Redd Alert: What One Vibrant Designer Can Teach Us About Color
Remember HGTV's Color Confidential? The One Where the host had a bunch of neat little objects making up the colour wheel? That was my first intro to colour theory; who doesn't love how gorgeous a tray of curated colour is?
Old School, Standard Def HGTV
No trays today, but I'll round up some gorgeous inspiration photos instead, mostly from Miles Redd. With that name, he's perfect for a color post!
(Fair warning- some of his interiors are a little beyond reach for the typical home. He's very talented, but can have a polarizing style. Bear with me if he's not your taste; it's very easy to learn from his color concepts! I'll also include a "real life" guide at the end, to make it a little more practical.)
I hear people all the time questioning their colour choices. How on earth are you supposed to know what looks good together?
That's part of the purpose of colour theory! Yes, there's a lot of nuance that can go into choosing colors, but we'll save the paint undertones for next time, and head back to basics today.
Primary schemes always reminded me of primary school; the bright blues, yellows, and reds together always looked super juvenile (or super Bauhaus, if I want to feign sophistication- see the actual Bauhaus school below), but I've learned that there is a place for primary colourways.
EricK_1968 via Flickr
Red, blue, and yellow are called the primary colours because they're foundational. Say you're painting. You can't use any other colours to create these three, but you can mix them together to create any other pure secondary colour, or "hue," you need.
Tint your creation with white to lighten it, or shade it with black to darken it (once you tint or shade, you color is no longer a hue, but a value of the hue).
You probably remember that from primary school yourself, so I'll breeze past the rest of the intro.
Green, orange, and purple come from blending the primary colours. You probably remember that from a whole entire paragraph ago. Gold stars for everyone!
These come from blending a primary and secondary colour together. For example, chartreuse falls between green (a secondary colour) and yellow (a primary colour), meaning the two combined create it. We could call it yellow-green, or green-yellow, but that can get too technical (because there is actually a difference- the colour listed first is the more dominant in a given tertiary combination) and chartreuse sounds fancier. Teal and violet are other good examples of tertiary colours, and Miles has used them all together above!
Knowing colour schemes based on colour theory is basically an interior design cheat sheet. And so is a color wheel! A detailed color wheel helps you use the correct tones when following these color schemes; for example, a deep blue looks best with a soft orange, while a vibrant orange looks great with teal.
But understanding these gives so much peace of mind when trying to figure out if your window treatments work with your flooring or paint colour or what have you.
Let's clarify this really quick- monochromatic does not necessarily mean neutral! It just means a colour scheme based on variations of the same colour.
Here, Miles has beautifully kept the visual interest with pattern in varying scales, and solid blocks of color that ground the room, drawing your eye toward the center.
These schemes are composed of colours opposite each other on the colour wheel. We happen to call these complementary colours, for convenience.
Split complementary schemes consist of a colour, and the two next to its direct complement on the colour wheel.
Flowers for Dreams
Knowing the colour wheel, and its "rules" is any easy way to start choosing colour schemes that work well together in your own home. If you start with colours you like, you can always reference the colour wheel to see where your selections fit. I like the reference above for a quick guide to schemes, though it definitely has some additional information you can ignore.
And if your house doesn't look like the ones that can afford Miles Redd to decorate them (whose does??) there are ways to apply this to real life, too! I'm adding an accessible reference gallery below with work from The Interior Collection.
Notice the proportion of color in these spaces; there are not equal amounts of each.
I've heard all kinds of percentage rules for this, but since I'm not a huge math fan, I tend to simplify the process.
Choose a base color (possibly walls, rug, anything large), a secondary accent (possibly a stronger color that you use in smaller amounts), and your final accent (decorative touches- not all of your accessories have to be the same color.)
Remember I'll give away some good tricks for figuring out undertones (which are important to keep in mind) in another post, but using these basic schemes as a cheat sheet may help you avoid the howtheheckdoiknowifthislooksokaytogether dilemma. Let me know your color woes (or tips!) in the comments!