Paint by numbers for the home decorator

Home Decorator Tips | Picking a Color Scheme

If you've read my other article entitled "How to pick colors for your home decorating", then you already have paint swatches in hand and have decided on a color palette for your home, or part of your home.

If you know what colors you want to use but haven't yet turned them into paint swatches that you can take shopping with you, I would highly recommend that you do. Dragging your throw pillow with you everywhere you go is cumbersome. In addition, swatches allow you a "range" of colors that may not exist on your pillow and because they are arranged in order this allows the home decorator to start thinking of color in a logical way thus removing much of the fear that color may hold over you today.

To learn how to effectively pick color swatches peruse my article entitled "How to pick colors for your home decorating".

So, you have paint swatches in hand. Congratulations!! One major decision of the home decorator is made!

So now what?

What colors did you choose?

Let's say for example that you chose peach. After much thought and soul-searching you've decided that despite what your husband might say you have realized as a home decorator that you LOVE peach! AND you have also decided to be brave and go with this despite the fact that you are pretty sure your husband is not going to love this decision.

Ok, well, we'll come back to the husband issue in a minute, right now, let's talk about that peach. Let's say that you chose a rosy, warm, true peach. So on the palette of seven tints that you have, the one you chose is the 2nd one down. We are going to name or number this color "Orange 2". The first peach on your palette is the palest and the most pastel: we'll call this "Orange 1". The third one from the top is "Orange 3", and on down the swatch to "Orange 7".

Just so we all have in mind something of what each color looks like, I will try to describe each briefly, although color is not easily described. Oranges 1 and 2 are described in the above paragraph. Orange 3 is a very warm peach. Orange 4 is pretty much just plain old orange, although this one is a tiny bit redder; Orange 5 is the color of a blazing sunset; Orange 6 is roughly the darkest orange found on a tiger; Orange 7 is the color of paprika.

Men and pastels:

Men fear pastels! There is no doubt about it. At least most straight men do. There may be some men out there who regard you as the home decorator and home decoration as the woman's domain and who won't care one way or the other, but if your husband isn't one of these, then let's be honest: on nearly every color swatch you could have chosen, whether it is in the blue, green, purple, red, orange, or yellow color family, it would almost certainly have pastels on it.

HOWEVER, it probably will also range all the way down to much more heavily "saturated" colors.

Color holds the most interest for people when the values of each color in a room are starkly contrasted, in other words, when they have the most variance from one another. "Value" is how strong a color is, or how saturated it is. So your Orange 7 is the most "saturated". That simply means it has the most color in it and the least white. White is the absence of color at least in the field of color pigment as opposed to the colors of light. So your Orange 1 is the least "saturated" pigment on your orange home decorator palette.

In addition, the more saturated a color, the more masculine it "feels" generally speaking compared to a less saturated version of the same color. BUT, it is your husband's house too and the color swatch that you decide on should range down to a color that your husband at least can live with if he refuses to go through the process of picking a color he wants. This being said, if your husband has picked a color, he will almost certainly pick blue.

Men and blue:

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Straight men pick this color at least 90% of the time. This is because they feel safe picking blue. No one will make fun of them if they choose blue. This being said, this is the issue that most couples face as home decorators if it comes right down to it.

Men may complain that their voices aren't being heard in the design process but they must realize intellectually that every woman in America doesn't wish her house decorated in blue. One of the strongest rationales to decorate your home is a need to creatively express your identity. So on color, if a man can get outside of his comfort zone and look objectively at the more saturated colors on the swatch you have chosen and can live with them, you as a home decorator can then follow this formula that will result in a home you both will be happy with.

On the point of color, men need to relax a little. With a balanced home of saturated shades and light pastels, your home will reflect that there is a man AND a woman living there. Loosen up guys! Everyone knows you're straight, that's why everyone also knows you had to compromise on the color scheme in the first place!

Orange and Black!

So let's say that you've gotten your husband to agree to the orange/peach swatch. And let's say that you got him to agree to this by letting him pick the neutral, either browns/beiges or grays/black. And let's say he chose grays/black.

So now you have a palette that as a home decorator you fear will make the house look like it is decorated for Halloween all year long! It won't. Or at least it needn't. This is a daring, warm and individualized color scheme. Embrace it!

Number your neutrals:

We'll call the orange swatch "Orange" and the gray/black swatch "Gray".

On the swatch of seven grays, the darkest one is the closest to black. We'll call this, "Gray 7". The first color on the gray swatch is the palest of grays. By now home decorator you know to number this "Gray 1", the second one down, "Gray 2" and so on.

Confidence! If you aren't confident, pretend you are!

The number one thing to remember when it comes to color is "be confident"! Don't be a wimp! A wimpy color scheme will look like a copout to any trained eye AND it doesn't make the most of the tools easily available to the home decorator. And, deep inside you will know you wimped out and you won't be as happy with the results as you could be. Further, if you wimp out now, your husband will say he was right, that the home looks too feminine.

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Confidence means placing colors next to other colors that have a huge variance in saturation. This is scary for most home decorators because it makes each color "pop" even more. This is why people like to see colors in this way and this is why it seems "wimpy" GENERALLY SPEAKING to go with a bunch of pastels in one room with no stronger contrasts; although this can be part of a plan, in a baby's room for example or any bedroom, to give a sense of serenity. You can do this in any room where you want serenity, but it is difficult to do well and it is EASY to do contrasts well. So be confident!

If you followed my advice in "How to pick colors for your home decorating" then you have developed in you through time, patience and hard work now 7 colors, 7 neutrals and one metallic. Use them all! Here is the basic idea; a home decorator wants their home to "flow". This means they wish the rooms to have some "unity" as people look from one room to the next, or as they walk from one room to the next. This formula will ensure they do.

Paint by numbers formula for success:

  • Start with the kitchen even though you may not be able to afford to do this room in it's entirety right now. As a home decorator you plan the kitchen because it is the most expensive so that all the main rooms will flow together from there.
  • For the private sections of the house, start the plan with the master bath, again, because it is the most expensive; then the master bedroom, then the halls, kid's bathroom, then the kid's rooms. Although know that kids rooms really don't have to flow with the rest of the house because they will change over time as the kids experiment with and over time develop their own personal style.
  • "Skip" colors on your swatches for each room, thus creating large variances between pastels and the darker shades on your swatches and thus more interest for each room
  • Choose a different combination of pastels and darker shades for each room, never repeating your selections exactly.
  • For objects next to each other especially choose large alterations between darker shades or pastels particularly if they are from the same swatch.
  • Repeat the exact same numbers in rooms where they are used but not immediately next to one another, this creates cohesion within the room

Let's paint!

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So let's start in the kitchen. The kitchen is a very good place to start picking specific colors for any home decorator choosing colors for an entire home because unless you have a LOT of money to throw around, I would suggest doing all installed sections of all kitchens and bathrooms within a home in neutrals.

So I know you don't believe me, but this is really just like painting by numbers and it really doesn't have to have a lot of thought put into it. Some consideration, but no nights up sweating will be needed.

Let's say that your husband does most of the cooking. If this is true, it isn't fair to decorate the kitchen in peach.

So let's "paint" the kitchen with our number key.

Let's do wood cabinetry in a maple or some other wood that has a natural orange tone (Orange 6). Then as a home decorator you will want to try black or charcoal gray granite counters (Gray 7) and a medium-dark gray stone floor, (Gray 5). Let's go with Stainless Steel appliances (Metallic Silver), plumbing fixtures and sink. Don't look now, but all the expensive decisions are made in the kitchen.

Now let's do furniture, just match the wood in the cabinets to chairs and a table (Orange 6)! Now small appliances: Silver will be stunning on the black counters, (Metallic Silver), and now dishes and serving pieces: Obviously the flatware will be silver, (Metallic Silver). Let's do neutral dishes (Gray 4) because this will contrast with both the black countertops and the wood tabletop where they will be viewed most. Choose glassware in clear that implies Gray 1 and also looks great with silver.

As a home decorator you know that glassware, plates, and flatware will probably be moved around the house at parties and will be part of the composition of every room. Now let's do the grout in the floor in Gray 1; and the doors and trim in wood (Orange 6).

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Let's paint the walls a stunning, pale Gray 3 to contrast with the dark countertops. Just for fun, let's do the ceiling in Orange 4!! And place some vases, artwork and other accessories around the room in Orange 4 to bring attention to our ceiling. If curtains are needed, match the accessories in Orange 4, or go with a print in Orange 4, and some dark and light grays.

We're finished with the kitchen! And this works! I can tell you as a home decorator that it works because we've used bold contrasts by "skipping" at least one "number" on our palettes with each step and "echoing" the same exact "numbers" over and over again in various parts of the room. AND I bet your husband will like it!

Now onto the family room:

Let's do wood floors in Orange 6, upholstery on sofas in charcoal Gray 6 that won't show dirt, and an oriental rug in Orange 3 and 1 and Grays 1, 4, and 7 or thereabout. Let's try throw pillows in Orange 3 and accessories, artwork and drapes in shades of gray with Gray 7 frames on the artwork. Paint the walls Orange 3 and the ceiling Orange 1.

Ok, so we're ready for the living room!

Let's do the walls in Orange 2 (your favorite color) and the sofa in Orange 4 with chairs in Gray 5. The rug is wall to wall carpet in Gray 3. Let's do print throw pillows in Gray 5 and Orange 2, drapes in Orange 6 with sheers of Orange 2. Try accessories and artwork in Gray 3. The ceiling can be Gray 1.

On to the dining room:

Let's use Gray 7 furniture for drama! Silver printed paper on the walls, and Orange 2 on the ceiling! Let's go with Orange 6 wood floors with an oriental rug in only shades of mostly lighter grays. Then let's buy fine china in a Gray 1 ground with flowers or birds in Orange 7 and Orange 5. Let's stick with clear crystal and silver flatware.

Now on to the powder room:

Again, because it is a bathroom my suggestion is to do the installed things in neutrals unless you have a very large budget indeed. This being said, I will say that if your house already has colored fixtures, keep them. I do not believe they need be, nor should be changed. It didn't stop you from buying the house and it won't stop others from buying it. Colored tile in kitchens or baths, and colored tubs, toilets and sinks add character to a home and in my opinion the original character of a home should always be maintained if at all possible.

But assuming that your bathroom has no character of it's own right now, then give it some. As a home decorator you've learned enough at this point and can run with your bathroom design. Have fun with it. Design should be fun!

If being a home decorator and choosing where to place what color is still too overwhelming, I can help. In St. Louis, contact me at [email protected]