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The Big Picture: Creating a Unifying Color Palette

Just as choosing the right color for the various rooms in your home is important, choosing colors that create harmony from room to room should also be a consideration. Indeed, a cohesive color scheme can make your home more than the sum of its parts. If creating a unifying color palette for the whole house seems like a daunting task, don’t despair- it’s really much easier than you might think, and the following tips and tricks can help lead the way.

A Cohesive Color Palette Helps People Feel at Home

Whether you are preparing your house for sale or working to make a new house feel like home, you’ll want to choose colors for different rooms that work together to create an overall mood for the space. The color palette should have a feeling of warmth and comfort so prospective buyers feel welcomed and at home. 

A cohesive color palette also serves to help draw all of the spaces in a house together. If all of the rooms are in contrasting, different colors, it may seem disjointed. A coordinated color palette gives the sense of connectedness.

Color Cohesion Does NOT Mean All Rooms Should Be the Same Color

Using color to create a sense of connection from room to room results in a house that feels harmonious, balanced and welcoming to visitors. Color cohesion, however, does not mean that all rooms in a house should be painted the same color.

“Yes, you should definitely coordinate your whole house, but that doesn’t mean everything has to be matchy-matchy,” says Ann McGuire, color consultant for Valspar Paints and founder of Pennsylvania-based Beehive Studios. Instead, rooms should flow from one space to the next. “If you go from one room painted in a warm taupe to another in a cooler gray beige, you want that transition to be smooth – but you still want a transition,” she says. In a home painted all in a single color, you lose the sense of moving through space. This can actually leave your home feeling smaller than it is, McGuire warns. 

Kelly Berg, founder of Arte Styling, a boutique San Francisco Bay–area design firm, agrees. She notes that the color palettes that seem to turn out best are the ones with an amazing balance of warm and cool colors. “A vibrant turquoise against a rich persimmon, or a yummy chocolate brown against a robin’s egg blue,” she offers. “There is something so inherently enticing about a color palette that feeds our need for warmth and cold, fire and ice.”

Draw Inspiration from Magazines, Furniture and Existing Wall Colors

Creating a unified color palette doesn’t have to mean repainting the entire house. McGuire recommends starting with the colors you already have and working from there. As long as a room has been recently painted and reflects a feeling of warmth and welcome, it can be a great starting point for an entirely new color palette for the house. From there, start thinking about which rooms you really want to make a change to, and then choose colors that will coordinate.

Magazines can serve as inspiration for color combinations that work, as can the paint aisle at your local hardware store. Many paint manufacturers now recommend complete color palettes as part of their displays. Berg recommends playing with lots of color chips before you buy paint and painting sample swatches on your walls to see how the colors look in different lighting.

You’ll also want to keep your furniture in mind as you create your new color palette, especially if you are preparing a home for sale. “Go back to the fabrics in your rooms and find a new color within them that you want to bring up on the walls,” advises McGuire. “Chances are good that it will work with the new palette you create.”

Even Non-Adjacent Rooms Should Feel Connected

It’s important to harmonize all colors in a home, even when they aren’t immediately adjacent to one another. “You don’t want one area to feel pulled together and have a potential buyer turn the corner and say, “Uh-oh, what happened here?” warns Berg. 

Harmonious colors in open floor plans are especially important. Subtle shifts in hue within a large open space can help distinguish the living room from the adjoining family room or kitchen, for example, and help provide a sense of movement.

In large, connected spaces where the divisions between rooms are sometimes blurred, a more gradual transition from one color to the next is sometimes the safest bet. “One way to do it is just to go on the color chips and choose a color lighter or a color deeper” for adjoining spaces, recommends McGuire. She did that as part of a recent re-do of a beauty salon, selecting a bold orange for the front room and a lighter shade from the same color chip for the rooms beyond. The combination added depth to the space as a whole. “The client came in and said, ‘We never realized this place was so big,’” McGuire recalls.

Use Trim and Accents to Weave Color Throughout

Keeping trim and ceiling colors consistent also can help unify the different areas of a home. Using the same color for doors, chair rails, base boards, and trim around windows can really pull together a house very nicely. Finally, carefully chosen accent pieces can further support and emphasize your color palette. Accents like bowls, vases, and throw pillows can be an inexpensive way to draw a color throughout the home.

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