Color Theory for Your Custom Home: 5 Concepts to Note

Shades, hues, tones, and rainbows—today’s post is all about color in design! Anyone who has ever attempted to choose a paint color knows how difficult it can be. Selecting colors you love seems like it should be simple, but we all worry that we’ll end up with something that clashes with the furniture, throws off the mood, etc. There might be a solution though: color theory. Keep reading to explore color theory for your custom home: 5 concepts to note!

But before we dive into those individual ideas, we should make sure we’re all on the same page as to the definition of color theory!

What is Color Theory?

According to the Interaction Design Foundation, “Color theory is the collection of rules and guidelines which designers use to communicate with users through appealing color schemes in visual interfaces. To pick the best colors every time, designers use a color wheel and refer to extensive collected knowledge about human optical ability, psychology, culture and more.”

Designers do, but so can you! Because we’re going to give you some insights!

Concept #1 for Custom Home Design: Consult the Color Wheel

color theory color wheel

Photography Courtesy of Amazon

You might remember the color wheel from your elementary days, but even the most impressive and famous of interior designers probably still spend time studying their beloved color wheel. This is because it divides shades into primary, secondary and tertiary colors, and that can be a simple, yet effective way to think about color theory for your custom home.

For example, tertiary colors are created through a mixture of two primary colors. So, if you use a primary color as a dominant hue in your space, but include accent pieces in its tertiary colors, you may find that you’ve got a palette that blends nicely!

Better Homes & Gardens has an excellent article by Jessica Bennett that goes into more detail on this particular concept: How to Use the Color Wheel to Pick Your Perfect Color Palette.

Concept #2 for Custom-Built Home Designs: Stick to the Rule of Threes

rule of threes in color theory for your custom home

Photography by Black Ice

Another great design tip that applies to both color and objects or textures is the rule of threes. You might have little bits and bobs in a great many colors, or books in a rainbow on your shelves. But when it comes to the major design elements—the paint on the walls, the color of the television unit and the couches, etc.—you should try to apply this guideline.

Let’s jump back to what we mentioned about primary and tertiary colors blending well. If you wanted to take that approach, you should choose one primary and two tertiary, no more, and then get to mixing and matching.

Concept #3: Make a Commitment to a Color Scheme

color schemes in color theory

Photography by Max Vakhtbovych

At first, you might think this seems obvious, but we mean scheme not in the sense of just putting colors together that you like. We’re using the term the way graphic designers do. Let’s turn again to the Interaction Design Foundation! They have a comprehensive and easy-to-understand list of main color schemes for your custom home:

  • Monochromatic: Take one hue and create other elements from different shades and tints of it
  • Analogous: Use three colors located beside one another on the color wheel (e.g., orange, yellow-orange, and yellow); mix white in to lighten the palette
  • Complementary: Use opposite color pairings, like blue and yellow (this is great for those who crave eye-catching contrasts)
  • Split-Complementary (also called Compound Harmony): Add colors from either side of your complementary color pair to soften contrast
  • Triadic: Take three colors which are equally distant on the color wheel (i.e., 120 degrees apart; e.g., red, blue, yellow)
  • Tetradic: Take four colors that are two sets of complementary pairs (e.g., orange, yellow, blue, violet) and choose one dominant color (watch the balance between warm and cool colors here)
  • Square: Find four colors evenly spaced on the color wheel and use them evenly throughout the design

Concept #4: Incorporate Psychology When Creating Your Palette

blue kitchen for your custom home

Photography Courtesy of Real Homes

We’ve known for a long time that color can have an impact on how we think and feel. So, why wouldn’t you consider those insights when choosing the colors that will surround you in your custom home?

Foyr has a great article that goes through many colors and their psychological implications. It even has a section listing out emotions each color might evoke.

But here’s a quick reader’s digest version and a few of our own ideas about where colors might be best suited:

Brown is known to inspire a sense of safety, security, warmth, sophistication, and strength. For those reasons, it makes a wonderful contribution to a living room or office space, if you ask us!

Orange is connected to greater creativity, higher energy, and openness to adventure. It also seems to encourage feelings of enthusiasm. Wouldn’t that make a perfect color for a playroom or art studio? We think so!

Green is connected to nature, harmony, calmness, freshness, and healing, among many other positive things. We love the idea of green accents in a spalike bathroom.

Blue is widely considered the most calming and classical color in interior design. Now think about your kitchen. It’s a space where so much happens—sustenance, family conversations, homework, phone calls while you prep food, entertaining. You likely find yourself slipping in and out of the kitchen many times a day. Where better to ground yourself in the most calming, controlled, tranquil of colors? It also connects to wisdom, knowledge, and intelligence, so we think blue could make for a lovely study or library shade, too!

Concept #5: Read Your Color Temp

color theory for your custom home temperature cool or warm colors

Photography by Jessica Lynn Lewis

Think about spaces that just make you feel good. Maybe you think you know why. Maybe you’ve never been able to put your finger on it. There’s that corner of your favorite restaurant or a room in a relative’s house that you’ve always loved. Visit it again, and think about the quality of color and light from the perspective of temperature.

Do you find the space feels good because it reads cool and crisp? Or is it the sense of warmth that brings you joy?

It’s essential to figure this out before designing your own color palettes for your custom home, because you can bring that feeling home with you through color! Lighting is a key factor here, too, but each color has the quality of a cool or warm tone. If you know which you enjoy most, you can design a palette with that in mind.


Speaking of things you enjoy, we hope this blog post has been one of them!

And if you’re thinking you’d like to apply your color theory chops to a whole new place, we think we know where you should turn! Check out our various home styles, and download the Adler info kit to learn more about our Design Center!

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