Archive for the ‘Colour Wheel, Colour Schemes: A Series’ Category

This is one of Para's delicious colour combinations for 2013

This is one of Para’s delicious colour combinations for 2013

Colour, colour is everywhere this year.  You see it in the decor stores and on the catwalk.

Bright, bold and beautiful colour is everywhere you look.

The pictured colour combination is straight from the 70s. Avocado green, melon orange,  harvest gold with a warm cream to leaven all that colour, is all the rage this year.

Brown and beige have been the colours of choice for the last decade. They were usually paired with turquoise or soft blue as an accent colour. You can give your room(s) a whole new look by simply removing the blue accents and replacing them with vibrant cushions, throws and a few other accent pieces in these bright, bold and very cheerful vintage colours.

If you are not enamored with this particular combination, try other brights and bolds together. Purple, lime green and gold make a striking statement or you could liven up your brown furniture with red and gold with a touch of just the right eggplant purple.

You don’t have to spend a lot either. Just change out a few pieces purchased at your favourite bargain store. It is amazing what you can do with a couple of new cushions, a throw, a vase and a bowl and maybe one new piece of inexpensive, unframed art. And don’t forget to update your lampshades. Lampshades are so often forgotten and they too get shabby and dated looking.

Time to go shopping.


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Summer Spruce Up!

If you want to add a little (or a lot) of punch to your room, create a feature wall! If your room does not have a real focal point, a feature wall will create one. You can do this quite easily and economically by painting or wallpapering one wall only in the room. The wall opposite the entry to the room is a classic choice. Or this could be the wall behind the headboard, in a bedroom or the wall behind the sofa, in the living/family room. Sometimes it is the wall surrounding the fireplace, that is treated as a feature wall.

To do this is quite easy. Wallpaper is back in style , but used on one wall only, as a feature wall. Pick a pattern that enhances the colour and style of the room. The paper can be simply a textured paper, like a grasscloth, or a printed version of a grasscloth, or it could be something bold in colour and design. That part is up to you!!

If you prefer quiet styles, stick to a textured pattern rather than a bold or graphic pattern. If the walls are light in colour, pick a darker shade of the same colour. You do not want it to stand out, you want it to add dimension and interest to your room.

If your room or home is quite modern in its decor, then go for a graphic paper or  a bold paint colour.

The alternative to paper is (obviously)  to paint, especially if you wish to update your decor a little without spending too much money. If you choose to make an accent wall with paint,  pick a darker colour than the rest of the room. You could have a big, bold colour to make a big, bold change or simply pick a darker version of the main colour in your room for a quieter update.

Another trick is to have the N & S walls a lighter colour and the E & W walls a darker or different colour. An example would be a muted (brownish) yellow for the lighter walls and a middle taupe for the darker walls. This trick can be stunning. The trick with this one is to have the colours not so far apart in tone that it is immediately apparent that the colours are completely different (such as red on one and blue on the other). The effect can be quite stunning

Paint does not have to be expensive. For a feature wall especially, go for the low cost paint. Even the effort it takes to paint just one wall, is not onerous, so go for it! You will be surprised how this perks up a room!

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Accentuating Brown


Now that you’ve figured out what colour of brown that you are trying to co-ordinate, you can think about accents and paint colour. The best accent colours to go with your particular brown are dependent upon having nailed down your specific brown.

Warm reddish brown, warm golden brown, cool black brown, are at their best with different colours and intensities of colours.

Do you wish to make a strong accent statement or a subltle one? Do you want your colour scheme to have bright colours that pop or soft colours that accent slightly or monochromatic variations of your existing brown.

For example with a dark brown sofa:

If you want a lot of contrast and colour to brighten up your room, paint the room a soft, muted (brownish) yellow such as Benjamin Moore CC170 ‘Honey Harbour’ or a little brighter one CC216 ‘Buttermilk’ and get some cushions and accessories with bright turquoise and dark brown in them.  Terra-cotta accents add some interest with brown and turquoise.  Experiment with adding a little more soft, muted yellow here and there . This room will be bright and cheery.

If you like a peaceful, more monochromatic look, choose a selection of lighter values of your sofa colour for the walls and cushions, varying the textures and throw in a little black and cream or warm, off-white for contrast. If this look is too neutral for you, experiment with a touch of  colour by adding some pastel accents. Pale blue rather than turquoise, pale muted pink and pale creamy yellow will add some colour but maintain the calm and peaceful feel of the room. For your paint colour, you could go with a pale tint of one of the above mentioned colours or a totally different choice could be a neutral, pale brownish-grey such as  Sico 6213-21 ‘Whitish Clay’ for your walls which will blend well with many browns and yet not be beige.

With some browns, the walls would look great in a pale, soft blue or turquoise Benjamin Moore CC790 ‘Polar Sky for pale blue, Sico 6151-11 ‘White Coral Reef’ for turquoise. NOTE: I said PALE turquoise. Experience has taught me that you get really sick of bright turquoise paint really quickly. Go for bright turquoise if you enjoy repainting frequently but if you want a colour that you can live with for a few years – keep it pale.

In the illustration I have tried to show some of the combinations that would look good with different kinds of brown. The paint program limits choosing the exact colour that I want to show but it should give you some ideas.

  • Tip: For thoses who haven’t read the articles on Colour Basics, muted & toned colours are colours that are softened or ‘muted’ with grey or brown or the colour’s complement. These colours are much easier to decorate around and live with. They provide a backdrop rather than a statement.

These are just examples. You need to experiment with colours to get just the right accent colour. Using paint chips as colour swatches really helps you figure out what looks good and what doesn’t.

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scan0025OK – Now What do I Do?

I think a lot of people recently purchased a brown sofa thinking that it would go with everything and are having a great deal of trouble getting it to go with anything.

There seem to be a lot of questions about decorating with brown judging by the search engine terms that have brought people to my blog. People want to know what goes with brown, the complementary colour of brown, decorating with chocolate brown, brown and turquoise and a lot more. To answer these questions, you have to understand what brown is and then it becomes easier.

First, as explained in the previous article, brown is created when you mix equal parts of all three primary colours. This creates a middle ‘mud’ brown. Then brown gets more complicated.

When brown is found on a colour wheel, it is placed at the centre of it. This is because brown is made up of all the colours on the wheel. This means it has no complementary colour because nothing is opposite it, it is in the centre. This also means, technically speaking, that all colours go with brown.

This is true with a perfectly balanced brown, but most browns have more of one colour than another and also have different values. (lightness or darkness)

  • If you lighten it with white you get beige, if you darken it with black, you get a dark black-brown.
  • If it has more yellow in it than red or blue, you get a warm, golden brown.
  • If it has more red in it than yellow or blue, you get a warm, reddish-brown or orangy-brown.
  • If it has more blue in it than yellow or red, you get a cool, dark black-brown or even slightly greenish brown.
  • Any of the above browns could range from a very light version to a very dark version, just like on a graduated paint chip.

Therefore what goes with brown depends upon what kind of brown you are talking about and whether you want strong, contrasting accents or you would rather go with a monochromatic look.

Next article:  How to choose an accent colour for your particular brown.

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scan0011Put it in Neutral!

There are three colours, brown, black & white, that we have not talked about. You use them all the time but they are not on the colour wheel. We call them neutrals. These colours can be used with any colour, any time. Many people say that black and white are not actually colours at all but I tend to disagree with that definition as explained below.


The colour brown is made up of equal parts of the three primary colours, red, yellow and blue. This means that brown is a mixture of all colours, as all the other colours on the colour wheel are created by mixing primary colours in different proportions.

Brown happens when you mix all three primary colours equally, therefore brown goes with all colours. Light brown is beige. The slight differences between beige/browns is created by using slightly unequal proportions of the three primary colours. Brown can look yellowish if it has a bit more yellow in it than red and blue. It can look pinkish if it has a bit more red than yellow and blue and so on. The varieties of browns are just about endless.


This one is a little harder to explain. As I understand it, white is all colour, reflected. It is actually all the colours in the spectrum, blended together and reflected back. Your eye then sees this collection of colour as white. One explanation that I have seen that explains it well is that if you could spin the colour wheel fast enough it would then appear pure white. White is bright and light because it is reflected colour.


I have seen two explanations for black. In high school art class we were taught that black is the absence of colour, but this explanation left questions. More recently I have seen it described as all colour absorbed rather than reflected. This makes more sense because black can have some colour apparent in it. Blue-black for instance has some blue visible in it. Black is extremely dark because it is absorbed colour.

Grey is simply black and white combined in different proportions. It too can have some slight, visible colour which is why there are so many values of grey, not just lighter and darker.

These three colours can be mixed with any colour. White lightens a colour, black or brown darken a colour and brown mutes any colour. Each of these colours can be used as a neutral accent or as your main colour. Just be careful with your use of  neutrals. Too much black will overpower a room and you will quickly tire of it, too much white can feel rather cold and lifeless and a room full of brown that is too similar in value and texture can end up being just plain boring!

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scan0012Yes, You Can Use Bold Colours

If you like strong colours, use them! You just need to know how. Strong, bright, bold colours are invigorating and stimulating. Like a beautifully landscaped garden filled with great big, bold flowers; bright, varied colours in a room can make your soul feel happy. You need to plan your colour scheme carefully though or you will simply end up with chaos. 

The first thing that you need to consider is that bold colours should be used in specific ways such as creating a focal point like a large bold painting or a bright red sofa. Bright bold, colours can also be used if distributed very evenly around the room. When you enter a room your eye will automatically go to the brightest, boldest colours. You want your eye to settle in one place, not jump all over the room. You can wrap the room in a very bold colour or highlight the room with bold colour and a crisp rather neutral background, just don’t do both!

Bright, strong colours work best in a room with a modern decor. Clean lines, linear furniture and geometric shapes are the hallmark of modern styling. Pure, clean, strong colours also work well in bathrooms.  

Limit yourself to two or three colours. For two colours the proportion should be 70-30 or 60- 40. For three colours use the 60-30-10 rule. Using three colours as an example, sixty percent of the room is done in whatever you choose to be the dominant colour, thirty percent in a contrasting accent colour and ten percent in the second accent colour. This way you will achieve a harmonious balance between your strong colours without overwhelming the room. Remember that your paint colour and flooring colour must be considered as part of those percentages.

Also vary the strength of the colours. Your 60% colour should be less intense than your 30% colour or visa-versa. Considered a red, yellow, black colour scheme. If the walls are a softer, golden yellow and the floor is golden oak, you have your 60%. You can then go for the  deep red furniture with black accents and a touch of bright yellow accessories (or black furniture with red accents and a touch of bright yellow accessories)

If you go for the bold, limit the number of colours, vary the strength of the colours, vary the percentage of each colour and add a variety of texture and the room will be harmonious and striking.

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scan0010Wheel out the Colour!

The last two colour schemes to be discussed are Triad and Tetrad colour schemes. These are colour schemes for those who like colour and lots of it! These two are grouped with Complementary colour schemes but they are a little different in that they use versions of all three primary colours, not just two of them.

If you divide a colour wheel into segments based on a primary colour, you get three segments, red and the colours made with it like red-orange and orange; then yellow, yellow-green, green; and blue, blue-violet and violet. A colour wheel or a picture of a colour wheel is really helpful when composing a colour scheme that uses all three segments of a colour wheel.

  • When using lots of colour you will find that bright, intense colours are rather unsettling when used side by side. It is best if your colours are all tints or all shades or all tones of the colours that you are using. Muted colours of equal intensity work well (see article #2 in this series for definitions). The idea is to soften the overall effect of the amount of colour in your room or it will end up looking like a box of crayons.


This one is easy! Draw an equilateral triangle on the colour wheel and you have a Triad. The most obvious one is red, yellow, blue, but it could be green, violet, orange or yellow-green, blue-violet, red- orange, you get the picture, three equally spaced colours on the colour wheel. Colourful fabric prints are often a triad. A floral with sage green leaves and flowers in soft, golden yellows and  pale, reddish violets would be a triad.


Draw an X through the colour wheel and you have a Tetrad. It is any four colours that are of equal distance on the colour wheel. If you start with yellow-orange, across from it is blue-violet, its complement. Then halfway between those two colours is the pair of colours, green and its complement, red. When you combine all four you have a tetrad of equally balanced colours. A floral with pale green leaves, soft gold, pink, and periwinkle flowers would be a Tetrad.

  • Triad and Tetrad colour schemes can be very intense if you use pure colours. To avoid this, use muted or toned versions (see Colour Wheel, Colour Basics #2). Also use tints or shades of these colours. A variety of textures also tone down the effect. Crayon colours are often used to decorate children’s rooms with great success. It is easy to make a room look great to the parents, but use some caution because bright, intense colours are very stimulating and can be a deterrent to settling down to sleep, which is not what you were aiming for!

Have fun with colour, but don’t let it overwhelm the room, unless of course that is what you were aiming for. It is your room and you are the one who lives with it every day. If your colour scheme pleases you, if you walk into the room and feel ” I really like this room” every time, then it is right.

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