• Beverly Todd

Lessons in Color that will Change the Look of Your Home

I love color. I love creating art in color. I love decorating with color.

Yet, I once painted a room three times in one week before finding the right color of sunshine yellow for the master retreat.

Over the years of studying color for art, I’ve learned the same color principals for creating art hold true for creating the decor in your home. It’s simple.

Here’s how you can skip the do-overs and create the perfect color palette the first time around.

Pick a Palette and Repeat

Choose a family of 3 to 5 colors (I always use an odd number of colors) and repeat throughout the house. Start with your largest room, usually the living room, and choose the color scheme. Take one color from this scheme into the adjacent room, and repeat through the house. The colors will flow, pulling you from room to room. For example, the dominate blue walls in the living room carry over to accent blue seat cushions in the dining room.

Use the 60–30–10 Formula

This color formula works every time… and is used in art (you can see examples in my paintings) as well as home decorating. Pick three colors. The dominate color is 60% of the room. The secondary color is 30% of the room. And the accent color is 10% of the room. I like to pick a shot of bright pink or orange, stunning purple, electric blue, or sunflower yellow for the accent. It’s an exciting pop that draws your eye to the room’s focal point (think art, pillows or a rug).

Use the Color Wheel

Pick complimentary colors which are opposite each other on the wheel. Think yellow-orange and violet. Blue-green and red-orange. Opposing color combinations carry great energy and happiness.

For a more peaceful design, choose analogous colors which are next to each other on the wheel. Think peacock blue, turquoise blue-green and sea green.

Big Color in Little Spaces

Small spaces hold delightful surprises. Powder rooms. Dining nooks. And even closets can handle strong color. These are great places to play with that bold color you really love. I’ve created a tangerine orange closet, eggplant purple powder room, and a Chinese red guest bath (red on four walls and the ceiling).

Neutral Notes

Forget beige. Cozy up to warm grays or dark charcoal. And even tones of twilight blue, sage green or dusky purple, set the stage for a muted and neutral pallet. Think tone, on tone, on tone for an elegant setting.


It’s clean. It’s crisp. It’s white, which comes in so many beautiful bright hues. White adds a modern touch to every room. Add white with painted wood work, white furniture, and white accents. Be careful with the creams, which can often look dingy and dated.


It’s the anchor of every room. Black is bold and makes adjacent colors pop. It can be a splash of black or an accent wall. It’s elegant. And every room must have a bit of black… in the furniture, lamp shade, or art.

What makes you happy?

Follow your heart. Your personal style. The colors that bring you joy. Take a look in your closet for an idea of what colors appeal to you.

Adding Art

Art is the personality of every room. The only rule here is to pick ART that YOU LOVE (and please avoid cheap box-store prints that matchy-match the sofa). If you love the art, it will make your home special.

Concerned about art and wall colors? Here are a few tips:

Go with complementary shades… yellow and orange art on a turquoise wall.

Use similar hues. Choose art and wall colors in the same color family… purple walls with purple art.

Contrast. Black and white art always pops on primary color walls. Bright or neon art stands out against deep black or gray walls.

Stay neutral. Sometimes neutral walls are the easiest way to give your artwork the attention it deserves. Without any competing color the art become the focal point.

For any room, art is the finishing touch - that final statement piece that completes the picture and creates a room with just the right look and feel.

Top photo: "Gift of Poetry," 36" x 36". Dark gray walls gray decor provide the setting for this bold work of art to carry the room.

Bottom photo: "Seeing with the Heart," 24" x 24". This orange art contrasts against neutral walls. And the pop of black in the frame anchors the setting.


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