Colour Theory 101

It is evident to me the difficulty some of my clients have when it comes to choosing colour for their homes.  I thought I would offer some helpful tips on colour selection and how to be confident in adding one of the most important design features in any space:  COLOUR.

The colour wheel:

The colour wheel

Primary Colors: Red, yellow and blue
All other colors are derived from these 3 hues.  Primary colours are the only 3 colours that cannot be made by any combination of other colours.

Secondary Colors: Green, orange and purple
Colours formed by mixing the primary colours.

Tertiary Colors: Yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green & yellow-green
Colours formed by mixing a primary and a secondary color.

Hue:  The dominant colour:  red, purple, blue, etc.

Value: (lightness)  The overall intensity of how light or dark the colour is.  The amount of white or black added to the hue.

Chroma: (saturation)  The strength or dominance of the hue.

Colour Psychology


Colours can make us feel certain moods and behaviours.  This is why people have preferences towards certain colours.  It is the way that the colour makes you feel.  This is important to keep in mind when choosing colours for your space.  Ask yourself what feelings and emotions you are trying to achieve in the space?

Ex:  A spa will likely have greens and blues to create a feel of balance, purity and health in the space. A play room or daycare may have pinks and yellows to encourage creativity and excitement.

Colour Schemes

Certain colour combinations are pleasing to the eye and create comfort and stability as you enjoy the space.

Try to stick to one of these colour schemes.

Analogous colour scheme:  Made up of three colors which are side by side on the colour wheel. (yellow-green, yellow, and yellow-orange)

Complementary colour scheme:  Made up of two colors which are directly opposite each other.  (red and green and red-purple and yellow-green)  The opposing colours create contrast and maximum stability.

With todays open concept homes I try to stay with analogous colour schemes throughout the home.  A neutral colour in the hallways and open concept room seems to work the best.  Changes in value and chroma from room to room works well to achieve visual interest but still works together throughout the entire space.  To add colour and contrast I like to add feature walls throughout.  This can be achieved by a complimentary colour, wallpaper or architectural features.  Closed rooms such as bedrooms and bathrooms provide you with the opportunity to change the colour as the separation of space is significant enough that it doesn’t have to flow with the open areas (as much).

To choose the colours in any given space, pick an accessory or fabric that you love in the room.  Colours can be pulled from those accessories to bring the room together.

Lastly and one of the most important tips I can offer is;

Don’t be scared of colour!  It is one of the most powerful things in any space that can set our moods and behaviours for the time we spend in our homes.