Warm or cool colors look better with certain metals.

Choose room colors backwards-2

Picking room colors backwards continued.

You can choose any colors you want for your room, but you will have better results if you follow a few guidelines. I promise. Continue to refine your identification of your wall color and then pick other colors that work, based on these concepts.

Colors are, in my opinion, best described in one of three ways: clear or muted, light or dark and warm or cool.. For quite awhile I have referred to the clear or muted colors as clean or dirty, but every time I do I have to explain so I decided it would be simpler to just use the right words to begin with.

Clear and muted color comparrisons.
Clear and muted don’t mix well.
Lighter and darker are comparrison words.
Lighter and darker must be used to compare.


Saying a color is light or dark is useful only when describing it in relationship to another color.  For example, robin’s egg blue is light compared to navy, and dark compared to pastel blue. A tint is created by adding white to a color, a shade is created by adding black.



Look at your color wheel: Warm colors are from true red through orange and yellow to yellow-green. Cool colors are from true red through purple and blue to blue-green. True green is a toss-up; some say it is warm, some say it is cool.

A color wheel
Cool on the left, warm on the right.

Don’t mix warm and cool colors in a big way in a color scheme. If you must mix them, pick one as the main color and use little bits of the other as accessories only.

If your main color is cool, choose nickel, pewter or silver metals. If it is warm, choose warm metals (gold, bronze, copper).


Warm or cool colors look better with certain metals.

Match your metal to your color temperature.


Clear and muted color wheel
Muted colors are also called dirty, or grayed colors.


Clear colors are on the outside ring of the color wheel. Muted colors are clear colors with the complimentary color added ( in the squares, here).  For example, to mute red add a touch of green — the two are opposite each other on the color wheel.

If you use colors from nature you will have a fairly muted color scheme. If you choose clear colors from the color wheel you will have a clear color scheme. Varying light and dark is OK.


Muted and clear colors don't really mix well.
Clear on the left, muted in the center and muted on the right, — you can see that muted and clear don’t work well together.




Don’t mix muted and clear colors.  For example, olive green does not sit well with clear orange but can look great with terra cotta.





Muted colors work with off-white trim. Clear colors need white trim.

Comparrison of clear and muted with trim color
The trim color is important.

Read up on the 60-30-10 rule in my column archives and use it for assigning colors to the surfaces in your room.

So: no mixing undertones, no mixing warm and cool, no mixing clear and muted.  Use the wall color as your main color and make everything else work with that color.

Read more about colors and undertones in my book Everyday Design Dilemmas.


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