Interiors: A guide to using colour in your home

Tips on choosing the perfect colour palette for your home

by Louise Higgins
Words Louise Higgins

Whether you’re updating an existing home or designing the interior of a new build, one of the most difficult tasks is choosing a cohesive colour palette. Colour plays a major role in creating atmosphere and in influencing mood. A colour scheme in one room that jars with the other rooms can make your home (and you) feel disjointed and unbalanced. Here are a few simple tips to help ensure you choose the perfect colours for your home. 

Think about you

These days everything is trend-driven, including colour. While it’s important to keep up to date with colour trends it isn’t always necessary to use those colours on your walls. The colour scheme you choose should reflect your style aesthetic and make you feel happy, content and comfortable in your home. It’s also a good idea to think about the kind of colour palettes found in nature or in the changing seasons. For example, the soft colours of the seashore, with its mix of greys, beiges and blues, have a calming effect for some, while others will feel energised by autumnal colours like oranges, golds and browns. Visualising images and scenes that you love can bring your colour palette to life. I would also recommend that you source real paint swatches of the three or four colours from your proposed colour scheme as this will give you a truer picture of how the colour will look once it’s on the walls. 

Your environment

If you’re updating an existing home, you’ll need to take into consideration your current environment and the items of furniture and accessories that you’re planning to keep. The colour of big things like flooring, curtains and sofas will have a huge impact on your scheme, so you’ll need to pick colours that complement them. 

Interior designed with a dark colour palette


Plan the colour scheme for your entire house before you start painting. Make a list of the spaces that can be seen from each room and the rooms where doors are liable to be left open. I like to start in the hallway; this is the area that sets the tone for the rest of the home. Then I work on the larger rooms such as the kitchen or living room. I suggest you use your paint swatches, examining them on different walls and at different times of day as the colour will change in natural and artificial light. 


If you’re still struggling to find inspiration, you could look at a piece of artwork that you plan to hang in a room and choose your colours from that. However, you still need to make sure the scheme works with your adjacent rooms and any existing furniture or accessories. 


Provided you know the style and feel you want to achieve, you could also choose your colour scheme from the fabrics you plan to use. This could be the fabric for your curtains, a sofa or a feature chair. Ideally, select a fabric with three colours and then choose the background colour for your walls. Pick a mid-toned colour from the fabric for flooring and large furniture. Then use the brightest colour for soft furnishings such as scatter cushions, rugs and lampshades. Mixing patterns and/or bright colours with neutrals will ensure the look is balanced rather than overwhelming.


Adding depth to your scheme by introducing textured colour can also enhance the overall aesthetic of your rooms. Consider textured wallpaper or wallpaper with metallic properties that complement and lift your colour scheme.

Do the maths

For good results every time, aim for 60% in one main neutral colour to anchor each room. It doesn’t necessarily have to be beige or greige; it could be a deep navy, a mustard or a muted green. Taking into account your walls and large pieces of furniture, introduce 30% in accent colours using accessories. Draw on colours from your artwork, rugs or curtain fabric. The final 10% should be a splash of unexpected colour, perhaps in a flower arrangement or a  texture with a metallic accent. 

Once you’ve decided on a paint colour for your first room, you can then choose shades or tints of the same hue for adjacent walls or rooms, thus ensuring a lovely flow throughout your home. If you’re working off a colour deck or chart, you can opt for the next colour up or down from your initial colour. This works well for large open spaces as it adds depth and interest to your walls.

A colour feature can bring brightness and character to your home

And finally…

If you’re looking for colour palette inspiration, check out sites like Design Seeds for ideas drawn from nature, wanderlust and unexpected places. 

Louise Higgins, founder of Perfect Headboards and Aspire Design, is an award-winning designer and a graduate of the Interior Design Academy of Ireland. Louise is a full member of the Interiors Association and is also a member of the Crafts Council of Ireland.

  • ‘Interiors: A guide to using colour in your home’ is published in Anthology Volume 11. Read more features from this volume or buy it now.
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