Think Value and Intensity
Let’s say you’ve picked a color scheme from one of the ‘defined’ color schemes that are based on the color wheel: monotone or monochromatic, analogous, direct complementary, split complementary, or triad complementary. (I’ve linked to those posts so you can get to them easily if you want to review the schemes.)
Now you’re at the point of thinking about what colors are going to go where. You may be wondering:
• What are your choices for working with those colors?
• What will the wall paint color be?
• How dark or light will the colors be?
• Will some of the colors bright?
This is where we get into the lightness and darkness and the brightness and dullness of colors for the different elements in the room. That means thinking in terms of value and intensity (intensity is also referred to as chroma or saturation), terms you’ll find described in my post on the subject. This is a chance to bring those concepts into play in a concrete application.
I’ll use one color scheme as an example and show what some of the possibilities are.
Our Example: a Complementary Color Scheme
The scheme I’ll be using: a basically direct complementary scheme within a range of greenish-blues and a reddish-oranges. The examples will show many variations in value and intensity of these two colors, which are opposite on the color wheel.
Since wall color provides a very important background, and sets the mood and tone of a room, this will typically be the first color choice to make from the color-scheme colors. Another option for walls: off-white walls, which can provide a neutral backdrop for furnishings and accessories in the colors of the scheme.
A good point to remember since our example includes both a cool color and a warm color: Cool-toned walls will tend to recede; useful for making a small room appear larger. (However, in darker shades, this effect can be diminished.) Warm-colored walls will visually advance, helpful for adding a sense of intimacy to a larger room.
Wall colors in our greenish-blue color-scheme color
The first group of examples have walls painted in tonal variations of greenish-blue. Variations in value and intensity result in strikingly different designed rooms.
- The first room example shows a very soothing result: soft and pale greenish-blue paint color for the walls with curtain fabric that is a darker version of that muted color. A minimum of accessories in bright (intense) versions of blue-green add punch, as do the pillows in a complementary, fairly saturated hue of reddish-orange. Interior design by Katie Ridder and Peter Pennoyer.
- Greenish-blue, or aqua, gets a bit more chroma (intensity or saturation) in this bedroom. Since the color is less pale (has less white), it’s also darker in value than the previous example. The wall paint color is Benjamin Moore’s Lido Green. Interior design by John Willey.
- In the guest room of a home in Mexico, we move into even brighter territory. The wall color is also darker. Value and intensity can be related: less white equates to more chroma, and, the color is also not as light. The choice of a bright color works to rise the wall color to the level of richness in the wood tones. The orange-red accents and accessories vary in saturation level. Interior design by the homeowners.
- Interior designer Miles Redd raises the chroma bar in a living room with walls glazed in turquoise lacquer, adding high sheen to the equation. Complementary reddish-orange shows up in a few bright red-orange accessories; also in a very subdued tone in the accent pillows and the two upholstered side chairs. The subdued color helps to soften and tame, a bit, the brightness of the room.
- Greenish-blue turns dark and moody in another living room by Miles Redd. Again the walls are lacquered, this time in Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue. The lacquered color, as described by the designer (House Beautiful), translates into a rich experience of color, as opposed to a dark feeling. This is due to the reflectiveness of the lacquer finish. Of course the room needs adequate windows admitting adequate light to reflect off of those walls. Notice that the color is both darker (a shade of the color) and has less chroma as a result of the addition of black.
Wall colors in our reddish-orange color-scheme color
Painting the walls a tonal variation on reddish-orange creates an overall warmth in these examples. Again, as with the bluish colors, variations in value and intensity result in strikingly different results.
- Below, the pale peachy color of the walls of the room appear to be tint of reddish-orange, although they are described as sponge-painted terra-cotta. (In room photography the lights can wash out wall color, so that may account for the resulting appearance. But for purposes of discussion we can work with colors as they appear in the resulting images.) Accents of a complementary muted greenish-blue show up in the carpet and accessories. Room design by the homeowners.
- The muted tint of reddish-orange of the walls in this master bedroom appear as a salmony-pink. The color is closely repeated in the settee and the pillow. Keeping these larger elements to a near monotonal range achieves a serene ambiance. A bare minimum of a complementary greenish-blue shows up in the decor. Interior designers: Amy and Todd Hase.
- Designer Miles Redd ratchets up the intensity of reddish-orange in a dramatic dining room. The color, nonetheless, is still a bit muted. However, contrasted with the intense greenish-blue of the doors framing the room, this image is a good example of how saturated complementary colors intensify each other. The saturated color of the table-top accessories add to the heightened effect.
Using our sample color scheme as elements in a room
Rooms with white walls
Continuing with our complementary scheme within a range of greenish-blues and reddish-oranges, let’s see the colors used as elements in rooms with white or off-white walls.
- Pristine white is the backdrop for the upholstered pieces seen here in moderately subdued tones that are similar in value. The designer, Todd Romano, achieves a sophisticated and pleasing interplay of the complementary colors in this casually elegant room.
- In a living room designed by Timothy Corrigan bright and tinted turquoise are complemented with a variety of oranges and orange-reds in the sofa and pillows. The walls are a creamy off-white. Mixing patterns will be the topic of the next group of room images.
Rooms with wood-paneled walls
Tonal variations of our example complementary color scheme appear in furniture pieces, set against wood-paneled walls, in the first two rooms below.
- In a beach-house room the soft and muted bluish and reddish tones harmonize in intensity with white-washed pine-plank walls. The mood is subdued, relaxed and casual.
- In a John Saladino decorated room, in a Manhattan apartment with 17th-century wood paneling, the orangish-red of the sofa is about medium in value as well as chroma. The color is picked up in the carpet. Complementary deep teal and dashes of brighter turquoise are also in the carpet design. Teal repeats in the accent pillow. (The color we call teal is a darkish value of greenish-blue.)
- The wood paneling of the room below has been painted a pale blue, complementing the muted reddish-orange of the upholstered furniture pieces. This very muted peachy color is a good example of what I call a ‘muted pastel’, as opposed to a clear pastel, or tint, achieved by adding only white to a color. A ‘muted pastel’ is a tone: a color to which a value of gray has been added.
Mixing patterns in our complementary color scheme example
In the next group of rooms the complementary colors — those in the range of greenish-blue and red-orange — show up in the patterns of the fabrics and wallpapers.
- The amazing Michael S. Smith is a master at the mixing of patterns. In the first two rooms, both master bedrooms, the blues are the dominant color in the patterned scheme.
• In the first room stripes add interest.
• In the second room a solid bed cover provides a visually restful area of nearly saturated turquoise.
• In the third room, a living room, the main undertones are warm. I’ll let you count the number of patterns in play and masterfully combined in the room. I’d almost say: “Don’t try this at home!” Not all of us have this level of skill. But, you might surprise yourself and have fun in the process.
- The pattern count might be even higher in this room by Alex Papachristidis. The fabrics all share oranges and red-oranges with variations in value and intensity. Add the wall paint color as another variation. A bare minimum of blue-green adds touches of the complementary color for a bit of visual relief from abundance of warm-toned patterns.
Hopefully this post on working with color schemes using variations of value and intensity will help you in making color choices for your interior spaces. If you’re a student of interior design, having these examples may be of help, too. A good exercise would be to pick another color scheme and then find examples of the various ways designers have worked with the scheme.
Working with color can be bit challenging — but oh so fun….
Except as noted, the images in this post have been sourced from Elle Decor. Thank you Elle Decor online for being such a great source of room images for us all to enjoy.