Pick (Use) four colors when decorating a room.

Picking four colors from an inspiration piece.

“Four colors and the flow.”
When decorating a room, using four colors is an ideal. There should be one Predominant color: color that you see first, and is used most in the room. One Subordinate color: second most used color in a room. AND one, but no more than two Accent colors. Accent colors are used sparingly as they work around a space.

Picking four colors to decorate a room with, is an easy thing. The colors can come from patterned fabric on a sofa or chair. They can come from colors used on an oriental or patterned rug. The colors could even come from a painting, or other kind of art object (fancy vase) that will be used in that room.

Now let’s pull the colors from the collage of oriental rugs, that are at the top of the first illustration. The rugs all have different patterns, but all share the same colors; (burgundy, gold, navy, and colonial blue). Looking at these rugs, if Burgundy is the most used color, and the first color that you see, than that is the Predominate color. If Gold is the second most seen color on the rugs, than Gold is your Subordinate color. If Navy is the third most used color, that is your First Accent color. If Colonial Blue is the fourth most used color, Colonial Blue is your Second Accent color. If you don’t like the second accent color, and there are other colors to choose from, pick one of them as your second accent color. See how EASY that was!

One more color to think about WHITE. White is a free color. You don’t ever count it as one of the four colors, even if it is part of “an inspiration piece” that you are using to pull your four colors from.

Now that you know how to get your four colors, you have to be able to use them in decorating. If this post were a chapter in a book, I would call it “Four Colors and the Flow”. The Flow is working the four colors consecutively from one room to another. If a room is compartmentalized, and you enter it through a doorway, you can use four colors in it for decorating. The next room could be four more different-unrelated colors if you want it to be that way. If you have rooms that open one into another, through large archways, or you have an open floor plan, the room(s) that you see through the archway(s), are part of the room you are in. So here is how the flow works. Look at the illustration…

When applying the flow to interior decorating, you are taking your four colors, and each of the colors has its turn, in rotation, depending on what room it is in, being a Predominate, Subordinate, or Accent. Burgundy might be the predominate in the living room, but will be an accent in the kitchen. What you want, are remnants of each of the colors, being in all the rooms, to tie them together.

Now look again at the illustrations. At the top is the collage (inspiration piece) where we pulled the four colors from. The first room below that is the Living Room. The walls are burgundy red, the predominate color (or the best I can do with colored pencils), the sofa and wing chair are gold, the subordinate color, and the Chinese blue and white lamps, vases on the fireplace, and pillow on the white wing chair are the First Accent color navy. The colonial blue, Second Accent is on the bench by the fireplace, and chair by the sofa. If this was a real room, I would also put two Colonial Blue and Gold striped pillows on the sofa, and a colonial blue throw on the gold wing chair. Color must ALWAYS be worked around a room, NEVER isolated!

The Hallway is predominately gold, followed by navy, colonial blue, and burgundy.

In the Dining Room, the predominate color is the wood tone of the table, chairs, and sideboard. Subordinate is navy blue (drapes, Chinese blue and white dishes and rug). The First Accent is the colonial blue striped walls, the Second Accent is burgundy on the chair cushions and carpet.

Finally, the Kitchen… predominate color is Colonial blue, with burgundy as Subordinate, and the accent color is gold (wood tone of table.) WOOD is a COLOR TOO!

Now you might say “I like White walls and White Drapes”. That is FINE! Use the four colors, taken from the inspiration piece for upholstery fabric, rugs, art works, painted furniture, and decorative accessories. ALSO, The colors of the paint chips that I use for this presentation are all Shades of a color (Darkest Value). Any lighter version of that color, on the same paint chip (tint) would work just fine. A tint is a shade mixed with white to make it lighter.

So now go and look through interior decorating magazines. Pick out the three or four main colors that they used to make up that room. Also, look for rooms that have three colors, and the fourth color is the color of wood, be it on furniture, woodwork, etc. Happy examining and analyzing!

Companion Posts
ACCENT WALLS..Some ideas for Painting or Wallpapering an Accent Wall in your Home 10-29-2013,
How to Pick the Perfect GRAY PAINT..A Popular Color Choice of the Moment 2-15-2014,
Painting a Room a Dark Color then Adding Light Accents 3-27-2011,
When Decorating a Beige Room think Tones, Texture and Sculptural Interest 3-16-2011,
Add Color to a Beige Room with Accessories 4-2-2011,
Picking the Right Paint to go with Wood in your home..Color Theory 3-9-2013
It’s Easy to Paint Horizontal Stripes on a Wall, Step by Step Instructions 11-8-2013.

(Fabric and Patterns)
  Looking at Patterns used on Upholstery Fabric, Drapes, Wallpaper and Carpeting 3-10-2012,
Looking at the Different Sizes of Patterns used on Wallpaper and Fabric 3-20-2012,
  Mixing and Matching Fabric and Wallpaper Patterns 4-13-2012,

The Right height of Table Lamp for your End Table 5-19-2011,
Matching the Right Shape End Table with a Table Lamp 5-19-2011,
Looking at the Different Shapes of Lamp Bases 12-20-2013.

(Curtains and Drapes)
  The Right Way to Hang Curtains and Drapes 5-3-2011,
Hanging Valances, Curtains and Drapes on Different Kinds of Windows 7-15-2012,

(Arranging Furniture)
  Interior Decorating is ALL about Equal Balance 2-27-2011,
Arrange Living Room Furniture, so Sofas Talk to Chairs, like the Pros do 9-7-2012,
Arranging Furniture TWELVE different ways in the Same Room 9-15-2012,
Arranging furniture in a 12 foot wide by 24 foot long Living Room 2-5-2014,
Arranging furniture around a Fireplace in the Corner of a Room 9-29-2012


About fredgonsowskigardenhome

Your eyes deserve to view beauty. I hope Fred Gonsowski Garden Home helps to turn your vision, into a reality.
This entry was posted in Interior Decorating Principles, Picking Paint Colors Interior / Exterior / Front Door / Roof, San Francisco Chronicle / eHow references or resources. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Pick (Use) four colors when decorating a room.

  1. Anna says:

    Just wanted to thank you for all of your incredible, helpful posts! I’m a first-time home owner and am desperately trying to learn design basics – and your website seems to have them all! So helpful. I’ve “pinned” at least a dozen of your articles to my “design tips” board on Pinterest so I don’t lose them. I also love your handmade drawings – so refreshing amidst all of the digital art online. Keep up the amazing work – my house thanks you! p.s. You should write and illustrate a book…

    • ***Hi there Everyone*** The San Francisco Chronicle used this post as a reference for their article titled How to Decorate Around a Maroon Couch. If you have a moment, check out the piece. Here is the direct link to the site http://homeguides.sfgate.com/decorate-around-maroon-couch-57070.html

      Hi there Anna! You are the first of the many Pinterest people who have pinned me, to typed me a message. Thank You. I see that a large number of your group have liked my articles, and told their followers about my site, But they never said a thing to me about liking it ;-{ But whatever way information about my site is put out, I am grateful ;-}

      If you want to see all the decorating topics I have covered, look at the Categories spot on the right side of the screen and click on Interior Decorating Principles. At the end of the first page click on Older Posts and you will see more topics on design I have covered. I am going to write many more in the coming weeks and month, I just got sidetracked with a lot of gardening topics.

      As for writing a book, I would love to, but you have to have a publishing house that wants to print it, and getting one to do it is not that easy, unless you are famous. Maybe some day someone from the book or magazine world will see this blog, like my writing style, and have me do something for them. Until that time comes, I’m doing it for the world to read right here, and I’ve helped already hundreds of thousands of people with many parts of design and gardening issues.

  2. ***Hi there Everyone*** The San Francisco Chronicle used this post as a reference for their article titled How to Decorate Around a Maroon Couch. If you have a moment, check out the piece. Here is the direct link to the site http://homeguides.sfgate.com/decorate-around-maroon-couch-57070.html

  3. Erin says:

    THANK YOU!!! Not sure why it’s so difficult to decide whether “wood” is a color or not, but I have asked that question repeatedly and couldn’t seem to find a good answer. Great to know! You specify that white is a “free” color. What about black?

    Have a great weekend!

    • Hi there Erin, Black is not a free color, You will have to count it as one of the four. But, if you work it across the space in small amounts( think accent color), not isolating it in any one spot in the room, I say use it if you love it. I am not here to tell anyone NO, but want to get people thinking about things, and give them rules that help to empower the readers so they can understand what they are looking at when going through magazines, show houses, or watching decorating shows on TV, and decorating their own homes.

      In a near/future post, I am going to cover wood is a color to, I have had that topic on my mind for about a week now. Keep tuned ;-}

  4. Anna says:

    Thank you for all these design tips! I’ve always been an artist but for some reason color in decor is a concept that overwhelms me… I want to throw in every color of the rainbow it seems. Thanks for making it easier to understand and simplify!

  5. elina says:

    Hi Fred, thank you so much for your very helpful posts! You just demystified the color theory for me better than any decorating books I’ve read! I’m trying to decorate a loft – one huge open space and it’s quite difficult for me… I have white walls (warm yellow undertone) and 4 major colors: yellow-orange (wood floors), green (plants), black, and blue (indigo/navy). Or maybe black doesn’t count as a color just like white? I feel like I need to add a lot of black/gray to ground the arrangement and make it more interesting… I already have 2 large rugs – both black&white, one has strong zigzag pattern (thick zigzag, it doesn’t look busy) and another is Moroccan Berber style. I’m thinking about making a huge custom black/gray shag rug (15’x16′) to define a large sitting area and trying to figure out what is the right size. If sofas and a loveseat all sit on the rug, how much rug should be behind the furniture? If I have a console behind one sofa, I assume it should have as much rug behind it as another sofa or a loveseat in the arrangement? Thanks so much in advance! Elina

    • Hi there Elina, not seeing your space, or furniture, I would say take newspapers and tape them together to make a 15x16foot template that would represent the rug you are thinking of making and lay it on the floor in your loft and place your furniture on it. In one second, you will see how something that size works with your furniture and the shape of the room itself; you might want to add or subtract a few inches/foot or two to the rug’s size at that time. You could also tape off the floor using blue painters tape to see the shape, but with the newspapers covering the floor, you will see what it looks like with a certain amount of your floor being covered.

      As for color scheme, black would be counted as one of the colors if it is used in large amounts, otherwise think of it as a subordinate color or one extra accent color. When picking out the yarns for the new rug, make sure they match exactly the colors of the yarns for the other two rugs so there will be a continuity of color and all the rugs will share a similar color story.

      What do you think about the color red-orange(some kind of rust color or salmon)? You could add that to your mix so you will have something that pops. The red-orange would go with the yellow-orange of the floor and the red orange would be the opposite of the indigo/navy that you have. If that color works for you, take the fabrics you have to furniture stores, fabric stores, etc and run them by the red-oranges and see if anything catches your eye. Good Luck with your project.

  6. laura says:

    This has been helpful, thank you! When we first bought our house in 2012, my husband talked me into oriental rugs for our bedroom. dining room and living room. The navy rug in the living room has been a thorn in my side because I just couldn’t figure out how to decorate around it. Hearing about the 4 color rule has helped a lot- not to mention, your colors are very similar to ours! I have two gold arm chairs and wooden drum table from my grandmothers, and the living room has a fireplace with brick-red tile around it. We also have a large floral painting that has light blue which works quite well with the smaller, linear designs of the carpet. We’ve been stuck on wall color and curtains for ages- do you have any suggestions? The room gets a lot of light since it is the front of the house and it has a large archway into the dining room (dark wooden table/ chairs, garnet red beneath the chair rail to match the red oriental rug, top portion of the walls are just cream colored).

  7. Hello Fred. I’m so happy I found your website I been reading a lot of your post.

    I live in a Barndominium. It’s basically and metal structure with living quarters. We have lived in the house for over a year and my walls are still bare. I’m lost, I don’t know what to do, what colors to choose.

    I have sectional from Bassett furniture. It’s dark brown with nail head trim. I have Concrete stained floors that are a brown it looks like old leather. My ceilings are 16′ and I have absolutely nothing on my walls. A flat screen tv on top of a brown console. So my predominate color is the dark wood? Correct?

    • I should be clear. I described my living room above.

    • Hi there Melissa, First of all I want you to go out and find a colorful patterned area rug and put if on the floor in-front of, or in-front of and under your Bassett brown sectional. When shopping for the area rug bring a pillow or cushion from the sofa with you. Look for an area rug that has some brown in it that matches, or goes with the color of brown of your sectional. Look for a rug with a good amount of colors in it. Being brown, you will probably find things that also have gold, green, red-orange and cream, or brown, tones of blue, and even gray and some red as part of a color story. Well, whatever you find, and make sure the rug “Smiles at You” use those colors for your subordinate and accent colors. Look for colorful pillows for the sofa that pull the colors from the rug, possibly a throw, ceramic vases, art works that possess the colors of the rug etc.

      Also don’t be afraid of mixing patterns. Read my post Looking at Patterns used n interior Decorating on Fabric, Drapes, Wallpaper and Carpeting. Also look at my post Hanging Pictures Around a Room, and look at the companion posts on hanging pictures that follow the article. Also look at The Right way to hang Curtains and Drapes, and look at the companion posts that follow that article.

      Also look at Categories, seen on the right of the screen, look at the titles of different topics that I’ve written posts on, click on the titles and you might find other articles that could be of help. Good luck with your project ;-}

      • Thank soooo you Fred. Again I am so happy I found your website.

        My husband is a builder and our house is one of the “show” houses. I feel so bad because it’s not decorated but I want to buy pieces that I love and make me happy Have you ever done private consultation? Perhaps I can send you my floors plans and pictures of furniture I have? I’m a visual learner and your hand drawings have help me some much.

        Email me me if you are interested.

      • Hi there Melissa, I’ve looked over your husband’s building business, and I see that there are many house plans. Is your house one of them (which number)????, if so I could possibly create a blog post based on the floor plan.

  8. Nice content and ideas that every home owner can follow through it.

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