Using Color and Pattern - Part I

by Kathy Passarette - Date: 2007-01-06 - Word Count: 460 Share This!

A good way to decide on a paint color is to look at what else you have going on in the room. Is there existing furniture you will be working with? A rug? Art? Bedding? These are called "inspiration pieces". It is much easier to choose a color, AFTER you have chosen fabrics, whether for bedding, upholstered pieces or rug.

Let's start with patterns first. As a general rule, a good mix includes a small, a medium and a large-scale pattern. Mixing various types of patterns is a good way to get started. An example of this would be a floral with stripes and checks. If you are going to use pattern on the walls, such as with wallpaper, step back about 10 feet to get a good visualization of how it is going to look in the room. Always vary the scale - any wallpaper used on the wall should be a size down from a pattern on upholstery or bedding. Don't feel that you have to match colors perfectly. If you make sure that you have at least one color in each pattern, even if it's a background or neutral, it will be more pleasing to the eye.

Pattern can also affect the scale of the room its in. A large print can overpower a small room and a small print would seem lost in a big room. The character and theme of the pattern should be conducive to the overall plan of the interior, matching or blending with furniture and architectural styles. In other words, you would not have silk drapes in a country dining room.

Some basic color vocabulary includes the following terms:

Hue - Hue identifies the general family of a color, such as red, yellow, blue or green. The traditional color wheel is made up of 12 color families: red, red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, yellow, yellow-green, green, blue-green, blue, red-violet, violet and blue-violet.

Color Wheel - Colors on the opposite side of the wheel from each other are called complementary colors. In combination, these colors create striking contrasts. For less contrast choose colors next to each other on the color wheel.

Warm or Cool - Different colors in the same family may be described as "warm" or "cool". Colors with yellow undertones will seem warmer, while the same color with blue or red undertones will appear cool. Cool colors - blue, green, violet - invite relaxation and thought. Warm colors - red, orange, yellow - encourage conversation and play.

Value - Value describes how light or dark a specific color may be. On color strips, lighter values are at the top, mid-tone value is in the middle and darker values are at the bottom. When you combine colors from a single color strip, you are creating a monochromatic color scheme - perfect for creating a sophisticated, spacious look in a single room.

Related Tags: decorating, color, painting, redesign, redecorating, pattern

Kathy Passarette is a Certified Interior Decorator, Affiliate member of the Interior Design Society and Charter Member of the Society of Decorating Professionals. She is the owner of Creative Home Expressions located on Long Island, New York. You can contact Kathy through her website at

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