The definitive rule book for paint color selection is the color wheel. However subtle a color appears, it has an undertone — or underlying hue — that is charted on the wheel. Once the undertone is identified, coordinating colors are easy to chose. It helps to decide whether you prefer a complementary color scheme, which features color wheel opposites, or an analogous scheme, that utilizes adjacent color wheel hues. In tone-on-tone rooms, walls display undertones in the same hue family as other decor elements. Paint is an important component in triadic schemes, which feature a trio of coordinating colors.
For neutral color schemes, grays provide reliable choices; enliven them by picking accent colors that are color wheel opposites of the gray’s undertone. Walls in light or dark warm-gray have a red undertone, and green provides complementary accent color. Include drapery and pillows in mint green or a warmer hue, such as spring green. Orange and orange-reds are complements or near complements of blue-grays and green-grays. In a room with blue-gray walls, accessories in bright blue and orange provide coordinating spots of luminosity, and green-grays form soft transitions in analogous color schemes, especially with greenish blues, such as robin’s egg blue.
All Around Brown
Brownish tones provide a base for warmer color schemes. Tan walls have an orange undertone that complements blues, blue-grays, greens and green-grays, whereas adobe walls have a pinkish orange undertone which contrasts with warm greens, such as sage or olive. Though taupe is warm gray, it’s sometimes perceived as brown, and the red undertone in taupe paint contrasts with accents in warm spring green or cool mint green. Taupe also pairs with greenish blue-grays, as do umbers, which are browns with a greenish undertone that forms softly shifting analogous color schemes with greenish blue-grays and pale green-blues.
Triadic color schemes expand the palette, and since wood flooring with yellow-orange undertones is popular, the triad of yellow-orange, red-violet and green-blue is useful. Triadic color schemes are more manageable when one color is gray, such as violet-gray walls which blend with a violet-gray sofa. An orangish maple entertainment center blends with flooring, while contrasting with a coffee table’s greenish turquoise milk paint finish; curtains in turquoise and violet-gray complete the look. Robin’s egg blue walls afford a substitute green-blue, blending with matching tables, while contrasting with the violet-gray sofa and flooring.
Yellowish hues provide an overall glow in tone-on-tone rooms, which feature shades of one color, and a subtle paint choice is beige, a pale green-yellow. Venetian plaster walls in beige provide an aged appearance that relies on texture to provide contrast. Frames in distressed, greenish silver blend with beige walls, and light fixtures in greenish nickel coordinate. Other tone-on-tone color schemes include reddish taupe walls with antique black furniture and frames; antique black shares taupe’s red undertone. Pendant lights in oil-rubbed bronze and orange-bronze frames coordinate with walls in tan or adobe, creating a backdrop with varying orange tones.