How to use colour in Interior Decorating: Tips on Bringing Colour into the home and office

Michelle Tether
Written by Michelle Tether

Using colour at home can be intimidating and at times confusing, we’ve all been there, I still find myself mulling over a room colour and design for hours, only to realise, I am further away from a decision than when I started! There are a few helpful tips and tricks for using colour in interior decorating projects that can almost guarantee successful results in every situation. You can’t really go wrong with neutral paint for your home and office, all I would say is try your very best to select a water based, environmentally friendly paint if the painting is indoors.

Decorating Small Spaces

Small spaces can be tricky but using colour can help to open up the room, and make things appear larger than they are. Light or white colours on the wall can make a small room seem considerably larger. I highly recommend avoiding dark colours, it will close the room in on you.

Decorating small spaces in white

Image source. Decorating small spaces in white by Red Magazine

This rooms exceedingly small, but the use of light colours have helped considerably make the room feel useable, and certainly not cramped, all things considered here.

If you decide to decorate the room white, or a light colour then you could consider decorative accessories that contrast nicely, creating accents. I have an article on finding decorative accessories that are a bargain, that might be of interest.

A very special trade secret is to layer colour, it creates more depth, and essentially makes a room feel deeper. It’s not a practise I claim to have pulled off but some designers do it all the time. The visual impact is incredible. Personally I accept I am not good enough, and the time spent trying to create this look just isn’t worth it. With that said, I cheat with mirrors, it’s quick and easy, and no decoration will match a well placed mirror for enhancing the feeling of space in a room. You can’t beat a mirror to improve your decor, not for the budget.

Decorating small spaces to feel larger

Decorating small spaces to feel larger by Studio Annetta

As you can see in this example Annetta practically double the size of this bathroom visually with a well placed mirror. It’s actually possible she more than doubled the size effect. Very nice work.

Decorating Large Spaces

Large spaces have their own problems – the use of warm and dark colours can make the space feel more comfortable. It’s a great opportunity to have a feature wall, or colour accent. Bold statement colours make great accent walls in large spaces creating a focal point that draws the eye inward with dramatic effect. Just take a look at this example.

Colour accent for large room

Image source. Colour accent for large room

In this example the colour accent, with mirror works wonderfully. Don’t use accent pieces in the same colour throughout the room as it will diminish the effect, instead cluster similar coloured accent pieces together if you want to get more colour involved.

Floor to Ceiling

Getting an excellent look in a room requires a complete look from floor to ceiling. The best way to accomplish this is to view colours as weight, the heavier/darker colours on the bottom, lighter colours on the ceiling and medium tone colours in the middle. Following this general rule will help you balance your decor.

Painting the ceiling a dark colour or the same colour as the walls can make a room seem smaller and cosy, while a while colour can appear to elevate the ceiling height. This for me is a simple but effective rule that I never veer from.

Find a colour scheme

Most colour ideas are based on three main colour pallets, try to balance these colours taking into consideration that dark colours carry heavier weight and light ones are lighter and more spacey. Consider using varying degrees of tone for interest.
By selecting one or more neutral colour scheme it

’s easier and less expensive to change an accent colour and adjust the room’s feel and scheme. You can simply buy one large pot, and add a little dark to create that slightly heavier neutral. An obvious consideration here is to ensure that you always have enough paint to cover. When mixing your own, if your short, the whole room might need painting again!

Lastly, remember that colour affects mood, so select a colour scheme with the particular room’s overall feel in mind. If it’s a living room for example, I will always go with light or a light neutral colour, then I will add house plants to give a green, fresh look.

Colour basics

Becoming familiar with the colour wheel is good for everyone decorating a home. It can really step up your understanding and the overall looks you can create. Here’s a really good graphic to help.

Decorating colour wheel

Image source. Decorating colour wheel

Colours next to each other on the wheel are considered alike and colours opposite each other are complementary. Colours that are alike go well together and in large quantities. colours that are complementary also go well together but only in smaller doses.

Colours are defined as either warm or cool. Typically reds and yellows and similar shades are considered warm and greens and blues are cool, if you like the yellow and red idea, you might consider Feng Shui as inspiration for your decoration.. Warm and cool colours evoke different feelings and learning more about this can help. The article on Feng Shui will be interesting if you’d like to understand more about evoking feeling with colour. Here’s a very nice example of decorating with Feng Shui.

Decorating with feng shui

Decorating with Feng Shui by DIYit

Don’t fear colour when decorating; just use it wisely and balance it throughout the decorating scheme. Remember to think about the room’s function and intended feel when selecting colours.


There’s plenty of quality methods to achieving a great result. There are two fundamentals that will help you decorate and add value to your property, and more importantly, help you feel a self sense of satisfaction. Whenever I decorate a room, I always start with a design idea and file. That way, even if I forget the idea, I always have a reference of that creative spark I had at that specific time. The other interesting article, might be how to redecorate in a hurry. If you are short on time, then this will be of considerable use to you.

About the author

Michelle Tether

Michelle Tether

I love everything home. I write as a passion for non profit about the things I love.