You have probably experienced entering a home that seemed uncomfortably discordant, with a jarring transition from one room to the next. There are three primary causes for this: inconsistent decorating styles, drastic color jumps, or a lack of architectural detail. Nine times out of ten, it will be an abrupt change in color scheme. Perhaps pastels in one room, bright/saturated colors in another, dark/rich colors in the next, all neutrals in the next. Colors evoke emotional responses. When a home’s color schemes are chaotic, our emotions are too.
The Color Connection
Creating a color scheme that flows from room to room is not difficult. It all starts with choosing one color…perhaps your favorite color; perhaps a color chosen specifically to work with the other colors already in your home; perhaps one color already in your home that you really love. If you thread that one color throughout your home, it will create a “connection” for the eye to follow as you pass from room to room, or look from one room into another.
How can one color be used in all your rooms yet still allow those rooms to have variety? The key is in variations on your connector color. For instance, if yellow is your chosen color, lemon, French cream, wheat, harvest gold, and goldenrod are all yellows, yet their unique qualities make them compatible with different colors. Variation can also be achieved by using different values of the same color, or in using the color in various ways and amounts in each room.
Let’s look at four different ways to make using one color (yellow) throughout your home successful:
Variation in Color – If you stay within the same color temperature (warm or cool), you can use different versions of your chosen color in each room and still maintain a visual connection. For instance, you could use cream, lemon chiffon, wheat, straw, autumn gold, ochre, and antique gold….all warm varieties of the color that can work in different color schemes. This is a good option when you are working with colors you already have in your home, because you simply need to select a variation on the “connector” color to suit each room’s scheme.
Variation in Value – Choosing one color – let’s say straw yellow – and using it throughout your home in varying values (light to dark) is another option for creating a connection between rooms. The name of the color will, of course, change with its value. But they are still based on the same color. (Go to your paint store and look at their sample cards; those strips of one color in shades from light to dark and a name for each one.) Base your value choices on the room’s decorating style, the feel you want to achieve, the other colors in the room, and where you will use the color. Do you want your yellow to stand out as a pop of color or light amidst darker or subdued tones? Does your room have mostly light value colors and need a darker tone to “ground” it? Is the color going on a whole wall, or just a pillow? Using varied values is a good option when you are working with existing color schemes, as you are only altering the value of the “connector” color you are adding.
Threading the same Color throughout – Perhaps the easiest way to connection your rooms, is by using the same color (without variation in value) throughout your home, though it does take more up-front thought if you are working with existing color schemes. When your chosen color is paired with different colors in each room, you achieve both continuity and variety. Again, using straw as an example, you might pair it with cranberry in the dining room; with sage green in the kitchen; with chocolate brown in the living room; with taupe in the entry; with coral in the bath; with navy blue, plum, and burnt orange in the bedrooms. This option can be the addition of a color that works with your existing room color schemes, or it can be a starting point for a new home or a re-design project.
Variation in Quantity – Your chosen “connector” color doesn’t always need to be just an accent in each room. It can also be used as the primary color, such as the wall color; as a secondary color in a smaller amount than your primary color, such as drapes; or as an accent in small “pops” of color that stand out against the room’s other colors, such as accessories like pillows or lamps. It can even be used on the woodwork throughout your home. To make the quantity method work, be sure to adjust your color to suit its use, or make sure your use suits the color’s value and intensity. For instance, lemon yellow might be too intense to use on all your walls (or even one), but perfect for an accent or in a pattern. This option is especially helpful when working with existing color schemes, because it gives you so much flexibility.
Finally, although it’s trickier to do successfully, you can also use Variation on a Color. Each color varies in value, intensity, and temperature. For instance, sage green is a cool to neutral, low intensity color that can be used in various values. Pine green is a cool, low intensity, dark value color. Each of these greens have a different variety of colors that they pair well with. Using different variations on a color allows you the most variety in your color schemes, but can look random and chaotic if you’re not careful….much like a patchwork scrap quilt. Limiting the number of greens and keeping them in the same temperature makes for the most successful use of this option.
There are a couple additional ways to create visual “flow” in your home: maintaining the same color temperature (warm or cool) in all your rooms, and maintaining similar values and intensities in your color schemes. Combine these with choosing and “threading” a connector color throughout your home and you will create a smooth transition between your rooms.