Finding Your Personal Color Scheme!

When you look at photos of interiors on social media or websites, what is the one design element that usually captures your attention first? Nine times out of ten it is the colors in the composition that determine whether you will continue viewing the picture or not. And, if there are colors that appeal to you in the photos, you may click on them to take a closer look.

Color is certainly one way that designers of all creative fields use to establish the context of their designs – especially interior designers, who are trying to evoke a particular ambiance for a room or space.

This is why you will probably see or are asked by a designer in a client questionnaire “what color palettes are you drawn to?” He or she is trying to interpret the psychological aspect of creating a design concept that will support the desired emotional response for the client when living in the space, with color as the element providing the initial reaction visually. Color is the cohesive component for all the design principles of composition, scale, balance, proportion, rhythm, emphasis, and harmony, all essential for producing a successful room or space.

The color spectrum consists of a myriad of hues that differ due to the particular wavelength that is seen through white light when a beam is passed through a prism. Think of the largest example of this in a rainbow, but more tangibly displayed in the form of a color wheel, like that of a paint or Pantone color deck. Or, think of how the color spectrum plays out as demonstrated in nature, where the world’s truest colors are displayed in miraculous settings, on and around its living creatures and plant life – feathers on a peacock, the collection of various flora in a rainforest, the scenic views of oceans, mountains, and valleys. Many times nature is the inspiration for color direction in interiors.

The color wheel allows you to see how all the colors in the spectrum are related and can work together in various combinations. These combinations can then be used to create color schemes that work complementary, harmoniously, or in contrast, whichever is most suitable for the aesthetic and functional aspects of the space. As shown in the diagram below, the color wheel displays the various schemes that can be used. Complimentary schemes use colors that are opposite one another on the wheel and form a stark contrast. Analogous schemes use colors that are adjacent to each other and form a cohesive harmony. Other schemes show how to use primary or secondary colors with the same tonality or value of hue intensity. The color wheel also shows how colors described as “warm” (reds, oranges, yellows), are opposite of those described as “cool” – (blues and purples, and greens). Just as the wheel does, it is important to keep the color temperatures in balance so as not to create visual clutter.

So, how do you go about choosing colors for a color scheme if you are a fan of many?

Perhaps you could ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which colors naturally appeal to you?
  • Which colors make you feel relaxed and which seem to give you energy?
  • Will the space be used for work, play, relaxation?
  • How much natural light does the space get?
  • Does the space face north, south, east, or west?
  • Do you want the space to feel enclosing or open?

If you have trouble determining all your answers, then maybe you can review the psychological associations behind the colors themselves. Even though the response to color is subjective, color theorists have determined the following characteristics that identify a color’s meaning and purpose in general:

RED: considered the most dominant hue, it brings stimulation, vitality, and drama; it is often associated with heat, fire, and the heart

BLUE: an uplifting, relaxing, soothing, and serene hue; it suggests wetness or cleanliness, sensations of security, orderliness, or security; in some tones can be depressing, sad, or lonely; associated with the sky or water

YELLOW: considered the happy hue; maintains a reputation for being joyful, radiant, cheerful, and approachable; can represent hope, wisdom, spiritual enlightenment; can cause anxiety; associated with flower buds or sunlight

ORANGE: this hue can be friendly, lively, warm, and inviting; it increases the appetite; suggests affordability and informality; associated with fire and sunlight

GREEN: nature’s hallmark hue signifying freshness and harmony; welcoming, calming, and relaxing, it can enforce a sense of balance; associated with water or humidity, as well as money

VIOLET: suggestive of royalty, rank, or nobility; can appear magical or mysterious; highly spiritual, soft and atmospheric in lighter shades; contains a sensitivity, sometimes depressing in darker tones; associated with religion

WHITE: the absence of all other hues; suggests cleanliness, purity, goodness; represents peace and hope; associated with fallen snow

GRAY: the neutral of all colors; is conservative, quiet, peaceful, and calm; gives a sense of respite and reliability; affiliated with old age; associated with clouds and shadows, and architecture

BROWN: another color aligned with nature; offers a feeling of comfort, sincerity, and casualness; used in conjunction with earth-related materials such as wood and stone; establishes firmness and stability in a space; associated with certain uniforms

BLACK: can suggest richness, dignity, elegance, and power; has connotations of evil, darkness, night, and death; symbolic of grief and sorrow; can be considered quite stylish; associated with luxury items

Do these color characteristics ring true to you? Do they explain why you are drawn to certain colors over others? Using both the color wheel combinations and the color identities can help steer you in a direction to find that desired color scheme. If you are still confused by the vast assortment of colors to choose from, perhaps pursue these options:

a) Collect a number of photos from social media, the web, or old-fashioned print magazines of rooms with colors you like. Do not look at the photos for a couple of weeks; come back to the photos and note any of the same colors seen in the whole collection. You may be surprised to find that one to three color families stand out and are used in a similar way!


b) Gather up those photos and let Karen Lee Johnson Interiors assist you in seeing the possibilities of your color preferences for your next room or space project! We love to help clients with creating their own personal style, which includes finding their personal color schemes and design plans for their interior projects!

blue and yellow ottomans
Karen Lee Johnson, interior designer in Milwaukee Wisconsin

Hi, I’m Karen!

I’m the Founder/Creative Director of Karen Lee Johnson Interiors, a residential design firm working with clients seeking a professional, innovative and collaborative approach to design. We partner with you to creatively and meticulously translate your dreams and visions into reality. Learn more about our services or book a call to tell us about your project!

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