Effective Use of Your Colour Scheme in Design

by | Mar 5, 2020

Whether we’re talking about connecting your brand colours to your design, or using pops of colour in one specific area, such as a bathroom, colour is essential in design. Choosing which colours to use and how can make the right elements pop and create a memorable, well-arranged interior. How, though, do we design in such a way that makes the best use of colour? Let’s look at our three-step process the colour scheme, colour placement, and the amount of each colour to use – to see how to effectively use colour in design.

Step One: The Colour Scheme

colour in design

To start with, you need to choose a colour scheme – not just a single colour. By choosing various shades and complimentary colours, they can be incorporated in your design without appearing boring or repetitive.

As a general rule, colours are divided into three categories dominant, secondary, and accent. For example, if your dominant colour and secondary colours are neutral colours like brown and grey, you would want to choose something bright as an accent – like yellow, or bright blue.

Ways to choose a colour scheme include using complementary (colours across from each other on the colour wheel) or analogous (colours beside each other on the colour wheel). Whatever is chosen, they must all work together. We can liken it to an orchestra – it’s great to have a number of instruments as long as they are playing the same tune!

For my hotelier readers, many colour schemes will be determined by your brand standards, but there are still opportunities to get creative! We can experiment with different colour swatches until we find the combination that works for you.

colour in design
colour in design

Step Two: Knowing How Much to Use

While colour can be an effective way to brighten a space, it can easily become distracting if not used in the proper amount. A good rule of thumb is to use what designers call the 60-30-10 rule: 60% dominant colour, 30% secondary colour, and 10% accent colour. These same general percentages are seen everywhere – in fact, they’re even used in men’s suits – 60% suit, 30% shirt, and 10% tie.

There’s a reason we call “accent” colours just that – they’re meant to accentuate, not to be the main attraction! Going back to our orchestra analogy, an orchestra of mostly blaring trumpets would be overwhelming. In the same way, too much of a bright colour can be jarring. Particularly for our hotels – where you want to create peaceful sanctuaries – accent colours should be used wisely. By sticking to these general percentages, you’ll ensure that no one colour will detract attention, and the room will be pleasing to the eyes.

Step Three: The Ideal Placement

With your colours chosen, and a rough idea of how much to use of each, how do we put this into practice? Your dominant colour is the “background” of your room – think walls, rugs, and large furniture. Your secondary colour will be different enough to make the room interesting while still supporting your dominant colour. Remember, you are using this colour roughly half the amount of your dominant colour. For this, think curtains and smaller furniture. Finally, your accent colour will provide the “pop” you want to draw the eyes to the room. For this, think paintings, throw pillows and blankets, and ornaments. Choose a focal point of the room, and use your accent colour to enhance it.

Let’s look at one of our recent hotel projects:

colour in design

You can see that the dominant colour of the room, i.e. the linens, counters, walls and ceiling are shades of white. The brown shades of the cabinetry, furniture and carpets would then be our secondary colour. Finally, our splashes of bright colours come in our soft touches and artwork.

By placing the right colours in the right places, you can have a design that uses those colours to their full potential!

Here at Lesley Wong Interiors, we make sure each aspect of your hotel design, down to the colours of your pillows, is perfect. Book a free consultation today to see how these principles can be applied to your space and how we create memorable hotel interiors!


LESLEY WONG, Principal Designer

Lesley is committed to continuously keeping up with ever-changing trends and technology. But as every decorator knows, there’s no greater opportunity for learning than on-the-job experience. Lesley has worked in hospitality, commercial and residential projects and enjoys crafting customized and beautiful environments for her clients.

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