How to Easily Choose a Whole House Color Scheme (and why you should)

If you’ve looked at a home online or in a magazine and wondered how the place felt so peaceful and cohesive it’s because they’ve found the secret weapon – a whole house color scheme.

If you’re struggling to make your home feel more put together then you definitely want to explore a whole house color scheme. This is definitely a great part of Decor 101.

It’s not really a secret weapon either.

It’s not even a secret, but it might be something that we don’t always talk about.

I will admit that I have a color palette in my mind so I don’t usually consider a whole house color scheme.

That doesn’t mean I don’t observe one, it just means that I haven’t put one down on paper before.

So here goes!

Why You Should Create a Whole House Color Scheme

When you use a color scheme that follows throughout your home, you’ll see that your rooms tie together nicely and your home decor feels cohesive.

This doesn’t mean that each room looks the same.

Every home, no matter how big or small can benefit from a whole house color scheme.  

Whether your home is an open floor plan or lot’s of separated rooms, a whole house palette will help you coordinate your decor and your colors.

The color scheme is your roadmap that helps you narrow down your paint and decor choices and be able to more easily decorate your rooms.

The bonus is that using a whole house scheme also makes it easier to move pieces of furniture and decor around your house and they’ll work in many different spots.

~~Think about touring a model home that’s been staged beautifully. Can you picture your family living there? Doesn’t it feel so cohesive and comfortable?

I’ll admit that they don’t have dirty dishes in the sink, there’s no dog nose prints on the back door and they don’t have dirty laundry or toys that they’re trying to hide.

It is a show home and it’s supposed to make you want to live there.

But getting back to the colors – you’ll notice that a show home uses a limited color palette and it flows nicely through each of the spaces in the home. The colors all connect the rooms together and make the entire home feel more cohesive.

This is even more important in homes that have an open concept floor plan. Each area needs to be defined but the decor needs to be cohesive.

But how do you do that, you say?

Our primary bedroom at Simpatico - Rainbow Ranch.
Soothing tones for a whole house color scheme

How to Create a Whole House Color Scheme

In our first house I just chose colors that I liked. Somehow they seemed to work together and it looked fine.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t as adventurous with colors as I am now so a limited color palette makes it easier to have a whole house color scheme.

As we’ve moved into different styles and sizes of houses I’ve had to learn how to use color more effectively in my home.

I love color.

All the colors.

I also love for my home to be peaceful and calm.

Painting all my walls hot pink and neon blue definitely does not make my home feel peaceful and calm.

Painting all my walls white and bringing in bold pops in my accessories gives me the color burst that I crave but also leaves plenty of white space for my eyes and mind to rest on.

I know that almost everyone I’ve talked with struggles with how to use color in your homes. It’s definitely one of the top questions that I get. “How do I use color” and “How much is too much color”?

I know that many people wind up with neutral colors because they don’t know how to choose colors that go together and that’s where we’re going to start.

The Rules to Your Color Scheme

There are plenty of apps that you can download that will show you paint colors that go together and that’s definitely one way to choose colors to work with.

But before you go searching for all those you need to pay attention to some other details.

You need to take stock of your permanent fixtures in your house.

What do I mean by this?

What Colors Did You Inherit?

Or rather, what colors are you stuck with?

These are the colors of your flooring, your woodwork, your countertops and any furniture that you’ve invested in.

It can be a sofa or a table but the color is going to be one of the colors that you’ll be working with.

This is basically anything in the house that’s staying in the space.

What are the Undertones?

I haven’t shared a lot of painting tips or choosing paint so I’m going to give you a brief overview and then give you some resources about undertones.

Every single color has an undertone.

Every single color has an undertone.

Even the neutral ones.

Tile and wood floors definitely have an undertone and so does the paint on your trim even if you’ve got white trim.

If you don’t respect the undertones of your existing items you’re not going to love your finished paint colors because they’re not going to play well together.

Undertones can be the reason a room doesn’t look cohesive – the tile, the wood and the countertops should all be cohesive, but if you add in paint that doesn’t play well you’ll never be happy with it.

Where I’m struggling right now.

I can honestly tell you that I’m struggling with my house right now because I really want to have white walls, but my house really wants to be beige. If I respect my tile and stonework white is just going to look very stark in here.

I also know that if I paint my living room walls white it’s going to make the fireplace really stand out. Right now it blends a little (as much as a 30 foot rock wall can) because the wall color complements it.

I’m not willing to give up yet, but I keep telling myself that the house wants to be beige and eventually I’m going to listen to the house.

In the meantime the house and I have agreed to disagree.

I’m going lighter in my hallways and leaving the big room alone for a bit so my mind can sit with it.

If you want a deep dive into color theory and undertones I highly recommend Maria Killam.

You can spend minutes, hours or days reading her blog posts and learning. She’s got several classes on colors and I haven’t taken one of her classes, but I’ve certainly read a lot of her information.

If I was going to take a color class I would definitely take that one.

The Most Important Rule of them All

Never, ever forget.

It’s your home.

You are the decider (as my kids would say).

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of your paint, your decor or your furnishings.

It is all about how your home makes you feel.

You deserve to have an amazing space to live in!

You deserve a home that makes you smile when you walk into it and feels like a warm embrace. Following all the latest trends on social media is not going to make your home feel like that.

If hot pink walls make you feel energized and amazing then you should definitely paint your walls hot pink!

How to Choose Your Whole House Color Scheme

You’re going to want to start with around 5 colors.

Between 3 and 5 is a great number to work with when you’re planning your entire scheme.

If you’re afraid of color this is a great way to start adding touches of it to your decor.

If you love color (like me) you’ll find yourself using more color family’s than an individual color.

I am currently on a quest to see how many shades of blue I can fit into my space comfortably. It’s a pretty remarkable amount I must say, but I would still say “blue” is one of my colors.

Remember that you can add a color as you go along, this is to help you get started!

What Colors to Choose

Choose a White

You white may be the color of your trim and doors depending on the style of your home. The insides of closets are usually white and it’s also a great color for painting furniture and ceilings.

Not all whites are the same though!

Don’t just pick the first white you see and run with it.

Unless it’s a new build and you’re working from scratch.

If you know that white color that is already in your home then yay! That makes it easy!

Be sure to pay attention to the undertones of your white paint. Make sure that it looks good with your permanent fixtures.

If the trim that you’ve got in your home is not a pure white it may look dingy when you pair it with another white shade so it’s always, always, always important to get samples before you commit to a color!

I have lot’s of warm tones in my home so my white has a yellow undertone so that it it plays well with the wood and tile that we have.

Next pick a neutral.

Your neutral does not have to be white, tan or beige.

Your neutral is your connecting color.

It can be a more subtle shade of a color.

It’s the color that you’ll use in your hallways or in spaces where you can see from one room into another.

Then Pick some Saturated Colors

You want to pick 2 or 3 more colors to complete your whole house color scheme.

Start out by picking a color that you love.

It doesn’t have to be a color that you’re going to use in a large amount. It doesn’t have to cover a wall, it’s considered a supporting color.

If you want to stop here then that’s okay. You can come back and add a 4th and 5th color later.

You might even find that they get added as you’re decorating because it’s a color that you use all the time and just didn’t realize it.

And know that narrowing down your colors to 4-5 doesn’t mean those are the only colors you’ll use. You’ll use variations of these colors and probably even more colors.

This just helps you narrow down your paint choices and decor choices.

Notes about Your Whole House Color Scheme

If your color scheme is on the range of monochromatic you’ll just use shades of a color.

A monochromatic scheme uses variations of a color and textures to add interest.

If you have a harmonious color scheme then your colors will fall together on the color wheel. Think about the colors that are next to each other.

If you color scheme is complementary then your colors are opposite each other.

Guess which complementary color scheme is the most common ever?

If you guessed red and green you’d be correct and it’s not necessarily the Christmas color scheme that you’re thinking of. There are tons of variations of this one!

A monochromatic color scheme by Sherwin Williams and Pottery Barn.
A monochromatic color scheme. This one uses a white and shades of a greenish black.

Once You’ve Chosen Your Whole House Color Scheme

Once you’ve chosen all your colors the easiest way to apply them is in the ratio of about 60% then 30% then 10%.

Your Main color is likely to cover about 60% of your color choices. Your supporting colors around 30% and your accent colors around 10%.

How to Avoid Confusion

Remember that your color guide is just that.

A guide.

It’s to help you make decisions, not muddy the waters.

You absolutely don’t have to stick to the exact colors you’ve chosen. Varying the shades and hues of the colors can keep a room from looking boring but having a palette also keep it from looking like a circus.

Your whole house color scheme is just a guide.

Another Tip

I say over and over again that it’s much easier to work with colors that you find in art than it is to choose a few colors out of a million.

And believe me there are millions of colors to choose from.

If you have a piece of art, a piece of fabric, a rug, or even your favorite shirt! Those are all great places to start pulling colors from.

They may not be the colors that you want for your whole house but it is a starting point.

You can use Sherwin Williams Snap App and upload a photo and it will create a color scheme for you.

It’s also just a fun tool!

You can use a photo or a piece of art to create a whole house color scheme.
Try the Sherwin Williams Snap App to pull together colors from a photo.

How I Use My Whole House Color Scheme

Our house is currently shades of beiges and browns. It’s firmly stuck in the Tuscan style and it’s going to take some time before we are able to make big changes to it.

My color scheme includes a white paint with a yellow undertone to it that respects the existing elements.

I’m not planning to replace all the flooring and the stone is here to stay so I found paint colors for my walls that work with those existing colors.

My secondary color is a neutral and it sticks to natural wood tones. They fit the style of the house and work with the elements that are existing.

My living room sofa’s are beige slip covered (they appear white in contrast to their surroundings) and most of our tables and chairs are wood.

My supporting colors are quite bold though!

I love bold colors and have touches of hot pink, royal blue, green and even some yellow in my living area.

The open plan means that I’ve got room for color as long as it’s carried from place to place.

The colors are mostly the same saturation so it’s easy to move decorative items from one space to another.

That keeps me from getting too bored with any of the rooms!

A Few More Tips

Don’t be afraid to bring more color into your space.

The key is to making sure that you have a color in more than one spot so that your eye can travel.

Use your colors in unique ways and look for fun decor!

Paint a piece of furniture or put new fabric on your chairs.

Paint an accent wall or create your own wall art with your favorite colors.

My home is still very much a work in progress, and if you know me then you know that by the time I finish the work I’ll move onto another round of projects.

A whole house color palette has helped me limit my choices and create flow from one space to another.

Since you can see all of our main rooms looking from one into another, they all need to have cohesive colors. But they still need to have some personality!

If I had to pick one thing that makes a home feel amazing and cohesive it would definitely be color.

Choosing a whole home color palette will help make with your decorating decisions easier.

Whether you’re a color lover (like me) or you like to keep things neutral, I hope that these tips for choosing colors will give you the confidence to move forward!

Traci Signature | My Simpatico Life Blog

Be sure to follow me on Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest for more inspiration!

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One Comment

  1. “A neutral is the connecting color”….this is GOLD! Love this post and all of the great informtion! Thanks, Traci! ~Missy

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