Decorating Around the Color Wheel

  • 01 of 08

    Use the Color Wheel to Find the Perfect Bedroom Color Scheme

    Color Wheel
    Photo courtesy of Gonzalo Ruiz Navarro

    Along with confirming that the earth revolves around the sun, building the first working reflecting telescope and famously developing the theory of gravity after watching an apple fall from a tree, Sir Isaac Newton (1643 – 1727) was the first person to arrange colors into a wheel, thus demonstrating the relationship between primary, secondary and tertiary colors. His useful concept, which shows colors arranged by wavelengths of light, is today widely used by artists -- particularly painters --...MORE and designers of all types, including interior designers, to visualize colors and the various ways they can be combined.

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  • 02 of 08

    Primary Colors

    Decorate your bedroom with primary colors.
    Photo courtesy of Coastal Living

    You probably learned that the three primary colors are red, blue and yellow back in elementary school. These three colors are pure – the only colors that cannot be created by mixing any other colors together. Bright yet not overwhelming, the primary colors work well in the bedroom. You don’t need to use all three – choose any one or two, or focus primarily on two of the colors, with just a touch of the third, as in the picture here. The blue walls are restful, yet receive a taste of spice...MORE through the red and white pattern on the bed and the window coverings. The striped rug has just a touch of yellow for further interest.

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  • 03 of 08

    Secondary Colors

    A purple, green and orange bedroom.
    Photo courtesy of

    Mix together the primary colors and you get the secondaries: purple, orange and green. These hues are just as cheerful as the primary colors, but tend to be a bit more exuberant. Keep the peace in the bedroom by choosing softer shades of these exciting colors, as in the photo here. This bedroom uses all three secondary colors, with orange and green on the walls, purple in the hanging light fixture and small rug, and all three colors in the wonderfully retro comforter. If all three colors...MORE together are too much for your tastes, simply use one or two in your palette, or choose one of the colors as your primary focus, with the other two used as accents.

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  • 04 of 08

    Tertiary Colors

    Orange, red and yellow bedroom.
    Photo courtesy of New Exclusive Home Design

    Created by mixing a primary color and a secondary color, there are six tertiary shades:

    • Yellow-orange
    • Red-orange
    • Red-violet
    • Blue-violet
    • Blue-green
    • Yellow-green

    Most interior paints fall into the tertiary category to some extent. Brown is usually included in the tertiary colors as well, although you will not find brown on the color wheel.

    The tertiary colors are generally less intense than the primary and secondary colors, and work well in the bedroom. The room shown here would be overly neutral without...MORE the touches of yellow-green in the throw blanket, the yellow-orange drapes and headboard, and the touches of red-orange in the artwork above the bed. You can mix and match the tertiary colors, but keep your palette limited to three at most to avoid color overload.

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  • 05 of 08

    Complementary Colors

    Red, green and brown bedroom.
    Photo courtesy of SheKnows

    If you want a dash of excitement in the bedroom, you can’t go wrong with a complementary color scheme. These are colors that sit directly across from each other on the color wheel: for example, yellow and purple, red and green, yellow-green and red-violet. Because these colors are very high-contrast, keep your bedroom peaceful by choosing slightly muted shades when working with a complementary palette.

    You might think red and green are only for Christmas, but look at how well these complementary...MORE shades work in the bedroom shown here. Because the green is a muted, yellowish shade, and the red is softened with orange, the colors look sophisticated and sedate, without a hint of the holidays. The deep brown walls add further to the elegant vibe.

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  • 06 of 08

    Analogous Colors

    Beautiful blue and green bedroom.
    Photo courtesy of Delicious Decor

    One of the easiest ways to bring coordinated color to your bedroom is with an analogous color scheme. Three colors that are next to each other on the color wheel are said to be analogous. So for example, the warm tones of red, orange and yellow are analogous, as are the cool shades of purple, blue and green. If you want a more subtle palette, include the tertiary colors to your theme: for example, blue, blue-green and green, as shown in the bedroom here.

    If you like color, but are afraid you...MORE don’t know how to combine shades successfully, or you are worried too much color will overwhelm your bedroom, stick with an analogous palette.

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  • 07 of 08

    Monochromatic Color Scheme

    Blue monochromatic bedroom.
    Photo courtesy of Elements at Home

    A monochromatic decorating scheme is designed all around one color, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Keep the look lively with various shades of your chosen color, and feel free to add in touches of neutral black, white and gray, as done so successfully in the blue bedroom shown here.  

    A monochromatic theme is the most tranquil color choice for a bedroom, so if you’re looking for a true retreat, this is the color scheme for you. Include small touches of bright color to provide...MORE contrast, but stick mainly with muted tones of your chosen color.

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  • 08 of 08

    Triadic Color Scheme

    Car-theme boy's room.
    Photo courtesy of Moesters

    A color triad is three colors that form a triangle on the color wheel, for example:

    • Red, blue and yellow
    • Orange, green and purple
    • Yellow-green, blue-violet and red-orange

    This is a very high-contrast, stimulating palette for the bedroom, which makes it lots of fun in a child’s room. What little boy or girl wouldn’t love sleeping in this bright-red-and-yellow car-themed room, with the cheerful blue walls? For most adults, however, all that color is a bit too much. If you want to use a triadic color...MORE theme in a grownup bedroom, follow the 60-30-10 decorating rule: use your main color for 60% of the bedroom’s color, the next color for 30% of your palette, and the final color for just an accent in 10% of the room.