Choosing Color: Where to Start

Blue Oriental Rug

Color preferences are highly personal, which can make choosing a palette for your home quite challenging. Humans have emotional responses to color, based on our personalities and experiences. It is for this reason that we guide our clients through their color choices not by following trends, but by discovering which colors resonate with them. Warm colors, cool colors, neutrals with pops of color or a tonal scheme, light and airy or warm and cozy, or perhaps a little of both—there are so many options to choose from! On top of that, your canvas will help determine where you start with your color choices If you are building a new home, you are working with a clean slate and the sky is the limit for your color scheme. For remodels or refreshes, existing elements within your space will determine a suitable palette. Below we provide some tips on how to get started with choosing a color palette both inside and out.

Choosing an Interior Color Scheme

If you are working with a brand new space, your color choices are driven by the elements that offer fewer choices. For most homes, that means beginning with what you will place on the floor. For example, if you have hardwoods and plan to put a rug on them, we begin by choosing the rug and then pulling colors from it. There is an infinite amount of paint colors, but fewer options for rugs. By beginning with the limited aspects of the design, we avoid wasting our time looking for something that does not exist, or forcing a style that truly does not work. If you are not using a rug, we begin with fabrics. These two elements tend to combine interesting color schemes that are fun to play off of. You already know those colors work well together, so you can pull out main and accent colors that could lead to a unique color scheme.


With existing surroundings, it is important to begin with what is not going to change or what you can see from the space. Your new color scheme must complement those colors and patterns, including furniture, unless you plan to remove that element in the near future. A great example of this is the dining room pictured above. Our clients wanted a rich brown on their dining room walls, but they also wanted to keep their dark, heavy heirloom dining set. We worked with that existing element by creating lightly-colored fabric covers for the dining chairs to keep the room from feeling too dark. We feminized a room that could have been heavily masculine, which was not the look they were after.

Choosing an Exterior Color Scheme

When you are building a new home the exterior is made up of much more than the color of your siding. Other materials such as stone, brick and shake may play a part, as well as your roof. Working from concept photos is very difficult when it comes to creating an exterior color palette. There are many variations with natural materials, and sunlight plays a large role in how a color looks. We suggest looking at the actual materials you plan to use for guidance in an outside setting. For example, do you want a warm-colored stone, a cool-colored stone, or a combination? Your choice will determine the rest of your color scheme. Also, consider how much contrast you want. Do you want a large difference between your building materials and your trim, or do you want a more tonal look? Similar to interiors, we suggest you begin the process by deciding upon the most difficult element to find, and then build your palette from there. It is also important to consider the colors that are indigenous to the area, allowing your home to blend with the environment. Otherwise, it will look like it was dropped out of the sky!

We are working with clients at the moment who provide an excellent example of how to choose a new exterior color palette. They are building a new home in Zionsville, and plan to have painted brick and shake, stone and limestone. The wife was convinced she liked warmer tones, so she planned to pull all of the cooler greys out of the stone mix and place a brown material on the roof. Her husband preferred the grey option for the roof, noting that the warmer choice would give him “brown house”, which he did not want. While we were standing on the gravel driveway, she noted how she liked the mix of warm and cool tones within the stones under her feet, making her realize the two tones could look great together. So, we put the grey roof on and added back a few cool stones to create a balanced color scheme while honoring her love of warmer tones.

For an existing home, the success of your palette relies on working with the elements that are going to remain the same. If you have a brick or stone house, choose colors that make those elements look fantastic. Pay attention to the color of your roof to ensure the tones play well together. Choosing exterior colors for an existing home is not really an opportunity to experiment or go for a new look unless you are going to change every exterior element.

Evolving Your Color Scheme

Most people like a bit of change. While there are colors you will always love, there are ways to incorporate new colors that excite you that do not require a lot of investment. That new trend could look great in your home through updated throw pillows and accessories, rather than a whole new sofa or floor covering. For example, you’ve always loved the color blue and a new trendy blue has emerged. Instead of repainting, use that new blue differently in the space through fabrics or accessories. That evolution of your definition of the color blue as new variations emerge is what keeps your home looking fresh while staying true to your personal style.

Need help choosing the color palette for your next home project? Send us an email or give us a call at 317.253.8986.

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