Joanna Gaines reveals her surprisingly simple secret to choosing color schemes

In an exclusive interview with H&G, the designer decodes the power of color – and how it can evoke emotion in any room

Joanna Gaines houseplant
(Image credit: Courtesy of Magnolia Network)

Few figures hold such influence as Joanna Gaines – the HGTV star, Magnolia empire co-founder, and interior designer who is likely to have already influenced the way you think about decorating.  

Joanna is a leader in all things neutral – exhibited primarily through the unmistakable modern farmhouse color schemes for which she is so well known. It was perhaps only inevitable, therefore, that her interview with H&G focused on her expertise in this subject. 

When it comes to decorating with neutrals, Joanna is a master. But how does she choose color schemes for her projects, whether for her own home or for clients? And how can you be sure these hues will work in your space? Sharing her sought-after neutral room ideas, Joanna reveals her color scheming secret. 

How to choose color schemes – according to Joanna Gaines

When choosing colors for your home, Joanna prompts you to begin with the following questions: 'What should this space become? What is the story I'm wanting to tell in this space?' 

And her first decision is always: 'What color am I going to do in this space?'

But her color choices are more often than not prompted not so much by a scientific approach to decoding the color wheel, but by how a color makes her feel.

Joanna Gaines

(Image credit: Joanna Gaines x Magnolia Home Castle Collection)

'For instance, in my library, it's dark and moody, but in other spaces it's nice to move from that darker moody vibe into that light and open space,' Joanna says.

Thinking about whole-house color schemes rather than just for one area at a time, your neutral choices will start to complement what you want from every room in your house, says Joanna. 

'I feel like there was a time when you would assume, "my whole house needs to be neutral" or "my whole house needs to be color". I do feel there is space to do both, depending on what you want to feel in each room.'

Joanna Gaines

(Image credit: Joanna Gaines x Magnolia Home Castle Collection)

The conversation surrounding color scheming has never felt quite so apt as Joanna has recently launched The Castle Collection in collaboration with KILZ. 

'If I want a room to be open, and light and inspiring... the palette is neutral, and my mind can really think,' the designer adds. 'It's like a great template. But then, when I'm wanting to step into a space where I really want to feel like a hug – like it's cozy – and I want to stay, and I want to linger – that's where I bring in color.'

Joanna Gaines

(Image credit: GettyImages)

Joanna is instantly associable with her neutral paint palette, but as the designer explains, you do not need to limit yourself to these timeless hues. Instead, she recommends using neutrals alongside more vibrant shades to balance a particular emotion in any given room.

'Color can do that to a space. If you want to stay in there, it can make you feel comfortable in a way where it’s intentional, it’s thought-provoking,' Joanna explains. 

'I feel there is so much that color does mentally, and so for me, it’s offering both of those spaces in a home, depending on whether you’re working from home or if your kids are wanting to play in the playroom. Colors really do evoke a certain emotion. You can do warm neutrals, but you can bring in those richer colors, and it is a beautiful balance of both.'

Fixer Upper: The Castle first premiered on October 14 at 9/8c on Magnolia Network, HBO Max, and discovery+, and the Castle Collection was shown on October 28th. You can explore the collection via KILZnow. 

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.