Color Theory and Home Interior Design

When helping homeowners design the interior of their property, some tasks are harder than others. Sometimes, you know exactly what the client is asking for and how to bring their vision together swiftly. However, each homeowner has their own unique vision. Furthermore, each property is different, so some common solutions won’t be applicable to every single project.

For this reason, interior designers should take some time to research color theory. This guide to color theory and home interior design will detail exactly what makes the former such a helpful tool.

What Is Color Theory? 

Color theory is essentially an explanation of how to use a combination of colors through interior design to create a specific atmosphere or mood. You’ve likely heard about the effects colors can have on human emotions; the color theory is essentially a guide to successfully designing a room in a way that causes anyone inside to feel a certain way.

Using this design principle, when a client says “I want a room that makes me feel relaxed” or desires to experience any other specific emotion, you know exactly how to achieve that. Of course, don’t think of color theory as a necessity when you’re designing a space. Instead, think of it as a helpful tool if you ever find yourself unsure of how to achieve a certain vision.

Theory Terminology

Now that you know the basics, we’ll break down some crucial terminology associated with color theory. Some of these terms you’ll hear interchangeably used as a synonym for “color.” However, in the world of color theory, these terms have specific meanings.


Hue references the three basic colors on the color wheel—primary, secondary, and tertiary—which we’ll breakdown more thoroughly later on in this guide.


To create a shade, you must add the color black to a hue. As a result, you have a darker version of the original color.


On the other hand, when you add white to a hue, you get a tint. The purpose of tints in interior design is to make the original hue look lighter.


Tones are like a middle ground between tint and shade. In other words, tones are moderately dark versions of hues. You can achieve this effect by mixing the original hue with the color grey.

The Benefit of Tones, Tints, Shades, and Hues

Arguably the biggest benefit of these four color variations is the uniqueness they add to your palette. For example, neutral shades like beige, white, and grey can make a living space feel calm, while still being visually appealing.

However, thanks to tints, shades, and tones, you can add hues like blue or green to a neutral palette. Using a vibrant blue or green won’t look great in a primary neutral-colored room, but adjusting how light or dark these hues are can help them flow into your interior design more naturally.

Some of our high-end pillow covers come in blue or green, but for the reason we just discussed, they’re not all the exact same type of blue and green. Hues, tones, and all the variations in between play a crucial role in interior design—from the décor you place inside a room to the paint color you apply to the walls.

Colors of the Wheel

The color wheel is another great guide to use for interior design. The wheel helps designers mix colors in an attractive way; creating color combos that breathe new life into a bedroom, living room, and beyond. The hues on the color wheel play a crucial role in color theory, so let’s break down the three basic color types you’ll find on the wheel.


Primary colors are the building blocks of the color wheel. These colors include red, blue, and yellow. The reason these hues stand in a class of their own is that you can’t create them by mixing two other colors together.


Secondary colors are the result of mixing together two primaries. The secondary colors include green, orange, and purple. Green is the result of mixing blue and yellow. Orange, on the other hand, is a mixture of red and yellow. Finally, purple is the result of combining blue and red.


When you mix together a primary and secondary color, you get a tertiary color. Specifically, there are six tertiary colors on the wheel—blue-green, blue-purple, red-purple, red-orange, yellow-orange, and yellow-green.

Moody Hues

When it comes to color theory and home interior design, it all comes down to how the combination of these two ideas imbues a living space with a specific mood. Obviously, this begs the question “What mood does each color bring out in a person?” For the next stop on this guide, let’s get into the emotions that some of these hues will imbue into a living space:

  • Red—Bold, passionate, energetic.
  • Yellow—Warm, friendly, happy.
  • Blue—Calm, serene, trustworthy.
  • Green—Harmony, growth, restorative.
  • Purple—Creativity, wealth, soothing.
  • Orange—Optimism, energetic, fun.

Considering Color Temperatures

As mentioned above, the mood each color imbues into a living space can alter slightly depending on how light or dark it is. Another factor that can affect how these colors make us feel is their temperature. Colors can be either warm or cool. Surprisingly, understanding color temperature does not involve sticking a thermometer in a paint can.

Warm colors include red, yellow, and orange—hues that promote energy and happiness. Cool colors include blue, green, and purple—hues that promote serenity and intellect. While both color temperatures can help you bring a homeowner’s vision to life, some rooms will benefit more from one than the other. For example, warm hues are perfect for social spaces like the living room, dining room, or even a kid’s playroom.

Cool hues work better in areas of a home that require some tranquility, like a bedroom or office. Remember—these examples aren’t interior design laws you have to abide by at all times. Some homeowners prefer cooler colors in the living room because it’s an area where they like to relax.

Likewise, some clients prefer some red in the bedroom thanks to the hue’s passionate nature. Now that you understand how colors can affect mood, you’ll be able to successfully combine them however a client sees fit. At the end of the day, it’s all about successfully bringing a homeowner’s vision to life. Plus, these ideas will certainly come in handy when sprucing up your own home.

Color Theory and Home Interior Design

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