Skip to main content

Style: Folsom | El Dorado Hills

Home Design: Creating a Whole House Color Palette

Jul 30, 2015 02:27PM ● By Kerrie Kelly

Photo courtesy of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab.

It seems simple, but picking a paint color is one of the biggest obstacles my clients have. When they realize they’re really picking an overall palette, they’re positively paralyzed. I’ve been part of the process in thousands of homes, and I have to remind clients that it really is simpler than we think. Answer a few questions, make some quick decisions, and then narrow those decisions down to an ultimate choice.


Flipping through magazines and websites can be a big help when you’re looking for inspiration, but first, take a minute to answer two important questions: What are your favorite colors, and how do you want to feel in your home? Are you looking for a serene oasis or a fun, funky vibe? Finding yourself on that spectrum and considering the colors most likely to take you there is where you want to start. We react to color on such a gut level that instinct will serve you well. If you’re really having a tough time, head to the closet and note the colors of your favorite clothes. Check out the bedding and art on the walls. You’ll be surprised how quickly you see a pattern that resonates. Choose three colors to get started.


Next, factor in the elements of your architecture and design that you can’t change. Cabinets, carpet, floors and furniture are more permanent fixtures, and it’s easier, and more affordable, to paint around them rather than remodeling just to match the paint. Now, which of your three colors comes off the list? Decide quickly, be brutal, and keep moving.



Even if you’re not working with an open floor plan, you want to consider everything in your line of sight as you choose colors for particular rooms. This won’t necessarily result in removing any of the colors from the list, but you may end up choosing a different tint or shade that you like for another room in your sight line.



Time to make a call. Start with your three main paint chips, and then choose one or two of its neighbors on either side to give you a spectrum of the colors you like. This will give you options for accent colors or for picking a broader whole-house color palette. The chips will look different in the store than they will at home; tape them up somewhere that gets natural light so you get a sense of how they look in varying light. Remove the “non-contenders” as soon as you can until you’re down to one chip for at least two of your three colors.



This is crucial. Pick up an eight-ounce sample of those colors and brush some on every wall intended for. Depending on the light, one color will often look like two when painted on different walls. Live with them for at least three days—viewing them morning, noon and night—again noting the difference in shades under different light sources, and start narrowing. If you’re still having trouble deciding, vow to eliminate one color a day. Remember, you can always change paint, and you’ve chosen colors you actually like. At this point, it’s a safe bet that you’re going to love whatever you choose! 

Kerrie L. Kelly is an award-winning interior designer, author and multimedia consultant. She has authored two books: ‘Home Décor: A Sunset Design Guide,’ published by Oxmoor House, and ‘My Interior Design Kit,’ with Pearson Professional and Career Education. To contact her, visit or call 916-919-3023.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to the Style - Folsom El Dorado Hills free newsletter to stay informed