How To

Designers’ Guide to Interior Colour Selection

How to Create a Modern Hamptons Style Bedroom

Colour can have a huge bearing on the way someone or something is perceived. Not only do we ascribe certain colours to specific moods or feelings, but physically, different choices of hue can brighten up a space, add moody ambience, or showcase the elements you want to stand out. But, when you’re starting from scratch – or are rethinking your interior design entirely – how exactly do you choose a colour scheme for your house?

There are a number of established colour palettes that just nail it every time, from monochromatic to earthy shades, jewel tones and more. There are also tenets of the colour world that make selecting your favourite hues and designing a gorgeous room a much easier task. With the expert advice of our team of stylists, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about colour, including our go-to palettes, how to translate them into your furniture picks, and a demystification of the colour wheel.

Interior colour design terms you should know

Before we dive into how to choose furniture colours and interior hues, let’s brush up on our lingo a little bit. Here are a few terms everyone should keep tucked away in their vocabulary when establishing a new colour palette in their home.

  • Primary colours: Think back to Grade 1 art class – primary colours are red, blue and yellow, and can be mixed together to create more colours (known as secondary colours).
  • Secondary colours: Orange, green and purple are secondary colours, the product of mixing two primary colours.
  • Tertiary colour: There are six tertiary colours, created when you mix a primary and a secondary colour. They’re typically named after those two colours (e.g. red-orange). From this point, every other colour can be achieved by adding black, grey or white.
  • Hue: A hue is the colour in its purest form – e.g., red, green, blue and so on. You can have multiple colours all with the same hue that vary based on how dark or light they are.
  • Shade: ‘Shade’ refers to how light or dark a colour is. To change the shade of a colour, you add black to darken it.
  • Tone: A tone is created by adding grey to an existing colour, or through a process of tinting (white) and shading (black).
  • Tint: The tint of a colour, like a shade, also refers to its overall lightness or darkness on the colour spectrum. Adding white changes the tint of a colour.
  • Monochromatic: Monochromatic refers to a palette comprised entirely of colours of the same hue, such as all blue – however these blues may vary in terms of how light or dark they are.
  • Achromatic: On the other hand, an achromatic palette is devoid of colour and instead, is made up of variations of black, white and grey.
Close shades creating range and depth make up the analogous colour scheme
Close shades creating range and depth make up the analogous colour scheme.
Close shades creating range and depth make up the analogous colour scheme
Close shades creating range and depth make up the analogous colour scheme.

Understanding and using the colour wheel

Cast your mind back to primary school art classes, and you’ll probably remember a whimsical-looking thing called a colour wheel. This is actually a pretty integral concept in both the art and design worlds, as it sets out all of the key colours and creates a point of reference for how they all relate to one another. Using the colour wheel, seven different colour schemes that are central to design principles emerge. These lay out colours that go well together in various configurations
  • Monochromatic: Made up of one hue that’s modified with varying shades, tones and tints, a monochromatic palette is always in style and can create a super cohesive look and feel, whether that’s in the dining room, bedroom or even outdoors.
  • Analogous: Looking to the colour wheel, the way to create an analogous palette is by pairing colours that sit next to one another – such as red, red-orange and orange. This kind of scheme takes monochrome and adds in close shades to create range and depth. An analogous palette almost always consists of three colours, one of which should be primary (red, blue or yellow).
  • Complementary: We refer to complementary colours quite a lot colloquially, but the true meaning of the term is this – colours that sit opposite one another on the colour wheel, like yellow and purple, red and green, or blue and orange. They’re fundamentally a fantastic match as they fill each other’s ‘gaps’, covering both warm and cool bases.
  • Split complementary: This colour palette consists of one base colour (usually a primary colour) and then the two colours either side of its complementary. An example of this is blue, and then the two colours opposite its complement of orange – red-orange and yellow-orange, or simply red and yellow on a basic colour wheel. This is a more subtle way to do complementary colours with less visual demand.
  • Triadic: Take your colour wheel, throw a triangle stencil over the top, and you’ve got the very vibrant and exciting triadic palette. Well, perhaps it’s not that simple, but at its essence this scheme refers to three colours on the palette that fall in a triangle shape, and thus are evenly spaced around the colour wheel – e.g. purple, orange and green.
  • Tetradic: Levelling up from triadic, the tetradic palette adds a fourth colour and is made up of two sets of complementary hues. When lined up, these form a rectangle on the colour wheel. Blue and orange plus green and red is an example of this.
  • Square: Lastly, the square colour palette is what it says on the tin – four colours evenly spaced around the colour wheel in a square shape.

Although these colour schemes might feel a little like gibberish to you on their own, they form almost the entirety of harmonious colour schemes and are used in homes all around the globe.

It’s not just about the furniture: your wall and floor colour should be considered when selecting a colour palette.
It’s not just about the furniture: your wall and floor colour should be considered when selecting a colour palette.
It’s not just about the furniture: your wall and floor colour should be considered when selecting a colour palette.
It’s not just about the furniture: your wall and floor colour should be considered when selecting a colour palette.

Selecting a colour palette

Now that you’re a colour master, let’s talk hues in relation to why we’re all here – some impending decisions about your surely stunning home’s interior design colour palette. The question is, how should you go about selecting a colour palette? Well, each colour palette has a different impact, and of course, can be pared back or amped up based on the colours, tones, shades and tints that you select. So, it comes down to a mixture of the furniture pieces you have and love already, and how intense or subtle you’d like to go with your colour scheme.

Something to really think about throughout the process of selecting a colour scheme is the mood you’re trying to create in that specific room or area of your home. Every colour has a connotation, and chances are you know it off the top of your head or with very little prompting. Yellow is happy, red is bold, blue is calm, green is natural… and so, the list goes on and on. Where you may want to make an impact with your dining room furniture to impress guests, your bedroom furniture might have a calming and peaceful purpose that leads you to select different hues and colour schemes. Let the mood guide you (as woo-woo as that might sound!) and you’re sure to come up with some colours that you’ll enjoy looking at every day.

The other thing to mull over is how you use your colours once you’ve selected them. Intrinsically, there are no rules to interior design, but certain shades will favour specific applications. For example, most home stylists prefer to go neutral with larger items, such as sofas, bed frames, armchairs, dining tables and rugs, as there’s then potential to dress things up or down at different times in your life. There’s nothing worse than suddenly shifting gears on what you like and don’t like – and all of a sudden being disgusted by the very sight of your living room. So, when you’re selecting a colour palette, try to feature a few more neutral shades that can be used for the big primary objects, and then accent with brighter, bolder pops of colour.

Popular colour schemes to consider

If you’re not sure what kind of colour palette will suit your home or room, we’ve got you covered. We asked our knowledgeable team of stylists for their go-to schemes this year and beyond – here’s some inspiration to help you get started.

Monochromatic neutrals

With the rise of the Pinterest-popular ‘neutral aesthetic’, it’s no wonder that simple colours across a spectrum of hues are super popular in the interiors world. Start with your favourite neutral as a base colour, be that chocolate brown, beige, rust, grey – whatever takes your fancy, as long as it’s not too bold or bright. Then select neighbouring hues to create a beautiful spectrum of neutrals that can be applied throughout your room of choice.

The monochromatic neutrals trend is especially gorgeous in the bedroom to create a sense of calm, or for living room furniture for those of us who prefer a chilled out vibe. It lends itself really well to mid century modern, modern contemporary, Scandinavian and coastal trends, but can almost be applied to any aesthetic you like. Use your darker, bolder colours for accents or to create a focal point, such as with a dark, buttery leather sofa.

A colour palette with natural influences is grounding and tranquil.
A colour palette with natural influences is grounding and tranquil.
A colour palette with natural influences is grounding and tranquil.
A colour palette with natural influences is grounding and tranquil.

Natural influences

In the last few years, we’ve been stuck inside more than ever – which understandably has us yearning for the outdoors. Enter the natural colour scheme! Made up of the kinds of colour you’d find in nature, including browns, ochres, black and white, green, and if it floats your boat, blue, a natural colour scheme is tranquil and grounding. It’s a fantastic pick for almost any room in your home, especially if you’re going for a more understated vibe.

Office furniture in particular will benefit from the natural look, as these shades will help you to relax and think clearly when you’re working. Incorporate natural materials like timber, rattan, sheepskin, leather, jute and hemp to amp up the overall feeling of earthiness. Go simple with your desk, play it up with an eye-catchingchair, and bring in those more noticeable colours through your accents, including plants, vases, rugs and trinkets like candles.

Brights and pastels

Pulled straight from the inside of Gen Z’s wardrobe, another colour scheme that is already dominating the design space is made up of brights and pastels. Simply select your favourite colour or two, pair things up using the colour wheel, and let them wreak joyful chaos on your home. While these bold colours do need to be grounded against some more neutral choices (think cream, white, black or beige), they pack a powerful punch and will look great in a home that’s more on the whimsical side.

Pastel or bright shades won’t look out of place on kids’ bedroom furniture, as they’re playful and fun – the perfect vibe for a little one’s sanctuary! But, this isn’t the only room in the home that could benefit from a colourful injection. It’s totally up to you where you want to play with this colour scheme, but we predict it’ll look gorgeous in the kitchen or living room. Select one really central colour that you use as an accent throughout the room, and a secondary one to complement it, for homewares and small furniture items. It’s usually advisable to still go pretty basic with big-ticket items like couches and coffee tables in case your tastes change, but you can dress up the rest of the room in brights to your heart’s content.

Ultimately, when it comes to locking down a colour scheme for your home, it’s all up to you and your personal tastes. What’s your favourite colour? What do your existing pieces look like? What will keep everyone in the family happy and make them feel at home? Using the principles of the colour wheel (straight outta primary school), you’re now equipped to design and execute the perfect colour scheme to suit absolutely any style and aesthetic.

Of course, if you’re still not sure, our team of stylists are always here to help, either virtually or in-person at our Melbourne and Sydney studio spaces. Shop Brosa’s range of furniture and homewares today and explore hundreds of gorgeous styles including consummate classics and trend pieces.