Color is magic - and anyone can be a magician.

You cHome ColorCredit: goodhousekeeping.coman be a magician in your own home and create a beautiful new look. 

The classic rule has always been warm colors for the north and east sides of your home and cool colors for the west and south sides.  But, these rules are not hard and fast.  Other things need to be considered:

  • What kind of foliage is outside the window?  Is it a seasonal or a constant shade all year round?  What color is it?  For instance, fir trees will filter sunlight and tint it blue.  If you have cool colors in the room they will be intensified.  Willows and elms will tint the room yellow as the light comes through their pale green leaves.
  • Do you have awnings, wide eaves, patio over-hangs, or cantilevered second floors that affect the light or shade the windows?
  • Are the windows too small to matter?  (That basement window in a room 30 feet x 40 feet is an obvious example.  Forget the window entirely.)  Does the window face the dark brick wall of the house next door?  What light there is might be reflecting the brown-red in the brick into your room.
  • How often do you use this room, who uses it and during which hours of the day?

When you answer these questions, the old rules may not apply at all.  If there are rooms, for instance, used only at night, no matter how big or small the window or which direction it faces, you may correctly opt for a more dramatic color scheme.  Think of how you live in your house first.  Pastels look great during the day, but lack-luster at night under artificial light.  Conversely deep colors that look gaudy in bright sunlight look dramatic and exciting at night.

In a small or open-floor plan house, you should not attempt to have a different color scheme in each room.  Instead, co-ordinate the ground floor or general use areas - living room, dining room, kitchen, halls, powder room – into a cohesive scheme.  And then you can change to new colors in the bedrooms.

The basis for this color co-ordination is usually the carpet or flooring.  It should be the same throughout the general use area, and change gently (beige to peach or brown, and not beige to royal blue!) at the thresholds of the bedrooms, if you wish.  The kitchen flooring, powder room flooring and foyer tile should match or complement the color of the carpet.  If there are stairs going from the general use area up to the second floor, the carpet can change at the top, but it’s preferable that the upper halls match as well.  If stairs descend into a family room, the stairs should match the family room carpet.

Having decorated your living room either by using a color/pattern formula or by theme coloring, you can build the rest of your décor around it.  Pick out the living room’s main color and its two most prominent accent colors.  As you redecorate the rest of the house, use these same colors in changing the order of dominance, making the accent color of one room the dominant color of the adjacent one.  You can vary the intensity of the theme colors from room to room.  The result will be a house that looks all of a piece, with rooms that seem to flow into each other.

Dramatic Room ColorsCredit:


  • If you are choosing hardware, remember that silver doorknobs look best with cool colors, gold and bronze knobs go with warm colors.
  • Ceilings lighter than the walls will look higher. Ceilings painted darker will appear to be lower and ceilings painted the same color will make the room seem larger.
  • Very striking color arrangements are best kept to a room that is not in constant use.
  • In an open-floor plan house, don’t stop a color in mid-wall.  You can switch colors where the wall turns a corner.
  • Buy the best paints you can afford.
  • Art shows to better advantage against darker walls than against plain white.
  • Don’t settle for being shown only two or three paint chips.  Take the time to look at the full “waterfall” of sample colors before you make your selection.  You should be able to match any color in your furnishing fabrics.

Trim Color

The trim is the woodwork in a room: baseboard, door and window frames, doors, crown mouldings, shelving and fireplace mantels. 

If the trim in your room is less than attractive, don’t be afraid to paint all of your trim.  Light paint colors will emphasize and enhance the shape of ornate woodwork.

The options are to paint the trim to co-ordinate with the wall and floor colors, or to paint the trim stark white for cool colors and off-white for warm colors.  Cools are blue-toned colors such as blue, green, lavender and grey while warm colors are red, orange and yellow tones. 

Trim that’s darker than the walls appears to make the room look smaller.  Trim that’s lighter than the walls and floor enlarges the space.  Trim that’s painted to match the walls runs one room into another and melts floors, walls and ceilings together.

White trim is neutral in effect, but classically elegant and makes colors look crisp and clean.  Just freshening up woodwork with white paint can work wonders. 

Trim ColorCredit:

Drapery has the same effect as trim on windows.  When choosing a drapery color, try to frame the view through the window as if it were a picture.  If the view is one you like, choose drapery fabric that blends with the wall so that your eye goes from the room through the window to admire the picture.  Contrasting drapery colors and heavy patterns stop the eye and obscure the effect of the window.  You shouldn’t notice drapery fabric as soon as you enter a room.  If you do, your drapes are too heavy in color or print.  Colored blinds or sheers, if used incorrectly, can ruin a good color scheme.  As the natural light goes through sheer drapes, the whole room is tinted the color of the sheers. 

Theme Coloring

Sometimes, if you’re stuck with an odd group of colors, it helps to ask yourself where such color combinations would be found ready-made.  Perhaps in nature, in foods, in art trends, in fashion, even in cars and sports equipment.  Carry the theme you find with appropriate accessories.