Understanding colour & colour schemes

Make your living room ultra-stylish or ultra-cosy with these fab looks

Every home should reflect the personality of its owner and be packed full of character. There's no better way to express yourself than through colour - whether you love to keep things minimal or prefer to experiment with bold and bright shades, it's the perfect way to give an old home another lease of life, or put your own special touch on a new place.

Grey living room with lots of bright accent colours

Playing with colour can be intimidating, but when you learn the basics it quickly becomes great fun. Below you'll find everything you need to know, from how colour can affect the way you feel to the importance of the colour wheel when it comes to decorating your home.

How we observe colour

Incredibly, the human eye can actually see seven million colours - yep, that means there's definitely more than 50 shades of grey out there. But how does it all works? How do our eyes, for example, perceive that an apple is ruby red, while a sweater is mustard yellow? Or a wall is seafoam green, rather than turquoise blue?

Prism of rainbow light reflected onto a hand

Let us take you back to school and the spectrum of light. You'll probably remember from your physics lessons that 'white' light is made up of many different colours. When light hits an object, certain colours from this spectrum are absorbed.

The object's colour comes from the light that is reflected off the surface - so, in our red apple example the fruit will absorb all other colours of light other than red, reflecting red light back into our eyes.

The importance of colour

Using colour is a two-way process - it can be used to express individual personalities, and it can directly impact the way you feel in a space. It's well-known that certain colours can have an impact on your mood, so you might want to think twice before painting your bedroom red or your gym a light shade of green.

Read on to discover how each colour can affect you in your home:


One of the strongest colours on the colour wheel, red is often regarded as a bold choice. Don't shy away from it though, a stimulating shade associated with excitement and fearlessness, it's perfect for rooms used for socialising such as a living or dining room. Some people even say red can increase the appetite!


Calming, comforting and friendly, pink has the opposite effect of its primary colour - red. To avoid an overly feminine feel, keep pink touches to a minimum - you can do this by adding pink accents to a neutral room such as bedding, cushions or rugs. Don't be afraid of adding texture too.


Orange is full of joy and energy, with a wide spectrum that spans from soft peach to bright coral to rustic terracotta. An orange room is sure to leave a lasting impression, and the colour is known for sparking creativity. Be brave, add orange to your kitchen or exercise room.


Associated with the sun, yellow itself can instantly add light to a space. Uplifting, welcoming and happy, this primary colour adds a touch of optimism wherever it's placed. We love yellow for hallways - it works wonderfully in small, narrow spaces!


Whether you prefer a dark emerald shade or a pale mint hue, green promises to help a room to feel peaceful, secure and relaxed. Fresh yet calming, the colour often symbolises growth and harmony. Green has connections to nature too, pairing brilliantly with neutral hues and materials like wood and brick.


Blue is tranquil, restful and calm. Deeper blues, such as royal blue or navy have a sense of formality about them while lighter shades, like periwinkle, help you to feel relaxed and at ease.

To avoid making a room feel too cold, balance things out by pairing blue walls with warm-toned furniture.


Luxurious, vibrant and warm, purple is associated with passion, happiness and, when the right tone is used, relaxation. Pastel hues such as lilac and lavender share similar qualities to light blue - place them in areas where you like to unwind like a bedroom or bathroom. Deep shades, such as violet or eggplant, appear elegant and can spark creativity.

Understanding and using the colour wheel

Combining colours and creating a new colour scheme can feel daunting, particularly if you're about to decorate your first home. There are a couple of popular approaches many homeowners can take however, that'll help you to create a room that's full of colour and style.

Don't forget to refer to the colour wheel when you're planning your home too - even the professionals use it!

Different colour schemes on a colour wheel

Tonal scheme

If you opt for a tonal scheme (also known as a monochromatic scheme), you'll need to select a main colour for your room. Far from boring, this shade - be it blue, green or even yellow - will then dictate the other hues used in your chosen space.

A grid of different colour palettes

Once you've made your decision, head to the colour wheel. Locate your colour and then go up and down the associated segment, picking both lighter and darker shades. When you use the same tones, your room is guaranteed to look modern, elegant and full of personality.

Top Tip: Keep darker shades closer to the floor, and lighter hues towards the ceiling. It'll help the room to appear larger!

Harmonious scheme

All about balance, harmonious schemes place the focus on two to three colours that sit next to each other on the colour wheel. Adding more diversity than a tonal scheme, it can be a great way to experiment with vibrant hues without straying too far from your comfort zone.

For example, if you'd love the focus of your room to be a rich royal blue, a harmonious scheme would suggest adding a lighter blue and even a deeper green into the space. Prefer red? Choose a deeper rust shade and warm terracotta.

Contrasting colour scheme

Don't be afraid of colour! With a contrasting colour scheme, also known as a complementary colour scheme, you can really make an impact and create a sense of drama in a room. It's easy to do! Just choose your base colour from the colour wheel and then use the colour directly opposite your base colour as your accent shade.

Top Tip: To avoid violet clashes use the opposite 'accent' colour sparingly.

Easy ways to inject colour into your home

Keen to inject colour into your home, but don't fancy opting for a full makeover? There are many quick and simple ways you can transform a space, without having to pull up carpets or knock down walls!

Add an accent wall

If you'd still like to make an impact, choose just one wall to paint. Working best in a space that has a neutral base, your accent wall will become the focal point of the room. Tie everything together by adding pops of the same colour through curtains, furniture or even decorative items like paintings, vases or cushions.

Use texture

Texture can add both depth and character instantly to a room, and it's a fairly simple way to switch things up - especially if you're sticking with a minimal look. When using a Tonal colour scheme, texture is a vital addition - select soft fabrics (such as cushions and rugs) in contrasting textures. From velvet to crochet to fur, your options are endless!

Embrace fabrics

If your home, like many, enjoys neutral tones - be it white, grey or a warm beige - colour can quickly, and easily, be added through finishing touches. From cushion covers and throws to tablecloths, there are hundreds of ways to add a hint of colour into a room without spending too much money.

When it comes to adding colour into your home, having fun is the most important thing! For more interior inspiration, don't forget to take a look our guides on how to design bedrooms, bathrooms and so much more.

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