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How to Use Complementary Colours in Interior Design

Do you want to add more colour to your home? We know it can be very daunting trying to find a cohesive colour scheme, and maybe that’s why so many opt for neutral shades. But if you’re looking to inject some colour into your life – then it’s time to get experimental! So, we’ve put together this insightful guide on using complementary colours in interior design to help you better understand what colours work best together and why.

Your Guide to the Colour Wheel

How to use the colour wheel to find complementray colour for interior design scheme

Choosing an interior colour theme can be overwhelming. However, the secret lies within the colour wheel – the colour wheel provides a fail-proof way of creating a colour pallet you’re guaranteed to love. Basically, the colour wheel is the ultimate guide to understanding the relationship between colours and what colours work in harmony together – the colour wheel is even used by professionals who work with colour, including interior designers, hairdressers and artists.

The Colour Basics

To put it simply, the colour wheel is the quickest and easiest way to visualise the relationship between colours. The majority of colour wheel models consist of twelve colours and are divided into three categories: Primary, Secondary and Tertiary.

Here the 12 colours are categorised:

  • Primary Colours

Primary colours are the base of all the other colours within the wheel – these are the three core colours: red, yellow and blue.

  • Secondary Colours

Secondary colours are made from mixing primary colours to create: green, orange and purple.

  • Tertiary Colours

Tertiary colours are primary colours mixed: this creates lime, turquoise, magenta etc.

  • Complimentary Colours

These are considered to be the colours that are exactly opposite to the primary colours.

60-30-10 Rule

So, now that you understand the basics of the colour wheel, you might be thinking, how do I apply this to create a complimentary interior scheme? Well, the60-30-10’ rule makes it hard to get it wrong.

  1. 60

The 60 stands for the main colour you decide – this should equate to 60% of the colour used in your design, including your paint colour, floor colour, rug colour and furniture pieces. The idea is that your main colour should be the most prominent within your chosen space.

2. 30

Then, the 30 indicates your secondary colour, which will make up 30% of the overall colour scheme and can be used in cushions, bedding and accent walls.

3. 10

Finally, the 10 is a combination of both your secondary and main colours. The 10% will create extra depth and interest, helping the original primary and secondary colours blend harmoniously and work perfectly in accent features such as throws, lampshades, and artwork. 

Types of Complementary Colour Schemes in Interior Design 

There are so many complementary colour schemes in the interior design world. And to further add to the confusion, it’s not uncommon for interior designers to use multiple colour schemes throughout homes. Other times, one theme is enough to complete the entire space if used correctly. To keep things simple, we recommended sticking to complementary colour schemes where the hard work has already been done for you! Just follow the colour schemes guidelines, and you’ll create an effortlessly stylish space.

The different types of complementary colours schemes in interior design.

Go Monochrome 

Monochromatic is arguably one of the most popular colour schemes in interior design. Especially for any novices that want to play it safe when experimenting with colour. Monochromatic uses variations of a single colour in slightly different tones and tints. This creates a very clean and relaxing environment. For example, using dark tones creates a cosy and dramatic feel, and using light colours makes the space feel bright and fresh. However, the downside to playing it safe is that some believe that monochromatic design is boring and creates a cold and uninviting room. Monochrome doesn’t need to be boring. Once you’ve created your neutral base, you can add interest by subtly injecting colour.

Complementary Colours

Have you ever heard; opposites attract? Well, that’s exactly the case when it comes to finding complementary colours. The rule is that any colours that are opposites on the colour wheel are complementary. For example, orange and blue, yellow and purple and red and green. These are all colours that are opposite one another on the colour wheel. The contrast of complementary colours can be bold, especially since it combines cool and warm shades. It’s important to understand the relationship between the two shades as one colour act as the dominator and the other as an accent shade.

Split Complementary Colour Scheme

Maybe you love the idea of using a complementary colour scheme in your interior design, but in reality, it’s too bold. A split complementary scheme offers a less intense colour combination.

  1. start by choosing your primary shade.
  2. Then, unlike the original complementary colour scheme, you don’t choose one colour directly opposite your primary shade. Instead, you choose its complement. For example, the complement of blue-green would be red and orange.
  3. Leaving you with a combination of warm and cool tones – you can experiment with different saturations and temperatures depending on your personal preference.

When working with more than three colours, a great tip is to use one colour on the walls and another as the furniture colour, and your final colour can be incorporated in accessories like your rug, lamps and soft furnishings. Here’s our helpful rug colour guide. if you need any inspiration on incorporating colours through interior accessories. 

Triad Complementary

The triad colour scheme is an effective way of incorporating three colours into any space – that doesn’t cause too much confusion when it comes to execution. Just like the split complementary, find one colour you love and then find two adjacent shades to the split complementary colour on the colour wheel. Again, this is a very versatile way of choosing a colour scheme. If you’re someone who loves pastel colours, this is the perfect scheme for you. The triad complementary colour scheme works on monochromatic principles. You can avoid using only vibrant shades and create perfectly toned pastels by adjusting the saturation and tint.

How to incorporate complimentary colours

If you’re looking for some inspiration on what complementary colours schemes work best in interior design, here’s 4 complementary colour combinations inspired by the colour wheel:

A guide on pairing complimentary colours in interior design with examples.
  1. Blue & Orange

Blue and orange are complementary colours. Using blue and orange creates a vivid contrast and allows you to experiment with warm and cool colours. Blue is a peaceful colour, so contrasting this with bright and vibrant orange creates an exciting dynamic.

  • Yellow & Grey

Yellow and grey are a match made in heaven – yellow is the ultimate happy colour, but be careful not to overdo it. The grey creates a calm, neutral room so you can inject colour in accent items – you find out how you can easily decorate with yellow and grey over on our other blog post.

  • Red & Green

When pairing complementary colours, they can be very bright, creating a bold and unique contrast. However, you can play with different saturations to create muted shades. For example, red and green on the colour wheel are quite jarring. You get a muted red and green that creates a holistic, warm space by lowering the saturation.

  • Mint & Pink

As we now know, red and green are opposites on the colour wheel (complementary), but these two colours can be dark. If you want to play on the red and green theme for a lighter room, start by altering the values of the colour, you can adjust the lightness and darkness of the colours and modify the tint and tone; this will help create a totally different colour. Altering red and green can create a beautiful, light and bright pastel theme, like mint and pink.

We hope you’re feeling inspired to get experimental with complementary colours in your own interior design. If you’re looking to explore a plethora of rug colours, browse our collection by colour to find a rug to suit all interior design complementary colour schemes.