- Most people choose interior colors one at a time as they paint a particular room, often without considering how the new color(s) work with their existing choices.
- Colors also are chosen without making sure they work with permanent features, such as flooring, counter tops, tile, stone, etc.
These two factors work against creating color flow, which is a component of the overall design goals of unity and harmony. Always keep in mind that your house shouldn't look like a collection of unrelated or conflicting ideas, it should look as if all the rooms belong under the same roof. When it comes to color, there's a very simple way to create flow, and that's through repetition, which creates a connection between spaces and makes them come together as part of a harmonious whole.
Easy Ways to Create Color Flow
- Paint the trim in a single color throughout the house. It does not have to be stark white!
- Pick a team: choose a color plan for the walls based on either tints (a hue plus white) or shades (a hue plus black or an earth tone). See my earlier post on this topic for more information: Mixing Tints and Shades-Proceed with Caution .
- Select three to five of your favorite colors to be your "Core Colors". Be certain that they harmonize with all the permanent elements in your house. Use each color more than once. For example, if you love red, use it for the dining room walls and in the powder room or den, or on the back wall of built-in bookcases, or on a wall at the end of a long hallway. Find red accessories and use them throughout the house, especially in those rooms where you haven't used any red paint. Follow this approach with your other "Core Colors"
- Use Expanded Core Colors. To have more color options, go to the paint store and find the strip for each of your core colors. Use lighter and darker versions of each color. A light version of the red in your dining room might be the perfect pink for a girl's bedroom. A darker version of that color might be perfect for the den.
- If you're stuck for color inspiration, don't re-invent the wheel. The major paint companies have done all the work of finding pleasing color combinations. Look at their brochures and visit their web sites. Benjamin Moore also has created a brochure on color flow with several excellent examples: Color Flow .
- Paint all the ceilings in the house in the same color. (Your ceilings not only don't have to be stark white, the color should be chosen to harmonize with, or be one of, your Core or Expanded Core Colors. With color on the walls, stark white ceilings look "wrong", or as if you forgot to paint them. Repetition of both ceiling and trim colors throughout makes it easier to paint the walls in each room a different color, if that's your inclination, without sacrificing color flow.
- Transition or connecting spaces such as hallways, foyers and stairwells need a color that works with all the rooms that adjoin them. Notice the rich red in the Benjamin Moore Bold Color Flow diagram, and the neutral in the Soft Color Flow diagram. As you see, either approach can work.
- Pay special attention to contrast and harmony in an open concept plan. If you can see colors in adjoining spaces, make sure they're on good speaking terms. Extreme contrast can stop the eye and disrupt flow, which is fine if drama is your style, just be sure you want to live with it. One way to know exactly how much contrast there is in your Core Colors is to note their LRV or Light Reflectance Values and work with colors that have similar LRV numbers. To read more on this subject: Light Reflectance Values.
- Create a simple diagram of your house and test color relationships. Cut samples from paint strips and place on your diagram in the room where you might use it. This example and the ones from the Benjamin Moore brochure show at a glance how the colors work together. Notice the use of repetition in the example below.
Color flow is more than a buzzword. It's an essential part of creating an attractive color plan for your home.