogous color palette on the wall. While analogous colors appear next to one another on the color wheel, each color is a different value or lightness. The room also mixes the warm colors of the floor and walls with the cool colors of the appliances and cabinetry to create a warm/cool balance.

Hint: The floor is the fifth wall of your house and probably the most costly area to modify. Take fixed surfaces such as floors, fireplaces and fixtures into account when decorating. Color can enhance or down play a fixed feature in a room.

Split Complement
The Company You Keep
Split Complement Colors

Split Complement ColorsStart with olive green and then surround it by colors on either side of its complement (red) such as dusty rose and clay. This room has a story to tell as it blends a sophisticated color palette with exotic furniture and accessories. Many a tall tale will be spun over dinner here. Use medium-to-light values of these colors in those spaces that require a more formal touch, like living or dining rooms. With this color scheme, you couldn’t be in better company.

Hint: To enliven the space, try adding a tint of the wall color’s complement to the ceiling or trim.

Double Complement
Complementary Times Two
Double Complementary Colors

Double Complementary ColorsA double complementary color scheme doubles your decorating pleasure by giving you four colors from which to choose. The geometric area rug with complementary copper and khaki colors not only grounds the room and attracts the eye but also serves as inspiration for the wall color. The complementary colors represented by the peach pashmina throw and blue denim bed skirt add visual interest to the room without making it feel busy.

Hint: To achieve color balance in any color scheme try the 60/30/10 approach. The largest color area is the walls, which account for 60 percent of a room’s color. The second largest color area, 30 percent, will include window treatments, upholstery or floor covering. Accents make up the remaining 10 percent of color in a room.