Getting complementary color combinations spot on isn’t always simple. Here, design experts tell us their favorite no-fail, classic and brave color pairings, plus trends for the year ahead.
Now no longer a place just to relax and unwind, paint ideas for every room need to adapt to become multitasking spaces in the ‘new normal’, incorporating areas where we can work, rest and play.
As a result, our decor needs to reflect this new flexibility, while also embracing a look that we won’t tire of too quickly.
Color combinations for rooms
We’ve asked a panel of industry experts for their views on what color combinations work well together for them – using a color wheel will help you get it right.
1. Green and blue
‘People feel nervous about teaming blue and green, but I believe it’s a quintessential pairing,' says Tricia Guild OBE, founder and creative director, Designers Guild (opens in new tab).
'Just imagine the landscape – the endless blue optimism of a sky against a green and pleasant land. It’s a classic combination that evokes familiarity and comfort. Make it more dynamic by using glamorous fabrics, such as our Varanasi printed silk taffeta.’
2. Neutrals and bolds
Neutral room ideas can be maximalist, too. But where to start?
‘Pick one color as a foundation – from a favorite artwork, image or piece of clothing – to form the thread that runs through the space. Build your palette around this with complementary or tonal shades,' says Charlotte Archer, head of brand, Sanderson (opens in new tab).
'My number one rule is: decorate for yourself, not others – choose tones that you love and you won’t go wrong.’
3. Orange and green
Orange is a color that many of us shy away from – but Kit Kemp shows how it can work, beautifully.
‘In this suite at the Crosby Street Hotel, against the orange fabric-covered walls, I used my Friendly Folk design in Melon Orange for the curtains and cushions and in Basil Green on the chairs,' says Kit Kemp, founder, Firmdale Hotels (opens in new tab).
'Combined with Lewis & Wood’s tribal in Limpopo on the sofas this playful reverse color combination adds freshness to the warm room. A solid orange trim on the curtains and cushions helps to frame the fabric and create a sense of harmony.’
4. Brown and white
The words 'brown living room ideas' don't necessarily conjure up an appealing image – but they can be incredibly welcoming and quite beautiful.
‘The color pairing I keep returning to is multiple shades of brown and white. It is very important to use layers of the same combination to create contrast, depth and the feel of a well lived-in space,' says Paolo Moschino, co-owner, Nicholas Haslam (opens in new tab).
'I admire the American designer Bill Blass and his brown and white apartment in New York has been my number one inspiration for many years.’
5. Yellow and green
Some design experts are urging us to be bold with colors in the year ahead.
‘As we move into thinking about pairing colors into and beyond 2022, I feel we might look beyond the nostalgic tones of the past year and be attracted to colors that are full of excitement, but somehow familiar,' says Joa Studholme, color curator, Farrow & Ball (opens in new tab).
'I am keen to use more homely, uncomplicated colors that are full of memories. The combination of India Yellow with Green Smoke epitomises the feeling of optimism so crucial to our homes next year.’
6. Navy and earthy accents
Want a dramatic room scheme that feels elegant, too?
‘When picking the perfect paint color, I’m typically on board for moody hues of navy, grey or noir. I love the warm, cozy vibes that darker tones lend to a space. Next, I layer in natural earthy accents such as terracotta, stone, putty and grey-beige,' says Mikel Welch, owner Mikel Welch (opens in new tab) design agency.
'Don’t be afraid to walk over to the dark side… just don’t forget your complementary earthy tones.’
7. Earthy naturals
‘Scale really drives how diverse you can be with color pairings: larger homes can take a looser palette; in smaller homes, it’s best to keep the colors more concise – find three colors that harmonize and use them as a common thread for continuity,' says Charu Gandhi, founder and director, Elicyon (opens in new tab).
'I enjoy using ivory, egg-yolk yellows and hints of navy, mixed with copper and metal accents. Old rose pink, nude and orangey tones is also a nice palette – the combination of dull shades creates a calm but sumptuous aesthetic. We are also using pastel lilac with thistle green and soft amber, which gives a pleasing visual sense.’
8. Blue and red
If it's a timeless appeal you are looking for, return to red and blue.
'A classic yet enduring color combination that I love is denim blue paired with aged antique red colors. These colors combine to create rooms that appear effortless and stylish, offering comfort and embracing the trend for relaxed living,' says Ann Grafton, creative director, GP & J Baker (opens in new tab).
'Our latest collection Portobello combines these classic colors in a curated edit of several, simple Indienne-inspired block prints and softly colored embroideries to create fabrics that are perfectly suited to interiors that are layered and reflect the spirit of timelessness.'
9. Green and pink
Want to impart a summery impression, year round?
‘Green and pink always feel like such a joyful combination to me, reminiscent of the abundance of florals and botanicals in nature as spring turns to summer. I like to keep it feeling fresh and clean with a good dose of white in the mix,’ says Emma Thomas, Homes & Gardens’ interiors editor.
10. Pastels and strong colors
Creating a surprise with pastels and deeper shades can work brilliantly if done right.
'I firmly believe that any color pairing can work, it is all a matter of introducing an element of separation,' says Dr Geraldine Tan, creator interiors blog Little Big Bell (opens in new tab) and one of the founding contributors to Instagram’s @design (opens in new tab) account.
'So what might traditionally be a color clash – really light pastel hues in accessories against a super dark wall color, for example – can work if separated by neutral tones. This, to me, is very important when you decorate with color, and creates a more restful space.'
What two colors go well together for a room?
There is an endless variety of color combinations that go well together, but at the moment, natural shades matched together are very on trend.
‘The colors of nature, such as earthy beige and warm clay and all shades of green have been a firm favourite for the last seasons,’ says Judy Smith, Crown (opens in new tab) Color Consultant.
‘Over the past few months, nature has become even more important. The outdoors has been an escape, somewhere to go to recharge our batteries or even just take a break from everything. We now want to channel that feeling in our home too, with warm, cozy shades inspired by the natural world.’
Joa Studholme, Color Curator at Farrow & Ball approves. ‘Uncomplicated shades of blue feel familiar, like memories from our childhood, so they have a soothing effect in the home despite their cooler undertones.’
Lucy Searle has written about interiors, property and gardens since 1990, working her way around the interiors departments of women's magazines before switching to interiors-only titles in the mid-nineties. She was Associate Editor on Ideal Home, and Launch Editor of 4Homes magazine, before moving into digital in 2007, launching Channel 4's flagship website, Channel4.com/4homes. In 2018, Lucy took on the role of Global Editor in Chief for Realhomes.com, taking the site from a small magazine add-on to a global success. She was asked to repeat that success at Homes & Gardens, where she has also taken on the editorship of the magazine.
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