My Easy Trick for Creating a Whole House Color Palette
As a blogger, I often fall into the trap of feeling like I have to be an expert on everything. However, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that there are indeed areas of the decor realm where I struggle…a lot. Holiday decorating comes to mind; and believe it or not, picking color schemes is another! But a few years ago, I stumbled upon a really easy “cheater” way to design a whole house color palette. I’ve used this method in our last two homes (Virginia and California), and I’m using it again in our current rental. Today, I am so excited to help you move out of color paralysis and empower you to finally get some color on your walls (or pillows or bedding or wherever you want it!)
If you’re struggling to pick colors for you home, you probably fall into one of these three categories:
- You’re reluctant to use any color at all because white or beige is your “safe” and “happy” place
- You want to use aaaaaaaall the colors
- You’re completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of options
And regardless of how you feel about color, most of us are just plain nervous to get it “wrong.” After all, there is nothing worse than painting an accent wall or purchasing a sofa or selecting curtains…only to step back and find out your choices don’t work after all.
I very much fall into the second camp. I love colors and patterns so much. If you look at some of our earlier homes, you’ll see that I splashed color onto pretty much any surface I could get my hands on. And although I created some fun spaces and you all commended me for my brave and ambitious approach to decorating, these rooms never felt in harmony within the context of the house(s) as a whole.
Why Create a Whole Home Color Palette?
You most certainly don’t have to have a home that flows from top-to-bottom. If you love the look of a different color in every room, whether they match or not…you do you!
However, designing rooms that “play nicely” with the adjoining spaces (and therefor, the rest of the house) is usually key to creating a home that feels complete, sophisticated, stylish, balanced, and ultimately: comfortable.
That said, creating a “cohesive home” doesn’t mean you have to paint every room the exact same color. Rather, by picking a collection of colors that work together (without necessarily matching), you can achieve that comfortable flow while still creating a unique look in each and every room.
My (Easy) Trick for Creating a Whole Home That Flows
Picking a bunch of random colors that work perfectly together is a pretty tall task for those of us with no design experience. But I have an easy trick!
HGTV Home By Sherwin Williams Color Collections
About 6 years ago (when we were moving into our very, very brown rental home in southern California), I was really struggling with how to make the moody tones of the house co-exist with my more cheerful color preferences. After exhausting my inspiration search online, I decided to wander through the paint aisle, which is where I discovered the HGTV Home By Sherwin Williams Color Collections (usually at Lowes and Sherwin Williams stores).
Likely knowing that the average, everyday decorator (like you and me) doesn’t have any formal color training, HGTV’s interior design experts have compiled color palettes of 16+ shades that are designed to work seamlessly together. There are currently 10 different palettes to choose from, ranging from subdued and moody to bright and fresh. And whether you use all the included hues across your home or just a few, these complementary color schemes all-but-guarantee you’ll have a home that flows without feeling totally matchy-matchy.
The Benefits of Using a Pre-Designed Color Palette
- All the “color theory” is done for you. There’s no need to agonize if the gray colors you’re considering for the living room have yellow undertones, blue undertones, or green undertones; or which white paint color is the best with your new couch. From tints and shades to their position on the color wheel, you can be confident these colors will play nicely.
- Countless options. With 16+ colors in each palette, there are dozens of combinations you can use to achieve a variety of looks. So whether you want a home that is mostly the same from room-to-room or different-but-it-flows, you’ll be able to make it happen.
- Save time. I don’t have time to analyze paint swatches over and over (because I ultimately find myself going in circles). Having the overall colors expertly matched allows me to commit and actually get to the projects that will bring the whole design to life.
- A guiding light. Because the palettes include a wide range of colors, you can use it as a barometer for all your decorating choices. Find a vase, or rug, or piece of art and you’re just not sure it will work? If it correlates with colors on the card, it likely will!
Other Places to Find Great Color Palettes
I love the done-for-you palettes by Sherwin Williams because they correlate directly with paint colors and provide a wide array of choices. However, you can still use this same concept using other inspiration items. Here are some different ways to find a palette for your entire home.
- Find an inspiration fabric you love. Pull different colors from the single fabric into each room. As long as everything matches that fabric, everything should work together!
- Find a piece of art you love. If the colors work in harmony on a single art piece, there’s a good chance they will work across your home too.
- Look to nature. Some of the best color advice I ever recieved was to examine nature. Look to images of the beach, forest, mountains, skies, and oceans to find shades that play well together.
- Etsy – I recently discovered that there are also a lot of “done for you” palettes available for purchase on Etsy. Oftentimes, you can search by popular color (e.g., Accessible Beige) to find a coordinating palette.
Whether you use the HGTV Home palettes, a swatch of fabric, or even a piece art you love, here’s how to use it to direct a whole-home color palette!
How to Pick the Right Palette for Your Home
Okay – sure it’s great that the color palettes are prepared for you…but how do you know which one to even pick?
Start With Gut Instinct
When presented with a range of options, there are likely a few you naturally gravitate toward. Whether you’re pulled to the moody darks or relaxing pastels, simply trust your gut and pull any cards that appeal to you at the very first glance.
As aforementioned, I gravitate toward anything fresh, bright and bold, so I grabbed these three color cards (below) to start.
TIP! Don’t exclude a particular palette over one or two colors. Remember, these colors can be mixed-and-matched in any way you choose, including excluding certain colors all together. So if you are turned off by one shade and just can’t see beyond it, cover it up or cut it out of the card so you can focus in on the other options!
Take Your Existing Home Features Into Consideration
Whether you are painting just a few walls, making over your entire home, or falling somewhere in between, I highly recommend you bring the color cards home. Beyond just seeing how the different shades work with flooring, cabinets, ceiling, and trim colors, you’ll also want to take into account how the light in your home plays off the various hues (at all times of day).
As much as I LOOOVED the color scheme in the middle (below), I quickly determined its cool colors wouldn’t work with the very beige house we had at the time. However, the bottom card, which still felt very happy and fresh to me, had our exact wall color on the card. Bingo! Now I had 19 other colors that I could confidently use to create a home that worked with our beige walls!
TIP! Even if you’re not planning on painting any walls, these paint collection cards can still be an incredibly helpful resource. In our very beige house, we actually only painted two rooms; but we were still able to create consistency by relying on the card colors for everything else (throw pillows, bedding, curtains, rugs, etc).
How to Use a Color Palette to Create a Cohesive Home
Once you pick a palette to focus on, I recommend grabbing the actual (bigger) swatch cards. With these, you can better experiment until you find combinations that really speak to you for each room.
TIP! If you are using fabric or art as your inspiration, take the item to the store and find paint chips that match each shade represented in the piece.
After analyzing my selected palette like crazy, I eliminated a lot of the yellow shades and finally landed on a collection of 10 main colors that not only worked within our (then) brown house, but (more importantly) provided that fun, fresh feel I crave!
Here are some things to keep in mind as you begin playing with different combinations:
- Try every combination. You might be surprised what you actually like together! I never would have anticipated using that coral pink color, but time-and-time again it was just what certain spaces needed.
- Don’t hesitate to use specific colors across several spaces. While you may not want to use the same 3 colors in every room, carrying shades across the house will provide that exact continuity you’re craving.
- Remember, not every color has to go on the walls. Your goal with these paint swatches is to find a color scheme for your whole house. Yes, you can put some colors on the walls; but you can also keep your walls neutral and bring the accent colors in through accessories and furnishings.
Real Life Examples
I snagged the “Bold Simplicity” color card 6 year ago, and I still carry it in our moving binder every time we move. I used it to direct our color choices both in our California home and our Virginia home, and now our current rental. Below is how the same color palette played out to create 3 different but well-coordinated homes!
Our California Home
In our California home (with all the beige walls), I stuck primarily with the blues, reds, and neutrals throughout the whole house. The green and light turquoise were used primarily as accents in the office and our son’s bedroom.
Our Virginia Home
In our Virginia home, the same main neutral colors plus all the blues were emphasized from top-to-bottom, with green used in both the office and dining room. The red and orange were added as pops of color in the boys’ bedrooms.
Our Current Home
In our current home, I’ll admit I relying pretty heavily on the all blues and neutrals, with strong black accents throughout. But that’s primarily because I’m battling so much honey oak throughout the entire house (all the floors and all the cabinets). So far, everything is feeling quite cohesive, but perhaps too much so?!?
Other Ways to Create Cohesion Across the Home
Last but not least, I want to highlight that you can create cohesion with more than just color. Below are some other great ways to create subtle-but-important continuity throughout your home:
- Trim & Ceilings – Having the same trim and ceilings throughout the home provides a consistent base for all other decor.
- Metal Finishes – Pick one or two finishes for hardware, lamps and light fixtures, curtain rods, door knobs, and hinges.
- Frames – Pick one or two finishes (usually a color and a metal) for all the frames throughout the home.
- Curtains – Although I love a statement window treatment, picking the same curtains, sheers, shades, or blinds can subtly bind each room together.
- Baskets & Containers – Pick a natural and a color for all your storage needs.
TIP! Having all of these items in similar/neutral colors means you can easily move them from room to room as the spaces evolve and needs change over time!
Picking whole house color schemes can be super tricky. I have a good bit of anxiety about getting it wrong (which I’m pretty sure you do too!); and that fear (and overthinking!) can sometimes keep me from making real progress in our homes.
As such, I’ve learned that it’s okay to let the “experts” do the hard work so I can use that time and mental energy on the projects that will ultimately bring my vision to life. By using pre-designed color palettes, I’m able to create a home that visually flows AND feels like us…but without the color stress! Are you ready to give them a try?!?