It's not just theory...

Matching is easier said than done. It's all very well having a good grasp of color theory. You can see how other room colors have been created, and why the schemes work.

But like a lot of theory, when you come to put it into practice, it isn't quite so easy.

Here's something to think about.

Professional interior designers don't match colors, they co-ordinate. Matching is like using a formula - coordinating is like an artist at work.

Because most of us use use the term 'matching' we'll continue to use it here.

Now we'll show you some very practical steps you can take to help you with your color matching.

When you're color matching, how many colors should you have?

A reliable guide is to have no more than three colors for main areas of your room. So don't have more than three colors for your walls, floor and window treatments.

What about accent colors, smaller bits and pieces like pictures, vases, lamps, ornaments and plants?

The good news is - as many as you like. With these items it's more a matter of form, balance and interest rather than the actual amount of color. Remember, these are just guides, so rely on your judgment - in other words, if you like it, do it!

If your main colors harmonize, but you want to give some more life to the room, place items with accent colors which give contrast. You won't upset your color matching, and the room will have more of your character in it.


browns and blues

The basic color for this area is brown.

The carpet, tables, sofa and chairs all contain various shades of brown. The wall is a warmer yellow/brown which is included in the stripes on the sofa and chair.

If left like that, the room would be very drab. But the introduction of a few blue pillows and cushions give life to the scheme.


Mixing and matching

Let's say you have a good idea of your main color scheme. You've collected samples of carpet, paint, fabrics etc, Put them all together in the room where you intend using them, on a table, or paste them onto a board. Now stand back and look at them through half shut eyes.

  • Do any stand out as slightly odd?
  • Does one look lost against the others?
  • What about the fabric texture - is it too shiny against the other textures, or too dull?
  • Look at all the samples in artificial light as well as daylight. Some of the colors may look different. Will your scheme look good in all lighting conditions?
  • Are there any other features you could add, such as a rug, a throw, or a painting?


matching red chairs

In this illustration the same fabric is used for the curtains and one easy chair.

Using the same fabric for the wing chair would have looked ok, but not very interesting. By using a fabric on the wing chair which shows more of the matching red, a far more attractive effect is achieved.

This idea of taking a color from one feature and using it elsewhere in a more concentrated way is a useful technique in home decorating.


Are you trying to reinvent the wheel? That's what many of us do when selecting paint colors. Professional decorators have known for a long time which colors work best for interior decor schemes. (Only for residents of the USA and Canada.)

The Shortcut to Perfect Paint Colors - Paint Color Cheat Sheets


A practical way to get your color balance right

When deciding on the colors for your room, paint the ones you're thinking of using onto pieces of paper or card. Apply them in the same proportions as you'll see them when the room is finished.

For example, if the walls have the largest surface area, paint a large piece of paper in the color you intend using on the walls. Then estimate how much in proportion the couch and chairs will take. Twenty five per cent? So paint a piece of paper in the couch color roughly one quarter the size of the one used for the wall color. And so on.

Again, place all the bits of paper together, along with samples of fabric, tiles, etc. and look at them in different lighting conditions.

That way, you'll be able to gauge if you have the color balance right for your room. Having done this exercise, you may well decide your wall color is too bright and needs to be toned down. Or the couch color is much too weak for the amount that will be seen, and it needs to be intensified.


modern colors

The modern fashion for wood floors and simple furnishings is demonstrated in this photo.

Walls, fabrics and fire surround are kept light. An eclectic mix of traditional and modern furniture works well in such surroundings. Strong, contrasting items of furniture such as the table and chair match the black of the fire enclosure.


A final thought...

Don't spend hours trying to match colors exactly. It doesn't happen in nature, and if you try too hard you'll end up with an artificial look.

Go back to thinking in terms of color groups. And although we said keep to three main colors, if you find you have four or even five and you love your scheme, stick with it!

Use the suggestions here as guides, but once you feel confident enough, be brave and make your own decisions with your colors!



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