How To Select The Perfect Color Scheme For Your Home

Over the years, people have often asked me…


How do you select a color scheme for your home?


That’s a very good question.

But, the answer often doesn’t come easily.

In addition, as an interior designer, coming up with a color scheme is rarely the first issue on my mind. However, I hear from people all of the time, that is the first thing they are worried about.

The most important thing is creating a space that functions optimally for the clients.


But, here is my process for selecting a color scheme.


Please note that I no longer take on new clients, but I am speaking in the present tense.

If you are doing your own house, then you are your own client and need to take these same steps and ask yourself these questions.


Where is the home located?


  • Is it in a big city?
  • A small town or village
  • In the country?
  • Is it in the mountains?
  • Or, is it by a lake, river or ocean?

Where the home is located may very well have a bearing on what colors are chosen.


How old is the home?


  • Is it brand spanking new?
  • Or, maybe not even built yet?
  • Is it fairly new, 20 years old but still built after 1985?
  • Or is it an antique, early, mid- 20th century?

Different periods of history often use different colors.


What style home is it?


There are dozens of styles– too many to name.


Whenever I visit a new client, these are the questions I’m quickly asking myself. In fact, most of these I already know before even visiting the clients.


Related to style and age of the home are the “givens.” The givens are the things that cannot change.


They are elements like floors, tile, windows, etc.


Although, most of those things CAN change. But, it needs to be decided if that is a possibility. Because if its not, obviously, we have to work with what is.


Whenever coming up with the perfect color scheme, it is vital to understand that everything from the stain on the floor to the metal or plastic trim on the windows is a part of the color scheme.


It could be wood trim too. And, anything can be painted, but metal and plastic are more difficult.

I’ve been looking at a lot of high-end real estate listings recently. And, God only knows that between Westchester County in New York and Fairfield County in Connecticut, there are thousands of homes that are well over million dollars for sale. And there are hundreds that are 5,000,000 or more!

But, one thing I’m noticing that at least one realtor is doing which I think is incredibly clever, is this: They are photo-shopping some images to reflect how they would look if they were painted. And, blimey. I thought I had one for you to see and now I can’t find it. Sorry, about that.


Going back to location, style and age of the home, I think it’s pretty clear that the color scheme for a vacation home in the Caribbean is likely to be different from a ski chalet in Colorado.


But, of course, there’s also the issue of personal preference when it comes to choosing a color scheme.

However, so that we’re clear, let’s discuss the possibilities for interior color schemes. I’m saying interior because there are dozens of color schemes. Some of these I’ve written about about 5 years ago and am linking to them.


Below is a terrific video that explains the principles of color theory




Mono means one. I guess we all know that. So, monochromatic means ONE color. But, it can be variations of that one color.


This is when you have a color scheme with two or three colors right next to each other on the color wheel.


Two colors opposite each other on the color wheel, like red and green and blue and orange.

However, there are some color schemes that don’t seem to have a name.

For instance, one of my favorites is blue and white, with the addition of orange-red. It’s almost complimentary, but not quite. You can see a post about this color scheme here.

One thing I have discovered over the years is that in say an over-all cool color scheme, like blue and white, it longs to see some warm tones like orange and yellow and gold and even brown, as accents.

The same holds true for the opposite, but less popular these days, warm color schemes.

Another good rule is to run a thread of one color through all of the rooms. It can be the dominant color in some rooms or used as accents in others. This color is often red, green or blue.

What if you live in an area, but don’t like the “typical” colors associated with the geography?


As an example. Does a coastal home have to be blue and white?

Well, if your home is right on the ocean or has an ocean view and you’re constantly seeing blue out your window, THAT is going to be part of your interior color scheme. Of course, it’s water and that means that it’s going to change colors too.

I don’t think that you must have a blue and white home, but it should probably be mostly pale with shades of beige and white. However, it really depends on which ocean. Is it a rainy gray ocean or a turquoise blue ocean?

Serena and Lily does coastal so well. OH, they are having a 20% off of all of their beautiful upholstery. So, if you missed it the last time they did this, you have another opportunity until 11:59 pm (PT) on 4/29/19. Use code: ALLYOU

If you have a home that’s in a residential area in most places, you might not be bound by as many rules as if it’s in a place very specific.


So, let’s say that you are moving into a big white house.

Here’s one.


303 Milbank Ave. Greenwich - exterior - color scheme


303 Milbank Ave. Greenwich - entry stairs - color schemes


303 Milbank Ave. Greenwich - entry stairs - front door - color schemes


Here’s the listing for this antique craftsman style home, totally updated on sale in the heart of Greenwich, CT, on what they say is a 6/10th of an acre “OVERSIZED LOT”

for a cool $7,800,000.00


Sticker shock much? Well, this is some of the most expensive real estate in the nation.


I’m not going to show any more of the house. It’s very nice; nothing exceptional, at least, not the way it’s presented, but I wouldn’t turn it down. I chose it because it’s mostly white.

303 Millbank Ave. Greenwich - floor plan - color scheme

Here’s a layout of the first floor, as you can see.

You enter in the upper left corner.  I would probably leave most of the walls white or the light gray they appear to be. But, a great place to use a lot of color would be the dining room. And, then I would use those colors but more sparingly in the other rooms.

Of course, this is only one possibility, but I’m trying to show how this works.


In my practice, during the first meeting after I’ve discussed at length my clients desires and needs, I come back with scale drawings of a possible furniture layout and a bag(s) of fabrics.


This is when we begin to flesh out the colors, patterns, etc.


Sometimes there are already givens that make this process easier.

OR, more difficult. In fact, there have been situations that the potential clients presented to me that were so problematic, that I wouldn’t take the job. Remember Humpty Dumpty? Not everything can be fixed. Well, that is, not without spending a lot of money.


But, under manageable circumstances, the clients might own a rug or rugs they wish to incorporate. Or art.


Sometimes, they show me a room that they love or a fabric they wish to use and then we build from there.

But, what if there’s none of that? And then you feel like you’re farting in a thunderstorm trying to see which way the wind is blowing? It’s mighty difficult.

So, let’s clear the wind and clouds. haha And, focus on something we touched on in this post about a secret trick that designers use when we are at a loss.


We look for inspiration from other designers. But then, we put our own spin on it and it becomes something entirely new.


Let me show you how this works. And I am going to use some of the palettes and colors from the Laurel Home Paint and Palette Collection.

I think that you’re going to like this.

Scot Meacham Wood Design - color scheme - Benjamin Moore Gentleman's Gray - interior color scheme - Chest-photography by Thayer Allison Gowdy for House Beautiful

Let’s say that your client shows you this gorgeous room by Scot Meacham Wood. And says, “I love this color scheme.” Or, perhaps you’re your own designer.

We don’t know if Scot took his inspiration from the painting, the rug, or his beautiful plaid fabrics, but we can see that it all coordinates beautifully without looking too matched.

The wall color by the way is Benjamin Moore’s Gentleman’s Gray.

Benjamin Moore gentleman's gray 2062-20

And yes, this is a beautiful navy with a touch of warmth and a lot of gray.  But still, definitely blue.

Here’s the room again. Now watch this:

Scot Meacham Wood Design - color scheme - Benjamin Moore Gentleman's Gray - interior color scheme - Chest-photography by Thayer Allison Gowdy for House Beautiful

gentlemans gray family room palette

Yes, this is one of the 40 color palettes I made in 2016 and I wasn’t looking at Scot’s room when I made it. But it sure looks like I did!


This is the Gentleman’s Gray board from the Palette Collection.

From here, we can keep going with inspiration rooms and palettes. There are other palettes that coordinate with this one as they are categorized in “palette families” in the laurel home palette collection.

@Sibylcolefax on instagram - color scheme

@Sibylcolefax on instagram


For instance, we could also do a dining room with warmer colors from the color palette


Summer Thornton vignette - Allison Cosmos artwork


Summer Thornton vignette – Allison Cosmos artwork

We could also do an entire scheme around this beautiful artwork as Summer Thornton did. Remember this post that spawned the post about Restoration Hardware?


glass slipper dining room palette add yvette rug copy


color scheme - Naples_Interior_Design_Summer Thornton

Summer Thornton

This bedroom has accents of the color scheme, but is predominantly gray or greige.


queen anne pink living room palette copy


Color Scheme_Naples_Interior_Design_Summer_Thornton

Summer masterfully stayed within the palette family to create other rooms that coordinate with the central theme. The lamps are far more turquoise than they appear here. You can see them better here. Blue is difficult to photograph sometimes.

The above room would look great with a mostly blue and white home.

Newbury_Tucker_Priano Wallpaper - Serena and Lily - blue and white color scheme

Beautiful images from Serena and Lily above and below.


Serena & Lily blue and white color scheme_Carson_Beachclub_AvignonChairAvignon Chair

OH! They just put all of their custom upholstered furniture on sale for a few days. 20% off! You can either click this link. Or you can read about it and see some of my favorites on the hot sales page.



Or, we could go more to the turquoise as shown below.


Green-garden-mural-with-flowers-and-birds-in-little-girls-room-havenview-anthropologie-mural-pink-and-green-girls-room-House Mix Blog

How cool is this for a little girl’s room. The mom and blogger, Kate has created an excellent tutorial for how she made the frame. You can read all about it here.

red sofa with Anthropologie Havenview Mural


Havenview Wallpaper from Anthropologie

Remember this wallpaper that we used in this post?



I’m hoping that you’re seeing how one can take different ideas for inspiration and then take that inspiration in different directions?


Let’s do one more.


Chinoiserie screen - color scheme - green - yellow - neutral


I don’t know the source of this image. It looks like it came from a book.

We can see that the beautiful Chinoiserie screen is dictating the colors in the room.

niveous paint palette copy

And, here’s a Laurel Home paint palette with some similar colors


niveous living room final


Here’s the Benjamin Moore Niveous board that goes with the palette.


lemon grove living room palette copy

And, another coordinating palette


Benjamin Moore lemon grove living room

And, this is the Lemon Grove living room from the palette collection.


Well, this is just a sampling of what’s in the paint and palette collection. You can begin to read about it here, if interested. And read what other people who’ve purchased have to say.

Of course, there are dozens of ways one can come up with a color scheme. For me, there is always something that inspires a jumping off point and from there, just like a painting, we expand upon it, always being mindful of the other spaces and how the rooms all fit together.




PS: Before you go and hit the hot sales, you have to see the incredible botch job on this architectural masterpiece for sale in Rye, NY.


56 Responses

  1. Laurel – I really wanted to comment on your 2016 stair carpet post, but I think the comments are closed. I just wanted to thank you for the most informative and helpful article on choosing and styling a stair runner. I’m 45 hours into stripping paint from spindles and bannisters and only halfway there, so I ease the toil by dreaming of a carpeted future. I was very interested to see quite a lot of photos of bullnose fitted runners. I’ve not ever seen one done like that in Scotland – waterfall is the predominant style. I’m just not enamoured with the gapping at the side. I’ve got many hours to consider this!
    Once again thank you for writing so prolifically and at such a high standard of style and variety of content. Also, you have really taught me about online graciousness!

    1. Hi Maggie,

      Yes, I had to close comments for posts over 60 days because there are over 600 blog posts and I was losing my mind. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  2. Hi Laurel,
    Can I share my experience? I came from living in apartments & forced to live with beige walls. When I got my first home, I wanted COLOR! So I painted every room a different color. YIkes! I think you need to experience what that is like before you realize it’s a mistake. Maybe that’s just me. LOL
    The idea of having a plan & thinking of how one room can lead into the next never entered my mind. I suppose we all made decorating mistakes when we were young.
    Fortunately, I’ve learned from past mistakes. And your blog is so helpful.

    1. Thank you for sharing that Mary. Oh yes, we have all made mistakes. And that one is not uncommon. In fact, I’ve been in homes where the rooms didn’t even feel like they were in the same house!

  3. It would be really fun to see a post sometime where you show us botch jobs, mistakes, etc., and we guess what’s wrong or what could be better. I know you kind of do this already sometimes in your posts that are on other topics, but it might be a fun little quiz. I had fun looking at the Rye house and and figuring out which specific problems you were thinking of.

  4. Sorry Laurel, I completely missed the link to “property website” yesterday–too early in the morning! What a shame with the decor–no wonder it’s been on the market for a while (relative to where I live: constant construction and nothing stays on the market long). And I see the house, despite the acreage, is right up against the road, with houses nearby. I had imagined it in the middle of the property.

  5. I love a bit of red orange too.

    A blue and red orange scheme is called split complementary (one color is shifted a spot closer to the other). There are triadic color schemes too, like yellow, blue, red for kids, and these can be shifted a bit for more subtlety. And in interiors, these tones are usually muted and paired with neutrals, so that adds complexity.

    When I paint a picture, I mix a color with its complement to tone it down, and often add a touch of one color to make it go with another. It is a lot harder to do in real life and in 3-D.

  6. OMG! I feel like this post was speaking directly to me!
    I am massively downsizing to a much smaller cottage, just sold my previous home fully furnished except for art, a beautiful Oushak rug and an antique chest. I will immediately purchase your color palette product . Thanks so much for providing such a valuable post. I do wish you still did design, though 😂

  7. Just…wow…on the Rye house. As I clicked through the listing photos that started with exterior photos and then kept going and going with exterior only, I knew it must be bad. In my experience agents only front load that many exterior photos when they’re hoping to distract you from an interior train wreck.

  8. Another wonderful post with a wealth of information. Thanks Laurel. As I was reading, I clicked on the links to most of your previous posts. One of my favorites is the one where you talk about blue and white. So much eye candy. That home of Furlow Gatewood’s is just exquisite!

    1. Oh My Staaaarrrrrrrzzz!!!!!! – There is only one thing to do.

      Get the backhoe and start over again! Except, maybe one cannot excavate the cemetery? This is a horror-show!

  9. The interior colors in the Rye mansion were the worst I have ever seen! The person must have never picked out paint colors before and had no idea how bright they would be. That will cost them on the final sale price – some people will not be able to see beyond the paint, others will calculate how much it will cost to repaint.

    The carved wood living room furniture reminded me of those cheap furniture stores that sell tacky ornate carved furniture that has shiny shellac on it. It is to take advantage of ignorant people who think it looks rich.

  10. LOL, I have a blue/blue-gray/white family room, with some beige (it’s been a real bear to figure this room out, but that’s a different story). House is a fixer-upper that we bought last year and brought very little with us, so a blank slate.

    We’re not done with FR yet, but probably two thirds of the way. And I love it, but have been longing for some pops of color and kind of in the weeds on which direction to go with those pops.

    Recently I pulled out a framed watercolor and put it on the mantel because it’s mostly blues and grays, with a silvery frame. But it has a fair bit of dark, muted red too, and it looks fabulous. Then I saw a very inexpensive, anonymous oil canvas at an antiques warehouse; it’s also mostly blues and grays, with one touch of the very same red, so I bought it and put it on the mantel along with the watercolor, and it looks great.

    And then I started thinking “Hmm….some judicious touches of red and maybe some red-orange in other parts of the (large) room might really tie all this together. But given that the room is very deliberately not a complimentary color scheme, and the fact that red isn’t really complimentary to blue anyway, I thought I was nuts. (I know we’re supposed to have a plan and color boards and such before plowing into doing a room, but for various reasons, we had to put some carts before their horses so I’m doing the best I can to backfill a sense of plan for the whole house as I go).

    And then I read your comment above about blue-and-white rooms with touches of red/orange, and now it’s full steam ahead! Thanks for the validation, unwitting though it might have been.

    1. Great lesson RNMC! If you take a piece of art and find the colors pleasing. Well, there’s your palette! Actually, I find that orange-y red, like Racing Orange (one of the LH colors) I’m frequently commenting on is a color that looks terrific in most rooms. Albeit in tiny doses, in some. The same with chartreuse. It’s like a cup of coffee at 4:00PM! haha

  11. This year’s Dream Home was in Montana and I thought it was ugly. Now don’t get me wrong. Just because it was in the mountains doesn’t mean it has to be brown and green with moose or bear motifs. But the decor just didn’t do it for me.

    1. Hi Susie,

      I remember that home and agree. It’s disconcerting and appears to not take into consideration where it was. It’s that disconnect with the land that I feel is a mistake. But, it looked more like south Florida to me.

  12. My problem is that I really don’t “LOVE” muted colors. “Grown-up” decorating just seems to always mean muted colors. I’m 59 years old and finally figured this out. If I find a bedspread/whatever in colors I like, it’s labeled for children or teens. I need to grow up! BTW, I live in Evansville, Indiana so it’s not like I live in the tropics where these colors may fit it.

    1. Hi Cheryl,

      Well, E’ville is sure the tropics come May-Sept. Right? That is, unless the climate changed. I thought it was hot as hell in the summer! There are many designers using more saturated colors, but there’s a right way and a wrong way. But, look at the work of Miles Redd and Summer Thornton. Those are just off the top of my head. Oh, and Sheila Bridges!

      I feel that muted colors are usually done wrong too. Most rooms need a pop of something bright, be it a shot of green from a plant or a vase. Something. But, particularly muted colored rooms. It’s that mix that provides interest and tension. Otherwise, it’s a murky, depressing space.

  13. Hi Laurel! Thank you so much for this post, and every other one! You make decorating fun! I recently purchased your Color Guide, and it is SO HELPFUL! God bless you for deconstructing the art of creating beauty and bringing it to the average person! I am trying to create a space which is kind of a cross between Cotton Ball palette and Super White. Neither has brown as a color. Does that mean that I should not use any dark stained wood but instead use painted grey and blacks? THANKS again!!!

    1. Hi Kathy,

      You can use brown in any palette. It’s a Universal color. I put those in the back of the Essential color guide with the green cover. Remember too, that the palette families are indicated which go with other palette families. But brown, black and white are definitely universal to all palettes, as well as green and navy (think midnight blue). If it’s a color found abundantly in nature, it goes with everything.

      Thank you too, for this terrific testimonial!

  14. Every woman in my family drummed it into us: pick a neutral white wall paint for every room so you can change the soft furnishings at will. BORING (to me). And so, when I finally was in charge of my own space, I kinda went out of control boho. But this, THIS is what I have been dreaming of — and so simple I missed it. Key off of a palette – painting, carpet, fabric, swatches. Thank you, Laurel, you’re my hero!

  15. Laurel, can you please share what source you use to create your boards. I love your blog and classic styling. Each of your blog entries are packed with so much information. Thanks for all you share! Simply the best! Lorie

  16. Hi Laurel

    I don’t see the botch job on the Rye home…can you explain? I love ALL the paint palettes from your collections – so saturated and such depth! I learn so very much from you – thanks for your generosity!

  17. Hi, what was botched in the Rye listing? Feels like a brain teaser, I can’t figure it out! Love your blog, btw, I’ve been a diligent reader since the beginning!

    1. Hi Amarr,

      I find the decor all wrong since the style of the home is French and extremely classical. But the garish entrance wall color, library colors, kitchen and fuddy-duddy master bedroom are bringing this place down. The architecture AND property are beyond exquisite.

  18. Amazing post as usual! Laurel, would you mind teaching us exactly how to do mood boards like you do in PicMonkey? You’re extremely technically advanced, I don’t have any idea how to create something similar there.

    1. Hi Val,

      I’m working on another guide that’s coming out this fall. I would gladly provide a tutorial for a blog post, but most readers won’t be interested.

  19. Hi Laurel,
    Great post!
    The house in Rye….did you not like the salmon painted hallway, or the faux marbled trim,or the strange little checkerboard valance or the fake lattice work or the kitchen where the cabinets are too low? So many things to not like. But beautiful house…

  20. re: the botch But Laurel, does it have a pool? 😉 I love that it is within ‘walking distance’ to Rye’s trendy shop…walking distance after you’ve walked across an acre? Just kidding–did I miss something? Only a brief glimpse of the front elevation and no interior photos? I suppose if you can afford it, you would have a private walk-through… Thanks for all you do, Laurel! This was a very interesting and useful post.

    1. Hi Ivis,

      There are interior photos, but you have to go through about a dozen exterior photos. It’s the interior photos (most but not all) that are so abominable. Such an exquisite home wrecked with bad taste.

  21. Agree with Denise, great topic, and fascinating to see colour combinations worked out from a single-item starting point. I admire James Farmer for this.
    If you don’t have an open-plan house, I think you can have more varying schemes, but a system is a great idea: I did it for our three bedrooms, all done in cream and blue, and the advantage is that what goes in one room will go in the other two, so I can swap things around.
    Tip for under-equipped readers like me: I’ve taken to doing colour/mood boards on PowerPoint, in the absence of any more sophisticated software, fun and very useful!

    1. Hi GL,

      You brought up a great point about mood boards. When I started doing them for clients about ten years ago, it helped wrap things up much quicker than when I had a bunch of fabrics and tear sheets. Seeing everything in one spot is incredibly helpful. I use pic monkey, but power point is good and one can use keynote if using a mac.

  22. We’re in the snirt zone; first snowfall in October, and we just had another last week. At least half the year I’m starved for color. Plus our home gets a ton of light and I feel perpetually blinded.

    We’re doing green (Colonial Verdigis) on the walls in our living room and kitchen. I can’t wait for that deep, rich color upon which to rest my eyes.

  23. Laurel, Would you happen to know the source for the glass coffee table in “Niveous” — or if not, is there a name for the style? Thanks!! Love your blog.

    1. That’s Bliss Studio’s Palais Cocktail table. People in the trade can get it at Bliss Studio, one of the 600 sources in Laurel’s Rolodex. Or, if not in the trade, I found it retail at Perigold. All of the items in the guide are linked to retail sources, if possible, but a few of the companies no longer carry this table. But, it’s easy to find as all you’ll need to do is google the name and/or sku number of the product.

  24. Great topic. I’ve used your Queen Anne pink board on my outdoor porch room. I would have never dreamed of the color combos, and it has wowed every person who has seen it. I’m in the process of doing my sons room with your Galapagos blue board as the inspiration.

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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