3 Reasons Color Scheme Isn't Working Anymore

Neutral Color Scheme Ideas
Create the Perfect Color Scheme. ©Caiaimage/Tom Merton/OJO+/Getty Images

What to do if Color Scheme Isn't Working

Your interior color scheme seemed so perfect when you first chose it. Perhaps you found a color scheme online or in a paint store, and recreated it in your own space. However color scheme came about, you carefully chose (what you thought) was the right one. 

Once you brought your color scheme into your home, something didn't look or feel right. It's easier to pinpoint when one color, like choosing the wrong wall color, isn't working.

When a single color is "off" you may not know the right color immediately, but you can isolate the problem, and get to work on changing it. A problem color scheme can be blatantly obvious. What is less-obvious is which color or colors are not working in your space. 

What's Wrong With Your Color Scheme?

Like visiting a doctor, nothing can get better without getting a diagnosis. You will first need to identify what isn't working with your color scheme. You don't have to be a color expert or designer to figure out what's wrong. Here are the top 3 reasons your color scheme isn't working anymore.

You May Have an Undertone Problem

If the colors of your new scheme mysteriously bring out a color you hadn't expected, it's probably an undertone issue. Many color schemes have been derailed by an undertone surprise. Green, pink, and yellow, are the most common culprits of an undertone surprise. The color scheme you chose may not be the problem, but it's more likely an existing color that is the problem.

Cabinets, wood floors, and even foliage reflected from outside, can complicate things by contributing their own undertones.

The key to correcting this problem color scheme is to learn the basics about color undertones, so that you can identify them, and plan for them when you choose color. Once you identify the problem undertone in your scheme, you can replace that color with the right one.

 Get easy tips for understanding undertones here.

You May Have a Neutral Color Problem

I will tell you right now, it's not you. Choosing the right neutrals is hard, and it's not your fault that your neutral color scheme didn't work. The most successful neutral color schemes are monochromatic. The simple reason is that when you choose monochromatic colors, they all share the same undertone and color DNA. The only difference between colors in a monochromatic scheme, is how bright or dark they are, (shades vs. tones.) 

The neutral color scheme problem happens when you try to combine too many unrelated neutrals. A color scheme that mixes beige, gray, and a yellow-based tan, is an example of too many neutrals, with too many color ideas going on.

The key to fixing a neutral color scheme disaster, is to stick to one or two neutrals. Choose one neutral as your main color, another neutral can be a secondary color, or appear along side other pops of color. If you use two neutrals in your scheme, my suggestion is to be sure they have the same color temperature after brushing up on warm vs. cool colors here.

You May Be Using the Right Color Scheme in the Wrong Way

It's so easy to fall in love with a color scheme you see in a paint brochure or on a design site.

Everything about the colors make you swoon, as you excitedly plan which color goes where. The problem comes when you forget that the color scheme as photographed, was lit with professional lights and was also adjusted for printing. What looked so open and airy in the featured room, falls flat in your own small space.

If you are using an inspiration photo to create a color scheme, pay attention to the inspiration room. Note the height of the ceilings, the window size and placement, and even the region of the inspiration home -- these details can make or break a new color scheme. If your home tends to be dark because of its layout or location, then a color scheme gleaned from an airy beach home will not look the same. Of course, using light and airy colors can help open up a small space. 

The key to choosing the right color scheme based on an inspiration photo is to honestly analyze your space.

If your ceilings are lower, your space lacks enough natural light, or your existing surfaces are dark, it will influence the new color scheme and how the light illuminates it. The same is true even for a home that is light and bright. If you have fallen in love with a particular color scheme or inspiration photo, but fear the colors won't work for you, don't give up hope.

Before you abandon the color scheme, try swapping the colors around with each other. If your room is dark, but the inspiration scheme features charcoal gray as the main color, try using a lighter color from the palette instead. You will still have the colors you love, but swapping the main color for one of the accent colors can help you achieve the same look without sacrificing style.