Picking out your home color palette can feel intimidating — you don’t want to go too bold or too boring. Here’s my approach as a designer!
It’s easy to scroll through Pinterest boards or blog posts and fall in love with dozens of paint colors – ask me how I know. But before you order sample cans or start to compare swatches for your own home, it’s important to narrow down that wide swath of inspiration into a color palette that will work for your home and create spaces that flow seamlessly together.
Identifying a color palette for your home or project should be step one – or at least really close to it! I promise it will make the whole process easier.
When I’m refreshing or redesigning a room, I settle on a general color long before I sample individual shades, considering the colors already used throughout the home as my starting point. And if I’m designing a whole house? After gathering inspiration, my first step is choosing a general color scheme that’s complementary.
How to Build a Paint Color Palette for Your Whole Home
Creating a cohesive paint palette is important – if you don’t select colors that flow well from room to room, your space will feel disjointed and unconnected. Of course, it’s totally fine to choose a variety of shades, or even completely different paint colors! It’s not about uniformity – it’s about creating great transitions.
Thankfully, there are lots of ways to create color flow. The simplest one: pick a paint color card and just go with lighter or darker shades from that same card. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also put paint cards together to see how they play with one another.
Here’s my foolproof process for finding a color scheme that plays well in every room of any home!
1. Gather inspiration.
This process looks different for everyone, but when you start to look for it, you’ll be surprised where you find it! You could find the palette of your dreams in a coffee table book, a restaurant or boutique, or even the colors of the landscape during an evening walk.
Still stumped? Pin, pin, pin. Hop on Pinterest and pin anything that speaks to you. After you’ve curated a good collection, go through them and study the images to find repeating patterns.
Are there a ton of white rooms? You must like white rooms! Notice navy popping up throughout your board? Navy cabinets, or even painting a smaller room navy, would likely be a win for you.
If Pinterest hasn’t quite narrowed things down for you, check your own closet. You’ll likely feel at home using similar colors to what you tend to wear.
2. Choose a starting shade and build around it.
Once your inspiration is set, hone in on one thing you truly love. It could be one image from your pin board, your favorite color, a flower arrangement, or a textile you know you’ll be using in your new space and choose that as a starting point.
Once you’ve selected your starting shade, build your palette with 4 colors: one neutral you really love, and three shades that complement it well. Three is a balanced number — it keeps things consistent, but interesting. In my own design, I find myself drawing on colors I find in nature all the time! I love to find a neutral or white base and add in dusty, earthy colors that are calming and add depth.
After your “core four” color palette, you can add in as many more tones as you want! In my Fargo home, I used lots of different complementary colors, keeping things neutral in the main living spaces and adding bold choices in the bedrooms and office. This created a dynamic look while still maintaining a house-wide flow.
A good rule of thumb: repeat your accent colors at least once in your home to give some overall consistency — but don’t feel like you have to stick to paint!
Think of our navy example from earlier. You may choose to paint your powder room navy for a moody feel, but you don’t want your larger spaces to feel darker. That’s a wise choice! But you can bring navy into your other spaces through artwork, throw pillows, or lamps. You can also find wallpaper or an area rug that has navy accents running through it.
3. Consider lighting, sight lines, and mood.
Depending on your floor plan, you may be able to see many rooms from a certain vantage point. If that’s the case, you’ll want to take extra care to select complementary colors that don’t interrupt your sight lines and create a space that feels disconnected. This is the reason I’m a huge fan of keeping hallways and main living areas mostly neutral, experimenting with bold color choices in rooms that can be closed off or have a clear division, like bedrooms or offices.
Don’t forget, your color palette impacts the feel of your space and how you feel in it. If you’re looking for a laid-back, relaxed feel, you may want to opt for a lighter color scheme, while warm, dark colors create a cozy, moody vibe.
After you’ve followed these three steps, paint some samples on your wall to make sure that your selections play well together and that you’ll love them for years to come! Need some help determining how to pick the best shades? I wrote about that very thing recently.
How I Built My Cabin Home Color Palette
Here’s how this process worked for my latest project, our family cabin! Before the renovation, the cabin felt homey, but dated – and very rustic, which is great but not what we are after. All of those dark, warm colors didn’t highlight the space’s architecture in the way I felt it deserved, so I got to work finding inspiration for a new look in this space.
I was immediately drawn to European design, especially Belgian farmhouses. I didn’t want the space to feel brand new – I wanted to feel like it was timeless, but not dated, and the #BelgianTreehouse (our hashtag!) was the perfect way to do just that. I found a gorgeous mural wallpaper we hope to eventually use in the primary bedroom and used it as my jumping off point for the entire palette, pulling colors from it for the walls. I selected warmer whites and muted accents for a soft, classic feel.
The result? A house color palette of warm white walls and ceilings, paired with beige trim and a soft blue accent color. Here are the exact shades we used, and why we used them:
White: Benjamin Moore Swiss Coffee
This is a sophisticated, warm white paint color. It’s welcoming, but still light and bright. It’s a true cream, but it doesn’t pull yellow, which was important to me.
- What we were looking for: A neutral that’s not overly sterile and paired well with the rest of the color palette, as well as the home’s existing wood tones.
- Where we used it: Basement walls and throughout the main floor: the living areas, halls, and bathroom, as well as in the primary bedroom.
Psssst, if you’re trying to pick a white paint, get my FREE white paint guide here!
Greige: Farrow & Ball Shaded White
This light greige (gray-beige) doesn’t read too warm or too cool, taking its name from the soft tone created when whites are used in deeply shaded spaces.
- What we were looking for: a beige or gray that would look good on trim in an older home. We were looking for a color that offered a soft but noticeable contrast with our warm whites.
- Where we used it: All the doors on the main floor and trim throughout the main living areas. We plan to use it for the kitchen cabinetry, too!
White: Benjamin Moore Simply White
This is a crisp, clean, warm white – it’s barely antiqued, so it reads as more of a white in most rooms. In lighting situations where a true cream would feel too yellow, Simply White is a great fit.
- What we were looking for: A white for the ceilings that felt crisp, but not stark. (Don’t forget: the ceiling is part of your color palette too! Sometimes, I even paint the ceiling to match the walls in a space.)
- Where we used it: All ceilings that weren’t paneled.
Gray: Benjamin Moore Boothbay Gray
This beautiful blue gray shade works well in most lighting situations – plus, it’s very versatile. Pairing it with a cool tones brings out its stunning blue, while pairing it with warmer shades tends to tone it down.
- What we were looking for: My kids wanted a blue room, and I wanted a shade that went well with the soft, pared down color palette I had planned for the rest of the main floor.
- Where we used it: On the trim and walls in the kids bunk room. We went monochromatic for a classic but unfussy look.
If you want to make sure you remember your picks, head here for my Paint Color Chart, a free downloadable chart for you to track your own home’s paint colors, helpful for touch ups or just for general knowledge! (Next time you need to touch up your family room or dining room wall, you’ll know exactly what color you need!)
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