Designing with Complementary Colors that Look Good Together

Designing with Complementary Colors that Look Good Together

Designing with Complementary Colors that Look Good Together

Color is an essential part of all interior design, but how do you know which ones work together? Science. That's how. In this article, we walk you through the basics of design color theory.

Follow along with us. We’re going to take you back to your preschool/kindergarten classroom. Look around the room at the posters on the wall… maps of the United States, banners of the alphabet, and what’s that rainbow one over in the corner? Resembling the rainbow wheel of death from our Apple computers, that’s the color wheel. The color wheel maps out the basic colors of the rainbow and how they correspond to each other. You’ll note that there are distinct opposite color matches: red and green, blue and orange, and purple and yellow.

In interior design, these color matches, though starkly different from one another, are often used in combination. But why is that? Believe it or not, it’s based on the complicated science going on in your little eyeballs. We won’t go into the specifics of it, but different types of photoreceptors in your eye pick up on different types of light (and therefore color). When you play two opposing colors off of each other in a room, it creates a dynamism that your eye viscerally appreciates. (The human body is full of magic!) So what are we supposed to do with this information? We can take complementary colors on that color wheel and create visual interest in our rooms. Some of the best pairings are listed below.


Red & Green

Ok, we know what you’re thinking… “if you combine red and green, don’t you automatically get CHRISTMAS feels?” The key with this color combination is to make sure you veer away from the traditional bright, saturated tones of the holidays. In the image above, a Chicago home by Homepolish’s Guinevere Johnson, the red of the upholstery reads as a faded blush and the green is a dusty sage. It’s not the colors of Santa’s sleigh. With any color on the wheel, there are several variations that you can use. Red can come in the form of crimson, magenta, burgundy, even pinks and green can range from the bright Greenery by Pantone to deep forest tones.

Blue & Orange

This color pairing may seem to be the most dichotomous in the line up. Blue is a naturally cool color that seems to recede away from us, whereas orange is hot, bright, and practically jumps off any interior. In the feature image above, a dining vignette in New York by Homepolish’s Jesse Turek mixes the two colors with art, accessories, florals, and seating. It makes the whole area dynamic. Blues have this ability to make a space seem serene whether they are saturated navies or light tones, but oranges pack a punch, adding brilliance to a room. Working in tandem with these colors, your eye will be in for a treat.

Purple & Yellow

When we were working on this piece, this color combo was the only one we couldn’t find in our Homepolish image archive. But that doesn’t mean you can’t WERK it in your home! Though purple and yellow combined might seem like a lot of tonal tension or perhaps downright crazy talk, you can make it work if you lean toward desaturated hues. It’ll surprise guests, and maybe even lend a hint of the “royal treatment” to your home.


Need help pairing colors? Hire a Homepolish Designer!

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