By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon

Have you ever walked into a room and thought, “Wow, the colors in this room are perfect!” Or maybe you’ve thought, “Wow, the colors in this room are awful!” Color is a huge design element for any space, and the colors you choose can make or break a room.

Because color is so powerful, we often feel indecisive and insecure when choosing colors for our homes. We’ve all experienced the difficulty of looking at a 2-inch x 2-inch color swatch and trying to imagine what a whole room — or house — would look like in this color. So this week we offer some color basics to get you started. The information that follows comes from the Better Homes and Gardens publication, “Express Yourself With Color.”

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Colors can dramatically change a space. Cool colors and neutral tones, like the ones used in this sitting area, can be calming and relaxing and are best suited for quiet places like bedrooms or formal living areas.

First of all, color preferences are very personal and may be even subconscious. To determine your favorite colors, think of things you like and what color they are. Is your favorite apple a bright, shiny red or crisp, clean green? What color is your favorite furniture or a favorite accent piece? Which colors do you look best in and wear most often?

Color is also a psychological thermostat. Some colors are “hot” or energizing, such as red, orange and yellow. Other colors are cool and calming, such as blue, green, and purple. Cooler colors make a space appear larger, while warmer colors make a space feel cozier. It’s generally best to put cool colors in places where you want peace and relaxation, such as bedrooms and formal living areas. Warm colors can be where the action is, like the kitchen or a play room.

Dark colors absorb light, creating intimate spaces. They can be used in a small space to intensify the cozy atmosphere or in a large, sunny space to add intimacy. Dark colors on the ceiling will make it feel lower, making the space feel more cozy or cramped — exactly why you need to carefully consider the consequences of the color choices you make.

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Warm colors, like the oranges used in this dining room, are energizing and stimulating, and are best used in spaces where the action is, such as kitchens or play areas.

For your floors, lighter colors will make a room seem bigger. A highly polished wood floor will reflect light throughout a room adding interest and variety to the space. Darker colors, especially in area rugs, can add drama and intimacy.

Neutral colors, such as gray, beige, taupe, and ivory, rely more on the use of light and texture to add interest. If you crave variety, using neutral colors on the walls and floor will allow you to change the mood quickly and often by adding color through accents like pillows, slip covers, or rugs.

Your whole home should have a coordinated color scheme. You don’t want to go to either extreme — one color throughout or a different color in every room. It’s best to choose a few coordinating colors and use various shades in different locations. Watch how the spaces flow into each other so color changes feel natural as you move throughout the house.

Whatever you decide, make the final choice carefully. Many paint companies have larger swatches or small amounts of paint you can purchase to test at home. The light in a room will significantly change the appearance of any color, so don’t make your final decision in the paint store or you may be disappointed when you apply the paint to your walls. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at

Color is a huge design element