University of Florida
AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE
This is a reprint of Arkansas Agricultural Extension Service
The University of Florida Agricultural Extension Service is grateful
to the University of Arkansas Agricultural Extension Service for
making it possible to share the information in this publication with
thousands of Florida homemakers.
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
Agricultural Extension Service, University of Florida,
Florida State University and United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperating
M. O. Watkins, Director
COLOR IS THE KEY
To Successful Decoration
MRS. JUANISE JOHNSON
Arkansas Extension Home Furnishing Specialist
Color is the key to successful home decoration. It is
the most important and least expensive way to create
cheerful, restful and beautiful surroundings.
It is a well known fact that color can affect and in-
fluence people. It can radiate good cheer, provide com-
fort and lift the spirits.
A color harmony that is right for you and your family
will make your home more pleasant to live in, more in-
teresting to keep attractive and more expressive of your
A well decorated room is not limited to any one color
scheme so don't let rules or current trends stifle your
creativeness. Learn a few basic color principles-then
have the courage to put your ideas to work.
Choice of colors and how they are combined depends
to a large extent on the taste and interests of the people
who will live with them; the purpose of the room; its
shape, size and exposure; and its relation to adjoining
In planning colors for your home, avoid a "clutter"
of colors. Any home will have more of a feeling of unity
if one predominant color is selected and used throughout
the house. This is of particular importance for a small
home. To carry out this idea, choose one key color and
use it in some way in all rooms of the house. If you feel
you must have more variety, then use the change in color
in bedrooms since they are usually separated from other
rooms by doors, hallways or bathrooms.
For all your rooms, do select key colors that you really
like. Combine them with other colors that are in harmony,
and you will find pleasure and satisfaction with the results
for a long time to come.
ANALYZE YOUR NEEDS
For each room to be decorated con-
sider: How the room is to be used. Do
you want it formal? Casual? Bright
and Gay? Serene and restful? What
furnishings are to be kept? What
colors will remain as they are? Do
you want to make the room look
larger? Smaller? What about the pro-
portions of the room-are they too
long and narrow-or an unintere:
ing square? Are windows and doc
poorly located? Is the fireplace ug
and overpowering? Is the ceiling t
high? Too low? Is the room too ligh
Too dark? Does it get sunlight, a
if so during what portion of the da;
Is artificial light all that you desir
What new furnishings do you need
MAKE A PLAN
Answers to the above questions can
help you in making a decorating plan
that will best meet the individual
needs of your family.
Planning the use of space before
adding the decoration makes for more
harmonious results. Color can do
much to visually change architectural
defects and poor furniture arrange-
ment and selection, but the color
You will feel more confident using
colors together if you understand
them and know their language.
To describe any color you need to
tell about three of its qualities:
1. HUE, is the name of the color,
such as green hue or yellow hue. A
hue may be light, dark, bright or dull
without changing its name.
2. VALUE, describes the lightness
or darkness of a color. A dark red,
such as maroon, is a low value of red
and light pink is a high value of the
same color. In between these are reds
scheme has more chance for succe
if the furnishings fit the size a
shape of the room. Check your ,
rangement for comfort, convenier
and appearance. When new pieces a
to be added, a new arrangement m
influence the size and color you chool
After checking the room for
rangement, you are ready to thi
in varying degrees of lightness a:
darkness. Colors are made lighter
value by adding white-darker
adding black. Light values of a col
are referred to as tints and dark
low values as shades.
3. INTENSITY is the brightne
or dullness of a color-its strength
weakness. A bright color may be ma
duller or softer by adding gray or
little of the color's complement (t
color opposite it on the color whee
A color that is greyed by adding sor
of its complement is more alive th
when gray is added.
OLOR AND LIGHT
It is not possible to separate color
id light. Without light there is no
lor and light is always colored.
white or apparently colorless light,
ch as that from the sun at noon,
ntains all the hues of the spectrum
ended together. We see color only
ien there is light.
Some colors absorb much more
:ht than do others. White absorbs
is light than any color and for that
ason has the best light reflectance.
Most rooms need background colors
that have good light reflectance. The
nearer to white any color is the more
light giving and the nearer to black
the more light absorbing it is.
Colors that reflect the most light
are the yellows and colors that have
yellow mixed with them.
Colors that reflect the least light
are the reds and blues and colors that
have much red or blue mixed with
Keep in mind the kind of lighting
a intend to use as colors look dif-
'ent under daylight and artificial
ht-under incandescent and fluo-
icent lights. Fluorescent lighting
* example "changes" color depend-
, upon the type of tube used. Day-
ht units produce a bluish cast that
ikes rosy colors look violet. Yellows
pear greenish, orange tones seem
dl colors fall into two groups-
rm and cool. On the right of the
muddy, and white and soft white units
give off a reddish tint and so are un-
desirable to use with greens, blues and
It is always wise to examine colors
being selected under the same light-
ing conditions with which they will
be used. For close matching, choose
colors in daylight but never in sharp
Check Your Colors
Under the T4pe of
Liqht in Which Theq
Will be Seen
color wheel are the warm colors-on
the left side, the cool colors.
Warm colors are those related to
sun and fire-yellow, orange, red and
the in-betweens. These colors are in-
teresting, active, cheering, stimu-
lating. They are advancing-make
objects seem nearer. Thus a room
with a warm color for the background
will appear smaller since the walls
seem to advance and so appear nearer.
On the other hand, a red chair will
appear larger than a blue one because
the eye pulls red nearer than it really
is and makes the chair look larger.
Cool colors are those with blue in
them-yellow-green, green, blue-
green, blue, blue-violet. Restful, like
sky, water and trees, they make a
room look larger and when light in
value, make walls recede.
If too much cool color is used with-
out the relief of touches of warm color,
Warm colors used without the ce
trast and relief of cooler ones tend
give a closed-in feeling. When
planned, however, charming effe
that are cozy and friendly, are crea
with predominantly warm col
Warm colors include all shades tl
have yellow, orange or red in the
from ivory and cream, through t
buff, pink, rose and coral, to dee
colors such as rust and burgundy.
it is possible for such a color sche
to be depressing to some people.
While cool colors give poise ,
restfulness, they are more formal i
reserved. They tend to make ir
vidual objects seem smaller and
separate objects or groups.
THE COLOR WHEEL
[he color wheel is a simple and
ctical guide to the harmonious
2bination of colors. There are only
ee main or primary colors-yellow,
eand red. Next comes the sec-
ary or second colors. These are
de by mixing equal parts of two
nary colors; yellow and blue make
en; blue and red make violet; and
red and yellow make orange. Then
come the intermediate or in-between
colors. Put these six colors and their
intermediates together on the circle
and you have the traditional color
White, black and gray are consid-
ered neutrals and may be used with
any color combination or scheme.
TYPES OF COLOR SCHEMES
There are two major classes of color
schemes and each of these has sub-
types. They are:
',- I I I ~,~,. .,,~
RELATED COLOR SCHEMES -
1. MONOCHROMATIC color
schemes are those based on variations
of one hue. A living room for instance
might have a color scheme of different
values and intensity of blue.
The advantages of this type of color
scheme are that it (1) establishes
unity and harmony, (2) makes the
room look more spacious and (3) gives
a quiet, peaceful effect.
Monotony in a monochromatic c<
scheme can be avoided by us
(1) different values of the 1
(2) different intensities of the I
(3) varied textures, (4) differer
in space relationships, (5) liberal
of black, gray and white and, (6)
cents of other hues.
ANALOGOUS color schemes are
lade by combining colors next to each
[her around the color wheel, with one
ne in common. The effect is usually
ore pleasing if the colors lie between
vo primaries instead of on either side
one primary. For example, try
nes of yellow-orange, orange and
d-orange together. Red is the hue
-- I i lll
in common here.
Analogous color schemes may also
be formed by using three hues, each
separated by one step on the color
wheel such as: yellow-green, yellow-
orange, red-orange. Here the hue in
common is yellow. Analogous schemes
usually have three colors but may
have two or four.
)NTRASTING COLOR SCHEMES
TRIAD SCHEMES are those using
y three hues equal distance apart
the color wheel as-red, blue, and
lHow; green, orange and violet; or
ae-green, red-violet and yellow-
ange. Remember that colors of full
\\ ^ A/i
strength are seldom used in home
decoration. The red, blue and yellow
for instance, could be a soft grey blue,
rose, ivory or soft golden yellow.
are built on any two hues directly
opposite each other on the color wheel
-as green and red, yellow and violet,
or yellow-orange and blue-violet.
These are strong but balanced con-
trasts and it is felt by some that they
are the most satisfying color har-
monies and the best to live with be-
cause they combine both stimulatic
These traditional color schemes ai
good to know and to use. Although
they by no means exhaust the poss
abilities of combining colors, unde
standing them should give you greater
confidence and success in workir
PLANNING THE COLOR
A family needs to decide together
on the main color plan for the home.
Then the rooms can fit into the plan
in good color harmony to make for
happy family living.
Every good color scheme must have
a starting point. The inspiration for
your color scheme may come from a
fine picture, fabric, floor or wall co'
ering, or an accessory or from natur
When you have selected the "insp
ration" that combines the colors yc
want, then use these colors in plai
and patterned areas throughout tl
room. These same colors, with vari;
tions, should be used throughout tf
DAPTING THE COLORS
) THE ROOM
Suppose you have selected a drapery
bric for your inspiration. From its
lors you plan your color scheme for
room, considering the large areas
[st. To assure success, use the colors
in the room in the same proportion
that they are used in the fabric design.
The effect that colors give in any
room depends to a great extent upon
the proportions that are used.
ICKGROUND WALLS, CEILING, FLOOR
The walls, floor and ceiling are the
.ckground for your furnishings.
nce they make up the largest area
the rooms, decoration results are
ually more pleasing when these
lors are kept soft or grayed.
Using your fabric design, pick out
e of the light grayed tones for the
lls. For the ceiling, use white or
lite tinted with a little of the wall
lor. Use the same color as in the
le walls for woodwork in small
oms. In larger rooms the woodwork
n be lighter or darker for greater
terest, if you prefer. Use the same
lor as that of the woodwork for
inting a red brick fireplace which
ems to clash with the color scheme.
irk-stained woodwork absorbs much
of the light. In general, woodwork
should recede quietly into the back-
ground. If it has a shiny yellow var-
nish, it will add confusion to the room
rather than stay in the background as
The color of a wood floor or of
smooth surface floor covering should
blend with the background or another
tone in the patterned fabric.
For a rug or carpet, select a deeper
tone from the fabric. This may be a
deeper tone of the wall color or a con-
trasting color. There are advantages
to emphasizing one color. If the room
is small, it will look more spacious
when walls, woodwork, curtains, floor
and largest pieces of furniture are all
of one color family.
In most living rooms the sofa and
upholstered chairs represent the next
largest area of color in the room.
From your drapery fabric you may
choose some of the stronger, deeper,
brighter colors for these pieces. Many
decorators, however, prefer to use
tones near the background colors for
the sofa or other large pieces. A stripe
repeating several colors or tones
found in the fabric might be used on
a pull-up chair. The patterned draped
fabric could be used on another chai
A good general rule is to use no mo:
than three colors and variations
these, no matter how many pieces
furniture you have. The fewer tl
colors the more variations of each mE
be used. Let one color dominate, uw
a second in lesser amount and wit
fewer variations, and the third,
used, in only a small amount.
The bright color tones from your
color inspiration should be repeated in
small areas such as small pieces of
furniture and accessories. These
sharper, more vivid touches of color
give life and sparkle to a room. Ac-
cessories that accent the color schenr
include lamp bases, cushions, picture
wall hangings, plants, flowers, po
tery, desk sets, clocks, wastebasket
books and ash trays.
For pleasing results, colors used in
a room must give a feeling of balance.
Remember these guides for balancing
your room color scheme:
1. The apparent weight of a color
is largely determined by its value.
The lighter the color the less weight
it appears to have. The darker the
color the heavier it appears. But hue,
if bright in intensity, also enters into
the picture-red and yellow are
heaviest, green next and blue and
violet are lightest.
2. A small amount of warm coli
may be used to balance a greater
amount of cool color-a little dark
good with a large amount of ligl
3. Keep large areas such as wa]
and floors quiet in effect. The largi
the area the duller and more quiet tl
color must become.
4. Use small areas for sharp col
trast in value and intensity.
VISE USE OF PATTERN
Be careful not to use too many pat-
rns in the same room. Large pat-
rns in a small room make the room
gem smaller. Two patterns of equal
strength "fight" for attention. Sev-
eral patterns in the same room make
the room seem "busy." If you want
to use a figured material in a small
room, select a fabric with a small de-
sign on a large amount of open back-
ground or one with a small all-over
design as is found in some of the pro-
vincial prints. The background color
should be the same as the predomi-
nating color in the room.
'XTURE MAKES A
Modern schemes more often empha-
;e the use of a variety of textures
d solid colors, rather than so much
ttern as was used in former years.
ie way fabrics are woven, the grain
woods used, the texture of brick or
)ne, combined with solid colors,
sate interest and a kind of design
Texture and finish affect color. The
same color will look quite different in
rough or smooth weaves, dull or shiny
finishes. Smooth, tightly woven fab-
rics and shiny finishes reflect light
and so look bright. Shaggy and nubby
fabrics cast shadows and cause the
material to look dull.
AYS TO MAKE COLOR WORK FOR YOU
ROOM TOO LARGE-A large room
)ks smaller and cozier when the wall-
per has a large or medium-sized all-
er pattern, in warm colors such as
ROOM TOO SMALL-A small room
)ks more spacious when walls are
ain and in light colors or cool ones,
ch as soft greens and blues.
Spaciousness is also added when
ills and woodwork are of the same
lor. If wallpaper is to be patterned,
,u might choose various tones of one
'ayed color, or a pattern in soft colors
at leave large open spaces in the
Dark colors, all-over patterns, even
peach, soft tan, or rust. Woodwork
and draperies that are in contrast to
the wall color also makes the room
though small, or those having strong
contrasts of color, seem to draw the
When a figured wallpaper is used,
it is best to have the color of the back-
ground and of the woodwork match.
A plain rug, or one with a soft-
colored all-over pattern that covers
most of the floor tends to enlarge the
room. When draperies match the wall
color, or are a little lighter tone, they
produce the same effect.
A SQUARE ROOM-A small,
square room may have a plain soft
color on three walls and a different
color or small figured wallpaper on
ROOM TOO LONG AND NARROW
-A room is not usually in good pro-
portion when it is long and narrow.
To make it look wider and shorter,
make the short walls a contrast to the
1. On the long walls, use a cool
light color, such as green or blue, to
WALLS WITH MANY DOORS
AND WINDOWS-A room that has
many doors and windows usually has
small wall spaces. Patterned wall-
paper in such small areas is likely to
look spotty. The room will be more
restful if plain wallpaper or paint is
ROOM ON THE NORTH-Rooms
with a north exposure are not touched
by the sun and are considered cool
rooms. To give such rooms the ap-
the fourth wall. It is best to mat
the color of the plain walls to the bac
ground of the figured paper.
make the walls seem to be farth
2. On the short walls, use a dark
tone of the same color or a contrastil
warm color such as beige or pumpki
or wallpaper in warm colors may
used and the woodwork and walls f
of the same color.
Doors and windows that are pool
located, a fireplace that is ugly
overpowering and other irregularit
will fade into the background
painted to match the walls.
pearance of warmth use warm cole
such as yellow, peach, beige, pir
coral, or other colors influenced
yellow or red.
ROOM ON THE SOUTH-The
south light is the most brilliant of all.
As a result, south rooms need to be
cooled off and colors which conta
green and blue are most pleasing f
FOR EAST AND WEST ROOMS-
ixtures of cool and warm colors may
Sused-those which are closer kin to
TOO FEW WINDOWS-In a room
th one window or limited light, use
lors that are stronger, purer, and
ROOM TOO LIGHT-In a room
it is very light, use grayed colors
iich will absorb some of the light.
member that color plays an im-
rtant part in comfort. While stark
CEILINGS-In rooms of average
eight the ceiling is usually made
htest in color so that it will reflect
*ht. White, tinted with a little of the
CEILING TOO HIGH-A high ceil-
appears lower when:
1. Its color matches the color of
2. It is a little darker than the
3. A warm color is used, such as
one of yellow or one having yellow
xed in it.
1. For very high ceilings, a dark
or, or one darker than the walls,
CEILING TOO LOW-A low ceiling
pears higher when:
1. It is lighter than the wall color.
2. It is white, tinted a little with
3. The wallpaper has vertical
reds and yellows for the east and those
kin to blues and greens for the west.
light reflecting such as lemon yellow,
primrose yellow, citron or coral.
white is the best means of getting
maximum reflected light, it's not good
to use in kitchens or other work areas
because the unrelieved glare causes
extreme eye fatigue.
wall color, ties the ceiling to the color
scheme. White alone may make too
strong a contrast. Ceilings may be
made to appear higher or lower.
or a warm color may be used on
the ceiling and brought down on the
walls for about a foot or farther. You
may place a picture molding or a nar-
row wallpaper border over the line
where the wall and ceiling colors join.
With high ceilings it is wise to avoid
wallpaper and draperies that have
vertical stripes or floral patterns with
a strong upward movement.
stripes, or a vertical floral design
reaching from the baseboard to the
ceiling, and is without border.
4. Figured walls have plain
PAINT AND PAPER SELECTION
In selecting paint and wallpaper
colors from samples, remember a color
generally looks stronger and more in-
tense when it is applied to the wall
than it does in the sample. Choose a
color that is lighter and more grayed
than you think you want and it will
be right when it is applied.
Paint can be changed to a more
sirable tone before it is applied
adding white to make it lighter,
adding its complementary color
UNIFY COLORS FROM
ROOM TO ROOM
If you use the same basic colors
throughout the house you can have
variety and unity at the same time.
The actual brightness or dullness will
depend on the rooms where the colors
are to be used.
In rooms that are usually visible,
the one from the other, such as dining
room, living room, and entrance hall,
special consideration should be given
to keeping the color schemes closely
An abrupt change in color or shade
between rooms destroys unity because
it breaks off the color from one room
to the other.