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Emily Henderson

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by Ryann Miller
Jungalow Jl Bingham Sofa 5
image source via jungalowdesign by Justina Blakeney

Hey guys, resident color expert Ryann here. Alright, maybe “enthusiast” is a more apropos term but if eagerness and excitement over the nuances of color counts for anything, rest assured you are in good hands. At any rate, what better way to initiate my one-year performance review than to have me tackle an installment of our Design Mistake series. Let’s see if I am up to the task.

When it comes to picking a color palette, it seems easy enough, right? You pick some colors you like, paint some walls, buy some things in said colors and boom, room done. But well, sadly, it’s a bit more nuanced than that. Maybe in your mind, avoiding “ugly” colors is half the battle, but let’s stop for a second to say that there are no ugly colors…just unfortunate pairings or use of color. There is A LOT we can dive into, but today, to keep it focused, I’m going to walk you through a few color “scenarios” and show you examples of rooms that didn’t quite get it right and rooms that did. And don’t worry, all this information is coming from the brain-trust of EHD, so you can rest assured all this information is designer- (and not just Ryann-) approved.

1. Boring Neutrals:

First, I want to say that neutrals get a bad rap. Arlyn wrote a whole post earlier this year that walked through the seven keys to decorating with beige successfully and if your idea of a bold statement color is taupe, go read it. And for anyone who wants to immediately scroll down to the comments to say neutrals are not color, I say keep reading because yes, around here, whites and beiges can comprise a color palette and you should know how to get it right, too. Alright, let’s look at some rooms.

Brown And White Bedroom 1 3597
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Why it isn’t working: I know for a fact some of you are not on board with a brown room at all (as discussed in the comments in this post a while back), and I get it. The 1970s were scarring to some due to the wood paneling frenzy and the ’90s only brought horrifically bland resurgences of it. Case in point, while the above room isn’t “bad” per se, it’s definitely heavy-handed in the brown that might make some of you twitch. It’s one tone of brown used over and over again. Whatever color you use (in this case brown), you need variation in tone. All your eye registers are “white” and “brown” with very little else in between and it falls flat.

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Why it works: I could quite literally stare at this room for hours, so it is safe to say there is nothing boring about this one. The architecture does a lot on its own by adding a ton of visual interest, making the brown/neutral color palette totally doable. Plus, in this case, the heavy lifting is done by all the wood tones with less stark contrast because the walls are taupey gray rather than why. I mean those doors? The ceiling? Please. And while sure, the rust chairs don’t necessarily fall under a neutral category, they almost blend right into the rich wood surroundings, and in this case, act as a neutral.

Belhaven Beige 2 Pc Living Room 1101020p Image Room
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Why it isn’t working: Let’s look at another example. I love a neutral room, but they are really easy to get wrong (because they are so hard!). Here, the amount of tan shades simply turns into one giant mushy beige room with some pops of brown. Sure, the yellow helps, but if you stripped away the pillow and throw, it would be pretty monotonous. You don’t necessarily want high contrast, but you do want variety. This is a study in making sure not everything in your room is the same hue.

Melanie Burstin Living Room 2 2500x3121
photo by tessa neustadt | from: Mel’s Home Tour

Why it works: Any time I think about a neutral room, I come back to this. This was before my time here at EHD but man do I wish I could experience this space IRL. But I digress. If you read Arlyn’s How Not To Design A Boring Neutral Room, you may remember that it is necessary to have varied wood tones which Mel does well here. A neutral color palette needs to be coupled with complexities via textures and tones so that color doesn’t need to be the main event, but the room is still not boring. The rug with its off-white and darker gray adds a bit of punch and visual interest while the white curtains set themselves apart from the linen, flaxy seating.

2. Lacking Color (and Texture) Variation:

Honestly, the lack of color variation is probably one of the biggest mistakes people make when putting together a palette. We already talked about it a bit up in the “boring neutrals” section, but let’s see what we mean when it comes to specific colors…

Open Concept Blue Room Schell Brothers 586e66ea5f9b584db351f32a
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Why it isn’t working: That is just so. much. light. blue. If it isn’t beige or gray, it’s the same tone of blue. I understand the intent here, though because light blue can feel calming and seemingly safe in design. BUT, every color has its limit and I think we reached ours here. This room is dying for some darker blues and grays to really balance the palette. A good rule of thumb, if you want to go mostly neutral but sprinkle in one color, is to make sure you’re bringing in a sampling of hues of said color. It’s like a long paint chip from the hardware store, right? The lightest tone on top down to the darkest hue on the bottom…use them all. You can even pull in other shades of your color of choice, but it’s best to bring in at least one more color so your room doesn’t feel one-note.

photo by zeke ruelas | from: Combining Furniture Styles In The Casa Soria Living Room

Why it works: Just like room above, blue still feels like the star here, thanks to the art and wall color, but the wood finishes create a calm and organic feel and you’ll notice Orlando didn’t run with using that peacock blue of the sofa on EVERYTHING. The throw is a softer blue, the art is a brighter aqua, the neutrals that complete the palette are varied, from charcoal to gray to neutral woods and seagrass. Speaking of, the textures are also varied, bringing in more visual interest so the colors don’t have to be the main focus without feeling like a “beige” room.

2 Lime Green
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Why it isn’t working: This green and gray combo is a GREAT example of something we see done often: take your one color and match it in EVERYTHING you put in your room. Really look at that room. Does it feel a bit flat? Does it invite you in and make your eye want to wonder? Honestly, probably not, because a space full of the same shade of everything is just not visually compelling enough.

06 Charcoal Grey Sofa Grey Stone Floors And Emerald And Gold Details For A Chic And Sophisticated Look
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Why it isn’t working: This looks like it may have been a staged room back in the early 2000s so we’ll give it a pass, but let this be a lesson for us all: too much matching does no one any good. Instead, give your eyes a treat and add variation to your color palette. Instead of six framed pieces of art containing the same color green, go for one statement piece that incorporates other shades and colors, and sprinkle those colors throughout.

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Why it works: Two words: textures and variation. I repeat: TEXTURES AND VARIATION. I get it if you don’t want a room with colors EVERYWHERE and just want to rock the mostly-one-color palette, but there are ways to make it interesting, I promise. Here, the tonal grays feel purposeful, and the couch gets to be the real wow factor. The rug appears to be a slightly different shade of green which brings in that variety the other previous rooms craved so badly.

11 Green Paint With Gray Furniture A Few Fun Pops Of Lime
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Why it works: I couldn’t possibly move on with my life without showing you how bright neon green can actually work. Of course, not many would lean toward that specific shade, but I can’t deny that it is working here. With a primarily green room, the secondary green hues come naturally and within a green palette, it always feels cohesive to bring in wood tones and textures, to create that good “nature” effect. The worn leather chair adds warmth, and the softer lighter greens and olives cut through the sharpness of the chartreuse.

3. Bright & Bold Overload:

One Kings Lane Patrick Miele Living Room 01
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Why it isn’t working: To be honest, this room is not not working, it’s just a lot of color, which if that makes your heart sing, scroll along. But I wanted to discuss something here. Everything here is a “moment” and what I’ve learned so far this year at EHD is a room works best when you “pick your moment.” Here, the wall, sofa, chairs, ottoman, and accents are all calling out for your attention. There doesn’t seem to be a “grounding” piece where the palette is being pulled from (more on that in a bit), so everything stands on its own without a touchstone, which can leave a space feeling busy and overwhelming.

Jungalow Jl Bingham Sofa 5
image source via jungalow design by Justina Blakeney

Why it works: Each color present here has an anchor, which really (if you haven’t already guessed) is THE rule for choosing your color palette by the way (keep reading ’til the end for the rest of the rules). The bold orange couch anchors the orange accents in the pillows and on the shelves. The blue carpet ties in the patterned blue coffee table. The plants allow for some pops of green and since the wall color is neutral, there is room to play with the more bright and bolds on the color wheel. If I were to take a guess, maybe Justina had those two embroidered pillows to start with, and pulled out three key colors (orange, blue, yellow), then brought it back down to earth with a peppering of white, black and wood tones.

Jesslivingroom3 1
image via Jess’ Living Room Reveal

Why it works: For a quieter, minimal yet bright colored space, take a page out of Senior Market Editor, Jess’ playbook. She’s playing with oranges, pinks, reds, and of course that powerful velvet blue, and it all makes sense and is not overwhelming but is still bright and fun.

Well, as much fun as that was, I couldn’t leave you sans a concise step-by-step to color palette-ing, because what kind of EHD woman would I be if I did? We’ve talked about these before but for your convenience, I polled the office and put together EHD approved step by steps:

How To Find And Execute Your Perfect Color Palette:

Step 1: If you are completely starting from scratch, pin or bookmark inspiration until your head spins. Then, take notice of your research. What are your consistencies? What colors are you drawn to? You might be surprised by what you find!

Step 2: Once you see your color preferences, imagine how you want the room to feel, and further narrow down your search from there. (i.e. think about your uses of the room, and how you want to spend your time there, then read this post on color psychology.) 🙂 

Step 3: Start with an inspiration piece you want to use. That can be art, a textile, or a rug (we’ll walk you through some examples right after this step-by-step). From there, pick 3-5 colors (including neutrals). Any more can start to make a space feel chaotic.

Step 4: From those 3-5 colors you picked, 1-2 are for your key furniture pieces. Of course, neutrals are your safest bet, but by all means, live a little.

Step 5: With the remaining 2-3 colors, this is where you play. Bring in these colors via soft goods and textiles like your curtains, rugs, pillows, or art. Because you want balance but effortless interest, remember to keep things varied. Just because you have those 2-3 colors doesn’t mean you can’t move up and down the tone range for each. A good ratio to remember for ALL your selected colors is 10/30/60. Meaning 60 percent of your room is one main color family (this is usually your neutrals), 30 percent is an accent color (or two), and 10 percent is usually that last punch or metallic. Be sure to mix up the tones and play with texture so it doesn’t feel too “mathematical.”

Step 6: Enjoy your beautiful cohesively colorful room.

And finally, because we simply cannot help ourselves, we put together a few samples of what an “anchor” piece looks like and how to draw secondary colors from it:

Emily Henderson Color Palette Anchor Piece 1

Art can be a great anchor because you can pull as many colors as you want from it. This one, in particular, has that deep teal that creates a base, and has enough colors within lending a variety of colors to chose from. We went with the creamy cool gray here as well as the teal as the “feature” or main colors because how stunning would that piece look either against a deep green wall with a white sofa, or vice versa? A mustard yellow and a soft rose round things out (for pillows, throws, decor, curtains or even other art).

Emily Henderson Color Palette Anchor Piece 2

It may be a surprise to see that this table lamp could act as an inspiration piece for a room, but consider the many shades that it brings to the table (pun intended). We could see a whole room built around the soft hushed hues you can pull from this beauty. Here, a simple (but really freaking chic) black and white base would feel modern and sleek where the olive and grayish blue would prevent things from feeling too monotone. Maybe the green could come in through a side chair or curtains (or within the rug for the space), and the blue could be woven in in the art and a decor piece or two.

Emily Henderson Color Palette Anchor Piece 3

And finally, we have our gorgeous vintage rug which is always sure to bring in a wide color spectrum. While there are some brighter pinks here, going with something a little softer actually lets the rug stand out more without being matchy-matchy. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The two feature colors—inky navy and almondy white—create high contrast while the main earthy accent color tones everything down.

See? Easy peasy. Now I’d love to hear from you. Do you have any wild colors you’ve experimented with? What are some guidelines you use when nailing down a color scheme? Tell me everything and ask away if we’ve left you with more questions than you started. As I mentioned at the beginning, color is complex and nuanced, so we’re happy to discuss some more in the comments below.

  1. The hardest thing with color palettes is that it is rare to start from scratch in the everyday home. It’s years of building and accumulating. During that time, styles/colors change or your taste can change. Building my palette slowly has required lots of walls being painted and lamp shades being swapped when I bring in something new. Lots of good info in the post!

  2. This is great! Super helpful tips and examples. I have been itching to paint the main level of my house (bye-bye bland beige walls!) and this post was exactly the inspiration I needed to know where to begin. Thank you!

    1. Thank you Charity! So glad this was helpful for you xx

  3. This was just an excellent post of examples that weren’t necessarily horrible rooms but just didn’t quite get there, aesthetically. Two thumbs up!!

  4. This was so clear and well laid out!

    1. Yes! I appreciated how well thought-out this post was.

  5. The room designed by Lauren Liess isn’t working?! Umm….what?!

    1. Curious which room. The one I think works is the brick walls with emerald green.

      1. They swapped out the original picture with something else. Good thing too!!!

      2. I also thought this was an odd picture to put in as a what not to do. And putting in a Lauren Liess room also as not working? Whose idea was that? She has beautiful taste.

  6. Why can’t I not open the links you posts? Thank you.

  7. why should be white 😉

  8. This article helped me to look at my living room with new eyes. Thank you!

    1. Yay! Thank YOU

  9. This was so helpful! Thank you

  10. Okay so I actually really liked this article, however I think what is interesting is that all the rooms that ‘don’t work’ are traditional styled homes while all the ones that do work are very much the style of this blog. Don’t get me wrong I love this style of this blog but there are a few rooms where I think well it works, it just isn’t your style. Saying that it helps me figure out how to do your style so I like that 😀

    1. Hi Katie, that is a great point that I didn’t even think about while writing this post! It will be interesting to see how my Makeover Takeover turns out, because my home is a very traditional style with not much architectural interest. Hopefully I can live up to the EHD name 😉

    2. In the photo with the one yellow pillow and throw, I’m turned off by how matchy-matchy the room is. It’s obviously an ad for a furniture store. There’s a lack of color, but notice how the side tables match the coffee table, the lamps match, the sofa and love seat and chair are all the same. THAT, to me, is the problem.
      In the photo with the picture that says “LOVE” it just doesn’t look residential. It looks like a hotel lobby. There’s nothing small, nothing personal to add variety. So to me the way color is used is not the only problem. It’s not a different style–it’s a lack of personality (style). There, I said it.
      I live in an apartment and am not allowed to paint the walls. Having off-white walls really doesn’t bother me at all. It helps to ground everything–kind of like the photo above with the orange sofa. If I end up getting a house, I’ll be a little scared of painting the walls. I’m afraid it’ll suddenly be too much.
      Here’s a few tips from me. Plants can really add texture and interest. The same goes for shelves of books! I also took a tip from Emily’s first book and have a few brass objet to add just a smidgen of glam.
      I also limit myself to one piece of painted furniture per room (i.e. furniture that is not black or white).

    3. I agree with Katie. Especially the 2nd set of rooms showing neutrals. The only difference in those rooms (they both have the same colors, accents, etc) is that the first “non working” room is very traditional, and the second “working” room is very California style. (more the style of this blog). I do appreciate the article, though, and love seeing the comparisons. Thanks for a fun article!

      1. I think there is more difference in those rooms than you are suggesting here.

    4. I noticed that most of the “it works” have very tall ceilings. That feature alone makes many rooms work. I noticed that in the original Domino magazine which almost always showed rooms with high ceilings. I think the extra visual space of a high ceiling opens the space so much visually that designs and colors that look bad in a room with an eight foot ceiling can look just fine in a room with a ten foot ceiling.

  11. Pops of color is totally something we need to work on in our home! We’ve stuck to lots of grays, wood tones, and small pops with artwork, and have green plants, but could definitely add more color and texture for better variation!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

  12. I pinned this post. And got up from my computer and walked through our apartment to see if I had any one note or flat room. I might do a little tweaking with added textures (throws and tactile pillows) but otherwise feel good about how our home flows.
    I’m trying to figure out which is the Lauren Liess room so I can better understand the comments thread…

    1. The Lauren Liess room is the one where they say the green lamp looks like an afterthought. In that picture it may look a little one note (but I agree with others – I still love it), but when you see a shot of the whole room it really does work – there is a large piece of art on the opposite wall that brings in another shot of green.

      1. Thanks Lianne. I was wondering…

    2. It’s the beige beige beige on beige one.

  13. OMG…perfect timing!
    We’ve been stalking a house in our neighbourhood for a full week now, visited three times and talked ourselves daft, trying to decide whether to move from our small, restored 100 year old beauty, with a garden to die for,
    to a large, open, newer home, with a paved various courtyardy garden, that’s contemporary Spanish…only on the outside!!
    The inside is b.o.r.i.n.g. as! Pale grey and new beige carpet everywhere (puke). Nice wooden shutters and gorgeous wrought iron balconies everywhere though.
    I have visions of tiled staircase (currently beige carpet), wooden floors (currently beige carpet) with beautiful vintage rugs, some leather furniture, textured textiles and my heapsa original art on the walls.
    Hence….this post is spot on time to remind me of my colour theory of days from the distant past.
    Thank you! 🙂
    ….Gah! Sooooooo stressful! Having our house valued tomorrow! Yikes!

    1. OMG I am in such a similar situation! My new home is lacking in the architectural charm realm so color, interesting decor, and vintage furniture are my only hope. Good luck with yours!!

  14. I agree with some of the other commenters that the critiques of other rooms makes me a bit uncomfortable – especially since some of them are from big name designers or publications. Saying that a room from BH&G isn’t working seems like a bit of a stretch even though I agree, it’s not a room that I love.

    I think a lot of these rooms that “aren’t working” have a hotel or office feel – they just don’t feel very lived in. When you’re building a room over time with collected pieces that you love, they aren’t all an exact shade of blue or green – unless you get caught in the trap of buying everything you find in that exact color. I think that’s why so many people go for a neutral base – it gives you so much more flexibility to buy the accessories that you love without worrying too much if they go with your other things. I do appreciate how you pointed out in this post that what could seem like an ugly color in isolation can really add depth and interest with the right context around it. Thanks for this post!

  15. Happy 1 year anniversary, Ryann! Interesting post and nicely drawn conclusions.

    1. Thank you, Jane!

  16. This was such a good post. Super helpful and fun to read. My only complaint is that the webpage was so loaded with ads and other memory-sucking elements that it froze my browser repeatedly and took away from the pleasure of reading the post. If there’s any way you could improve the technical aspects of your site, it would be greatly appreciated!

    1. I use to have the same problem but recently installed “ad blocker” to my computer and it has changed, in a good way, everything! Note, I subscribe to a service that helps me through issues on my computer or I would never have known about this. If you reading on your phone there may be something similar.

  17. You guys. Just deleting the Lauren Liess room without saying anything is so smarmy. Either stand by your decision and engage with those who disagree or say you made a mistake. Come on, this is publishing 101

    1. Yes we removed the image and replaced it with one that better exemplified the points we were trying to make. Our Design Mistakes posts can be tricky, because we’re attempting to visually show you and talk through certain aspects of rooms that may or may not touch on the point of the post (in this case, color palettes, in other cases, how to match wood tones, etc.). We never set forth to pick apart another designer’s work for the sake of being petty, but I realize it might come off that way…and did today. In the future, we’re going to ensure any images we use as a “this doesn’t work” example are more generic and maybe even catalog shots (though there’s a person behind that, too, so again…SO tricky).

      1. It seems Lauren’s room was chosen based more on aesthetic than color palette. Her room and the “works” room are pretty similar color wise but different stylistically. I think a post like this can be done with just “works” photos. I read her everyday and will continue to, but I really feel like this blog as lost it’s “voice” as of late.

        1. Funny I did just the opposite and haven’t checked Lauren’s blog in ages. It’s all just personal preference. But I’ll take the diversity of this blog any day.

      2. For what it’s worth, the most helpful photos are the “this doesn’t work” ones. Designers make mistakes. What’s wrong with pointing that out? Emily Henderson certainly points out her own mistakes and has repeatedly! And we learn more from mistakes than from successes.

        So if a “famous designer” produces a room that is dull, why not be honest and say “this doesn’t work and here’s why.” Obviously you don’t want to be nasty about it but I also think the design world is way too timid about admitting design fails.

        One of the most interesting videos I saw recently was a bunch of designers who were asked given a series of trends and asked to hold up a sign showing whether they thought the trend was still hot or tired. It was great to see their varied opinions and that they disagreed.

        Design has room for diferences of opinion! Be brave!

      3. I mean. You guys. It is BANANAS if you think that Mel’s room is better than the Lauren Liess one. It seems that – with the exception of the very generic catalog shots – this is a “traditional decor doesn’t work” and “only modern decor does work” post, which is a bit of a shame. When you guys did client projects, there were plenty of more traditional rooms you did that looked amazing!

        1. This! Absolutely, designers make mistakes but to say Lauren’s room is an example of a mistake is one person’s opinion and a stretch. It’s a tasteful, traditional room that still has some unexpected elements in it. It just doesn’t fit the aesthetic of this current design team.

      4. I wonder if alternative framing of these comparisons might be worth considering. Some of the “this doesn’t work” posts likely were someone’s work for a specific client … for whom the design presumably did work. I chose to think of those room more under the rubric of “What Some Might Want to Change About This Design” and your “what works” examples as the embodiment of the alternative.

        1. Wait can someone link to the original pic because now I’m very curious about LiessGate 2019 and I came to the post too late to see her room 🙁

      5. Hey, although I know its more work for you guys, I think it would b super fun to see you guys do some “bad” designs, and then show how you can tweak and make better with low-budget solutions. I think this would resolve the issue of throwing shade on someone else’s work (even in unintentionally), and also to be super helpful to your readers who may want a change but can’t afford to do something big to fix their issue. Also, I wanted to suggest you guys do a piece on investible but not extremely costly furniture. I want to know, what could be the Eames chair of our time? As in, something that is going to be iconic in 30-40-60 years and hold or increase in value. I honestly think this would be an extremely interesting and useful blog post, as people may want to buy one large ($$) expensive piece, and want to know if there are artisans out there that may be a good bet. Thanks, and I really loved this post!

  18. I think this is probably the best article I have read on building a palette. I found a lot of points to take-away with me. I find selecting a group of colors very difficult although I know a cohesive but not rigid palette makes things easier and certainly more pleasing to live with. I like all the examples.

    1. Thank you so much!

  19. For some reason my comments never show which is really disappointing. As you can see I am still trying.
    This is one of the best posts ever! Great examples and writing!
    If you can help me figure out why my comments never post i would be so greatful. I am a longtime EHD follower!

    1. We see your comment Vicki! Sometimes it takes a bit to pop up (and I know I always see your comments so it might not be showing on YOUR end, but I promise they’re there). Thanks for following and reading often!

    2. Thanks for the support Vicki! We see you!

  20. This is soooooo good…I’m loving it! Thank you for all the great examples and advice. Can’t wait to look at my spaces with new eyes.

  21. For me, some of the comparisons are not apples to apples. For instance, the first pic shows a boring, brown bedroom but the second photo shows a room with high doors, beautiful millwork and an intricate ceiling. If it wasn’t for those architectural items, I’m not sure it would look as fantastic.

  22. I love the concept of this post and color is my favorite design topic. Maybe next time you can use reader-submitted photos of rooms that don’t work. Let us tell you our rooms don’t work, and you can help diagnose why. I’m sure the submissions can be batched into different themes or posts. No hurt feelings and lots of happy readers.

    1. Brilliant. I’m getting in line

    2. Lynn! Yes I love this idea.

      1. Pllllleeeaaaaassssseeeee!
        If we buy that house wiyh ghe boring guts, I’m gonna need help+!
        🙂

    3. Ryann, Arlyn, and staff – Yesss! I agree that reader-submitted photos are a great idea. We can submit them with the understanding that our rooms *are* going to get critiqued. This is the type of content I would love to see and that would help me as I try to style my midwestern, average home. I loved this article – it gave me concrete and nuanced ways to evaluate my styling. This is one of the biggest takeaways I aim for when visiting the EHD site.

    4. Another variation on this theme is to take a reader submitted room that “doesn’t quite make it” and make some changes to that same room to turn it into something genius! Maybe you have done this already, I am fairly new to the blog.

      1. That’s a great idea!

  23. I’m definitely in the Bright and Bold Overload category. It’s like I can’t stop myself!
    Good post!

  24. Thanks for this. It is really thoughtful, and I got a lot out of going back and forth between the “do” and “don’t” examples for each rule. I see you’ve already gone through and responded to some comments–I hope that doesn’t mean you’re done interacting, because I have a question.

    What about multi-purpose rooms? Our home is under 500 sq ft. We started from scratch, and have a lot more to do. The bedroom has a big wall of blue closet (Ikea Stuva) and floor-to-ceiling curtains with a green/light blue/dark blue pattern that cover the opposite wall. It’s very soothing and peaceful BUT it’s not done yet. We need to add 3 “corners”–one for me to relax in, with a fainting couch/chaise & a storage coffee table, one for him with a massage chair, tv, and probably a little ventless gas fireplace, and one for his desk (probably a pull-down). Bonus is that the rug under the bed is a workout area when the bed’s put away–the gear is in the coffee table. The bed is a Murphy bed with a carved wood wall screen back that we see when the bed’s put up.

    So we have sleeping, relaxing, deskwork, and working out all in the same room. What can we do with the palette so we aren’t sleeping at the desk or running in our sleep? Thanks for any insights you’d care to share!

  25. i thought this was a great post. it addresses the “matching” issues that I have with clients all the time. Clients who like things symmetrical, seem to like exact matching colors and it’s hard to tell them that they’ll get a flat room…these are some good examples. thanks!

  26. Hi Ryann, this is incredibly helpful!! Do you work in those 3 – 5 colors for your wall paint color as well? Or do you add that as a neutral on top?

    1. I know this was a question for Ryann, but I’m popping in, too! Yes, I’d say your wall paint color is one of those 3-5 colors, neutral or not! Remember that your 3-5 colors can also include neutrals!

  27. Always great articles from EHD, but this one hit it out of the park for me! Finally, I get why some works work and others don’t. Great job color expert Ryann!

  28. I read the first part and had no faith in myself to successfully follow the “palette rhythm”. Annnnnnddd….then I read second the part with the examples and that helped me so much! Thank you. I learned a lot (as always)!👌

  29. Outstanding, helpful, excellent information.

  30. I bet Patrick Mele and the other designers you linked to don’t appreciate being your examples of #fail

    Buy some stock images for your “bad” examples in these posts.

  31. Love this post! It really helps clarify why some palettes tend to be more appealing than others. I realize this all comes down to personal preference, but some rooms will appear more pleasing to a wider audience. Having a varying mix of tones and shades of a color would be more natural than everything being the exact same shade; it feels more real…to me anyway. Obviously this was a different post to publish without insulting anyone, but I love the information. Thanks Ryann!

    In my case finding my color palette inspiration actually came from the fact that I always love being out in nature: a main background of soft neutral whites/linen(to keep it simple) with different wood tones & muted oranges (like the color of red rocks, clay, and my collected shells), and accents of varying tones/shades of blues and olive greens, and some black to ground it. And lots of texture! LOL, sounds like a lot, but it just ends up being very warm, inviting, and organic.

  32. I find it funny how everyone is so quick to criticize the writer (and EHD as a whole) for “criticizing” other designers. Does no one see how hypocritical that is? I’m not saying I agree with taking other people’s work and saying that it doesn’t work, but I understand why it was done for the sake of this post. Openly criticizing someone’s writing is no different than someone’s design. You are as bad as you think they are. And in general, this comment section has gotten so petty lately. These lovely people can’t seem to do anything right for anyone. This is FREE content (free because of the ADS that everyone complains about), and always so useful, even when it’s lifestyle stuff. I actually love the fashion and personal posts, whether they’re from Emily or not. It’s what makes this site different from all the other websites that just pump out the same boring decor content (57 White Bathrooms to Pin Right Now!!). And no, Emily doesn’t write every single post anymore, but instead of condemning her for it, why not celebrate her for the ability to sustain a staff? She’s obviously been able to hire smart, savvy, educated women to lend their own voices, so I’ll say it because no one else seems to be able to: Congrats Emily on your success and THANK YOU for not feeling like you have to be the center of attention and bringing in other interesting writers. My mom always used to tell me not to let the voices of few feel like the voices of many, and I say the same to you (and your staff) reading and engaging in the comments daily. Okay, rant over.

    1. Thank you for writing this – I wholeheartedly agree 🙂

    2. It’s actually apples and oranges and not hypocritical at all. One is a famous blog publicly critiquing peers work and the other is randos in the comments basically saying uh maybe that wasn’t tactful. I actually agree with everything in this post but was surprised that they did this.

      And yeah people get petty in the comments and this is free content. This is also how all of the people who work for the blog make their livings. So if tons of readers leave because they no longer like the content, that is VERY bad for the financials of the blog. There’s nothing wrong with giving feedback as long as it’s done in a constructive and respectful way.

    3. Well written. Thank you for saying this.

    4. I agree with Steph, too. THANK YOU, EHD. The angry tone in some of the comments always makes me sad. How about some tolerance? ;P

  33. Whoa, I think I came pretty close to following these rules in my living room without even realizing it! We found a good deal on a beautiful Oriental rug and used it as our jumping-off point, pulling navy, mustard, aqua, cream, and khaki from it. And while it wasn’t the exact color scheme I had imagined, I’m happy with how it turned out.

    1. Heck ya! That is awesome 🙂

  34. While I appreciate the visual examples of what ‘doesn’t work’ I think this post misses the mark. The images seem to say: traditional rooms don’t work – contemporary EH style works.

    The neutral with pops of yellow and blue coastal rooms aren’t my style but I can absolutely see how to some they are beautiful and classic and certainly ‘work’.

  35. I loved this article. Forwarded to my friend who is moving to new house. Very helpful. Wish i had it available years ago.

  36. So great!! Thank you for this great post. So useful, so helpful!

  37. Such a good post!

  38. I would love to see a post like this about bathroom and/or kitchen color palettes. Tying the floor with the wall tile with the vanity color with the wall color etc etc without getting crazy and without being boring. Thanks for all the helpful advice!

  39. You put so much time into this post — thank you! It’s funny, though: most of what I liked is what you said doesn’t work. I kept thinking, “What’s wrong with it?” I went back and forth as to whether saying “it doesn’t work” was negative or okay. On the one hand, this is Emily’s/the EHD team’s blog, so if that’s your opinion, why not say it? On the other, the people who mentioned the different settings of rooms and styles and that that makes a difference have a point. Truth be told, overall, my preferences often don’t mesh with the EHD team’s. I favor more of a minimalist look with bright/dark colors used mainly as accents because that’s what I grew up with. I like Orlando’s living room there, but there’s so much in it. I keep thinking, “You know, it’s okay to leave space open on walls and not every nook and cranny has to have something in it with something yet on top of *that.* And as for the “Bright and Bold Overload” room…Oh, Lord…I thought, “No, you were right the first time — it’s NOT working!” Haha. There’s *so. much.* going on there I’d feel uncomfortable just being in that room. But then again, that’s *me.* It’s okay to have different preferences. There’s still so much value I get from this blog! 🙂 And frankly, it’s also okay to not like another designer’s work. I’d be a terrible candidate for, say, “Trading Spaces.” I mean, the episode where they painted a room black…all I can say is, whoever paints my room black dies. Kidding. But I’d throw up. I do believe design pronciples matter because they’re often based upon human physiology and psychology. But really, at the end of the day, the only preference that matters is that of the person who will live in the space. After all, an all-white room kept at 30 degrees would work just fine for an Eskimo or a Yeti from the Himalayas, no? 😉 Congrats on your anniversary! 🙂

  40. Oh — and I do like much of what I see, design-wise, on the blog (I love Jess’ and Arlyn’s apartments!). Didnt mean to imply that. Often it’s the furniture/fixtures chosen that just aren’t my style. That’s what I meant by my preferences not meshing with yours. 🙂

  41. This was helpful thank you!

  42. I appreciate how practical and easy to apply this article is.

  43. I will always say it – Thanks for not being afraid to show us real, applicable advice! Every designer (famous or not) is going to have different style. I am here because *I want (or want to know about) the EHD style.* On this site, “bad” design, of course, are things that don’t fit the EHD style. That’s to be expected on this site, right? On some of the more traditional stylists’ sites, they probably say that the “weird” stuff is bad style. That’s okay – they have a different style!

  44. This is a really well written post with photos that are great examples of the points you’re making. Thanks so much. Looking forward to more from you!

  45. What about the white most of us already have in a room: window and door frames, doors, and baseboards (maybe even some built-ins that bleed into said frames/doors etc.)? No one ever talks about this in their 60/30/10 ratio. Is white part of the ratio? Considered extra and outside of it?

    If I have a few small rooms, each with 3-6 windows each, and at least two doors, must white be the 30 in the ratio in each room, meaning I’ll have little variation between rooms because the white is so bossy in each of them? (This sort of assumes that painting it is not an option because it would break up the flow of the house (the white frames and baseboards in all the other rooms)).

    Example: if I have a room with green walls (plus some grounding accessories) and that’s my 60. I want grey to be my 30, and a little blue and gold my 10, will I have to swap grey out for white or else it will compete with grey for the 30 spot? Sorry, so confused.

    1. No one has ever asked this before! Honestly, I think no, it doesn’t have to be part of your 60/30/10. It’s kind of how like if a “5 ingredient recipe,” salt and pepper never count as part of the 5. It’s really 7. I think that’s a good analogy, honestly. Your window trim and other moldings are a “secret” additional 10%(ish). Give that room 110% (ha, sorry, couldn’t help myself). You can, of course, always paint the window trim and moldings to be part of your color palette, but that’s an entirely different look that’s not for everyone. Or you can paint them the same color as your wall for a more modern monotone look (even if your furnishings are, say, more traditional, I still think it would be a cool look). Anyhow, I hope that was helpful!

      1. And I’ve never seen an answer to this question before! Very helpful actually and I appreciate that you took the time 🙂

  46. LOVED this post, I’m going to bookmark it! It’s filled with super helpful and concise tips. The whole thing was great, but especially loved the section statement pieces with color choices to accompany them. BUUUUT also loved all the do’s and don’ts pictures/explanations, sooooo, loved the whole entire post equally, ha :)Do other posts like this in the future, this was great!

  47. Great post. Love the examples. I can easily see the works and doesn’t work issues. My problem is usually translating that to my space. But the rules may help. Thx

  48. This is truly helpful. Thank you!

  49. This was helpful, however, in the “samples” of what an anchor palette should aim to be (art, lamp or rug examples) every feature color is the same: variations of black and white only with different accent colors added. What if the very dark/very light base isn’t what you want to be chained to?

    It would be helpful if there were some examples of feature colors and accents that are not based on the black-white base formula.

  50. Awesome article! I used to be scared of color before discovering the wonderful world of EHD 😍

  51. While I find your tips on how to style and design spaces extremely useful, I’m never crazy about your “Why it doesn’t work” examples because there are so many other distracting reasons the room doesn’t work (ie. matchy furniture sets, tacky rugs). I would love to see a room with cool pieces, yet a failed color scheme. Maybe to kick things up a notch you should start staging your own “fails”. Just a thought! I’ve been a reader since Secrets of a Stylist. This is my first time to comment! 🙂

  52. Hi, thank you for the post, very insightful. How do you suggest considering wood tones: are they the part of the palette or they just bring texture and should be mixed for visual interest? same with metals?

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