This room shows a contrasting approach to colour coordination, in which a shade of green is mixed with a brick orange, a complementary colour. Neutrals are used on the trims.

Colour coordination is one of the basics of interior design. But does that mean everybody gets it?

Not on your life. Believe us, the design team has seen some real colour copouts. Sometimes the shade is wrong, and sometimes the colours in a contrast colour scheme just aren’t meant to live together. And white or off-white on the walls as a default goes-with-everything” colour is boring.

But don’t panic, because coordinating colours isn’t really all that difficult.

To start the process, think about mood. Do you want friendly and hospitable warm colours, such as yellows, reds and oranges? Or do you want serene and calming cool colours such as blues and greens? Whichever you choose as the dominant colour will establish the mood for the room.

If you’re not ready for strong colour, you can choose neutral tones, which range from creamy whites, through shades of grey, to rich chocolate tones. They can be warm if the colour tends toward yellow, or cool if the colour tends toward blue.

Wall paint often acts as the anchor for the colours in your decor. When you use complementary colours together, in upholstery, in wallpaper, in rugs or other accents, you’ll see that some colours simply sing to each other. Others just sit side-by-side, not doing much to earn any special attention. Some are even downright unpleasant together. To get it right, you just have to follow a few simple rules:

• One way to go is to start with a colour you love, and add black or white to get a number of different shades. You can use these colours in wall paint, and in other design elements, like wallpaper and fabrics. This approach is called tone-on-tone. It looks pleasantly monochromatic, and feels serene.

• Remember the colour wheel from those long-ago school days? Well, here’s a chance to use that information. You can use harmonious colours or ones that are located near each other on the colour wheel, such as purple and blue, or yellow and green. These colours create a contrast, yet are similar enough to give the impression of unity. You can punch these up with touches of complementary colour, or those opposite each other on the colour wheel. For example, in a room done in shades of yellow, you can add zing by throwing in a few purple or wine red pillows.

• And speaking of complementary colours, you may decide to go for contrast in your colour scheme. Pair warm and cool tones in primary (red, blue and yellow) and secondary (green, orange and violet) colours. Think of orange and blue, or yellow with violet, or red and green.

But don’t overdo it! Unless you’re looking for a headache, choose one colour as the dominant one and use the other as an accent, in much smaller quantities.

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