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How to Choose a Color Palette: A Complete Guide to Decorating with Color

Color is one of the foundational principles of interior design. In fact, it’s one of the five interior design basics! That’s because color really helps set the tone for a space and influences its design style—whether you’re going for a neutral or bold colored room, something subtle or more vibrant.

The use of color is one of the easiest ways to change how a space looks and feels. And we’re not just talking paint colors—though that’s a major way to help set a color palette in a room. But textiles, art, decor, and upholstery are all pieces you can use to help establish and support the color palette in a room.

But how do you choose a color palette and how do you know what colors go well together? To help you navigate the world of color, we’ve put together this post full of tips and guidelines for choosing a color palette for your room!

leather platform bed over grey and white dotted rug

How to Choose Colors for Your Room

We’re all drawn to certain colors, and different colors may create different feelings within you. So, when thinking through how to decorate a room and what colors to include, there are a couple questions you can ask yourself:

  • How will I be using my space?
  • What colors am I drawn to most?
  • Are there any colors that evoke a sense of calmness in me?
  • What colors make me happy?
  • Are there colors that help me concentrate?
  • Can I align a color palette with my mental and emotional needs for that space?

The mental and emotional associations you have with certain colors can be really impactful when you put the right colors in the right spaces. When you’re designing a room like an office, you might lean toward choosing colors that promote focus. In a bedroom, you probably want to create feelings of calm. In a living room, where you spend more time, you might want colors that make you feel happy and make you want to spend a lot of time in a space. So, think through your mental and emotional needs and allow the needs for each room to guide your color choices.

And the colors you gravitate toward for each need won’t be the same for everyone else! Blue doesn’t make everyone feel calm and red doesn’t make everyone angry. The way you respond to color is personal, and that means you can make personal choices for the colors you choose to use in your home. (Check out episode 5 of our podcast, The Render, for more on color theory and environmental psychology.)

Pink and yellow living room with modern furniture

Color Intensity: Soft Colors vs. Saturated Colors

When you’re thinking about colors, you also want to think about the level of intensity of the colors. Think about if you prefer softer colors, like pastels, or highly saturated colors, like jewel tones. Or maybe you prefer something in the middle, that’s more in the primary color or earth toned realm.

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dark green walls in dining room with sleek natural wood dining table

When you play with the level of color intensity that you’re adding into the space, it changes the emotional response or feeling you have within that space. Pastels are softer colors that are often seen as more youthful. This is a more subtle take on color and can be seen as more calming, like in the living room above. Meanwhile, more saturated colors (like the dining room above), like jewel tones, are bold, dramatic, and make more of a statement within your space. But, with any level of color intensity—from soft to highly saturated—you can opt for pops of color or really bold washes of color within the space.

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purple tones in living room accent wall

3 Different Ways to Think About Color

When choosing colors for your space, there are three core ways that you can think about color. This involves the amount and intensity of color in a space, and falls on a spectrum from neutral to a bold use of color.

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Neutrals

Some people prefer a more neutral color palette. Neutral colors are hues that appear to be without color—like white, taupe, beige, black, and grey. They do actually have color in them, but they’re more subdued. They’re colors that can be layered in with more bold and saturated colors. But they can also live on their own really well. You can create a really beautiful space using only neutral colors. And this doesn’t result in a dull or boring space! (See our post about decorating with white as proof!) In fact, a neutral color palette, with neutral paint colors, can be really calming and serene. If you love neutrals but want a space with a little more “umph,” layer in some contrasting or darker neutrals.

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pastel color bedroom decor with rainbow tapestry

Pops of Color

If you’re someone who’s drawn to a little color but don’t want to go all out, you’re the perfect candidate for using pops of color! Pops of color tend to leverage color in art and decorative accents like rugs and pillows. You might have a neutral base in your main furniture and walls, but you can incorporate colors in smaller pieces that are easy to switch out.

This is perfect for people who like to dabble in trends or are fickle about color schemes, since you can easily change your pops of color season to season or as new trends emerge. But you can also take a bolder approach to pops of color by incorporating color in a larger piece of furniture, like a sofa or bed, or by painting an accent wall. However, this is more of a commitment since it involves pieces you can’t easily switch out.

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Color palette

Bold Colors

The ultimate way to use color is by taking a really bold approach. Bold colored rooms use highly saturated hues, and there is often a mix of multiple bright shades. The result? A space with a lot of drama. And even spaces with a bold use of color can be turned up or down. You can still opt for a neutral colored sofa and incorporate bold colors around it, on your walls and through your rugs, pillows, artwork and decor. Or, you can go all out with color, where just about every surface and piece of furniture and decor has a bold use of color.

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green color scheme living room with large white sectional sofa and leather accent chair

Creating a Color Palette

Once you land on where you want to be on the spectrum of neutral to bold, you’ll want to create an overall color palette for your space. Because you never use just one tone of one color in a space! But that begs the question: How do you actually create a color palette? Here are a few of our favorite ways to create a color palette.

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rust color theme bedroom

Monochromatic

Monochromatic color palettes focus on different shades of the same hue. It’s almost like looking at a paint swatch, from dark to light. When using a monochromatic color scheme, there’s only one dominant color, but since there are different shades there’s a sense of depth and nuance to the space. And there are certainly different levels of intensity you can go with a monochromatic palette, depending on the base color you choose.

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shibori print art over nightstands

Complementary Colors

If you prefer to use multiple colors in a space, you can go for a complementary color palette. Complementary colors sit opposite to each other on the color wheel, so they create a strong contrast within your room’s color scheme. The most basic complementary color palettes are orange and blue, red and green, and purple and yellow. But as you dig deeper into the different shades of each color, you can create a lot of nuance within these complementary hues

Complementary colors are contrasting, so they create a little bit of drama in a space, but in a way that’s more subtle than the drama of a monochromatic space.

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Color palette

Color Families: Jewel Tones, Earth Tones, and Pastels

Another route to go is choosing a family of colors—like a jewel tone color palette or one comprised of earth tones or pastels. Going with a color family is a foolproof way to create a color palette. Because of the uniform saturation and tonality of these different families of color, you can feel confident that they’ll bring a cohesive look to your space.

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open shelving console table and rust colored walls

Warm Tones vs. Cool Tones

You can also group colors based on if they have warm or cool undertones, and create a color palette with colors in just one camp. When you look at a color wheel, warm colors are the reds, oranges, and yellows. Cool colors are the blues, greens, and purples. So, whereas a complementary color palette takes two colors from opposite sides of the color wheel, a color palette based on warm or cool tones uses colors that are next to each other on the color wheel—AKA secondary colors.

See how color can completely transform a space in our Organic Modernism Home Tour.

black and white neutral open living and dining space

Color Palettes in Adjoining Rooms

One other thing to consider is what it looks like to choose color palettes across multiple spaces or adjoining rooms. When you have an open-concept space or a room that’s in view of other spaces in your home, you do want to create a sense of continuity; the two spaces should feel like they go together.

You could certainly pull the same color palette through the adjoining spaces for a simple solve. But another easy way to do this is to have one similar color element going through both spaces without it being identical. WIth a complementary color scheme, this would look like choosing one of those two colors and pulling it through both spaces, but choosing a slightly different complementary color in the other space. In a room with lots of bold colors, you can pick up a couple of the same colors in the adjoining space but then introduce new colors as well. Of course, this is easiest with a neutral color scheme where you have only subtle pops of color or contrast. You can keep the overall color palette the same in both spaces, but increase or lower the contrast and drama in each space.

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Now that you have the basics of how to choose a color palette for your room, you might be ready to get some inspiration for your own space! Well, we’ve got you covered there too. Check out some of our favorite interior design ideas in the realm of color—like the most popular living room color schemes, the best color palettes for green, some of our favorite color schemes for fall, and foolproof color schemes for blue rooms.

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The Adorned Space: 4 Lessons We Can Learn from British Decorating

We have a 2021 home design trend prediction that will make maximalists and those with grandmillennial style rejoice! We’ve started seeing a lot of British design influences in interior design. This is a look that’s all about adornment, charm, and creating moments of joy within your home. And that’s definitely something we’re craving in our homes right now!

This specific take on British interior design has its roots in traditionalism but definitely gives it a modern spin. In classic British style, there’s a wide use of patterns on patterns, loads of various saturated hues and bold colored rooms, and that very Victorian brand of maximalism. (Embrace the knick-knacks!) While all of these elements mixed together in one space might cause more than a bit of anxiety for the minimalists out there, the idea behind this maximalist mix of colors, patterns, styles, and objects is all about surrounding yourself with things that you love and that make you happy. There’s a certain joyousness in this take on British decor. But it’s probably also fair to say that not many people can pull off this kind of ultra maximalism in their home.

So, we spent some time paring back on the eccentric side of this design and explored what a more approachable take on this interior design trend might look like. The result is refined, warm, and still packed with some eclectic personality. If you want to get to know this 2021 home design trend prediction a bit better, keep reading. We’re dishing a few of our favorite lessons that we can learn from British design.

2021 home design trend predictions

Go For a Saturated Color Palette

Traditional-meets-modern British design has a big focus on bold, dark, and saturated color palettes. The result is a somewhat dramatic and even austere look. In this room, we layered several saturated colors throughout the room, but you could also focus on color in just one aspect. Singularly focusing on a bold wall color can help other design elements come to life in your space.

Textiles are another great way to bring in saturated hues—whether that’s pillows, drapery, throws and bed linens, or even rugs. In most of the rooms in this post, you’ll see richly colored rugs—some with patterns, some without—and they really bring a lot of life to the space they’re in. Ultimately, a saturated color palette will bring a sense of richness and warmth to your space.

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2021 home design trend predictions

Utilize Drapery and Textiles

One big thing we could learn from British design? Maxing out textiles and using more drapery. Drapery adds another layer of texture to your space, creating visual depth and becoming a decorative feature in the room. This applies to window coverings, of course. But you could also hang a decorative drapery, as we did here, for a bold art-like installation.

Printed textiles in classic motifs or with special detailing adds a considered touch to a room. Don’t be afraid to layer different patterns and rich textures together—from your sheets and duvet cover to pillows and throws. This mix not only hints at that British maximalism, but it also adds a sense of coziness to your space!

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2021 home design trend predictions

Give Traditional Elements a Modern Twist

We love the way that British designers today are taking traditional and classic design styles and giving them modern and eclectic twists. Take this room for example: the tufted sofa is very classic in design, but the mustard velvet upholstery gives it a more modern look. And, while the side tables are fairly traditional and even a bit rustic, the coffee table balances out the look with its modern glam style.

Wall art is another way to take traditional ideas and give them a modern twist. The painting pictured here is bright and playful, but it has a classic-inspired origin with its equestrian theme. You could bring the same idea to life through a pastoral landscape or portrait painting, choosing one that has modern elements or an avant-garde style. Lean in a little further and assemble a collected, eclectic gallery wall!

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2021 home design trend predictions

Use Material As Ornament

We love British design’s use of material as ornament—like in this cane chair, where the texture of the cane adds visual depth and nuance to the space. Since British design tends to gravitate more toward the traditional, you’ll also see a bit more ornamentation on furniture pieces, whether that’s carvings on the front of a cabinet or subtle detailing like you can see in this desk, stool, and the legs of the cane chair. This principle can also be applied to decor. The lamp on this desk has a very sculptural quality—showing that a practical piece can also be quite ornamental.

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Color Guide: Designer Tips for Decorating With Jewel Tones

If you’re one of those people who prefers big washes of color to an all-neutral room with neutral paint colors, you might want to check out jewel tones. Jewel-toned colors are deeply saturated hues that tend to be named after gemstones. Think: emerald green, sapphire blue, ruby red, amethyst purple, citrine yellow. Gold—as a color and a finish—can also fall into this color family and complements jewel tones beautifully. In interior design, these colors add richness to your space.

What Decor Style Goes Best With Jewel Tones?

Many people may associate jewel tones with a specific design style—say, glam or transitional. But they’re actually much more free-flowing and multifaceted than that. You can take them in a lot of different directions and use them with many different design styles, as well as with other color families.

How Do I Decorate With Jewel Tones?

When decorating with jewel tones, it’s important to decide on a base color to help ground the space, then work around that color with accents of jewel tones. Consider finishes, fabrics, and tones within the space to help guide your use of jewel tone colors. For example, if you’re going for a warmer palette, try incorporating more yellows, golds, and reds, along with gold or brass finishes. For a cooler palette, opt for emerald greens or sapphire blues, with silver finishes.

Tips For Designing With Jewel Tone Decor

There are so many different ways you can decorate with jewel tones in your home—though fall and winter are actually a great time to try them out, as their saturated tones really suit the colder seasons. (But don’t worry, they work in your home year-round!) Keep reading for some stunning jewel tone color scheme design ideas, along with our best tips on the many ways you can decorate with jewel tones.

Jewel tone decor1. Go High-Contrast

If you love bold colored rooms, go high-contrast with a mix of jewel tones. Mustard and amethyst make for a perfect color combination that also creates a lot of contrast in the space (as evidenced by this wall and sofa combo). The addition of the rug adds playful vibrance to what might otherwise be a very stately space.

This is not a subtle look; rather, this room is a great example of a whole room being saturated in jewel tones—from the wall to the sofa and rug. It’s definitely a more maximalist approach to the application of jewel tones in color.

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Jewel tone decor2. Make A Statement

You don’t have to paint your whole room in order to incorporate jewel tones. In fact, even a single pop of a jewel tone in an otherwise neutral space can make a major style statement. Jewel toned decor or accent furniture—like pillows, ottomans, wall art, and tabletop decor—are a great way to bring in those colors. This room displays that more subtle take on jewel tones, with just one big pop that is echoed in other small moments throughout the space. This subtle decor supplements the main piece of the room, the ottoman. (Check out our guide to decorating with white for more ways to bring this type of look to life.)

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Jewel tone decor3. Tone It Down

Another way to bring jewel tone interiors to life? Go more subtle in jewel tones with toned down shades like pale reds and greens. However, it’s important to still use a bold jewel tone on the wall or through a sofa or rug to help ground the look. Without this high-contrast, darker element, the toned down jewel tones can easily take on a pastel look, which would really change the vibe. But against a rich, intense jewel tone—like with the wall above—the colors read more like jewel tones. Textures also help the toned down shades read more jewel tones. The velvet materials give off a more luxe vibe, which aligns with jewel tones. On the other hand, if the furniture were in a cotton weave or linen, the colors would read a bit differently.

Overall, this is a great approach for someone who’s on the fence about jewel tones, or even someone who likes pastels or lighter, earthier colors, but wants to glam it up a bit with some high contrast and golds.

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Jewel tone decor4. Embrace Repetition

Drive home your bold color scheme through repetition of jewel tones. In this room, we used a deep ruby red paint color, and repeated that in accents throughout the space—both in the rug and the wall baskets. This creates a compositional repetition of colors. This is a great way to approach a more eclectic take on jewel tones (proof that this color scheme doesn’t always have to be paired with glam or transitional styles). Here, the deep red tones rule the look and pairs beautifully with rustic wood tones and natural materials. When applying jewel tones to an eclectic style, grounding it in the natural materials of the space helps balance out the look.

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Jewel tone decor5. Make Sure Metals Are in the Same Color Family

Metallic finishes are a perfect pairing to a more glam take on jewel tones. However, when using metallic finishes, make sure your metals are all in the same family, or at least complementary. In this room, you’ll notice gold finishes throughout, and they all have the same color tone and finish to them. (They’re matte gold, rather than ultra shiny. You can go either way, but you just want those finishes to be uniform throughout a space.) However, you’ll also notice a pair of black iron side tables in the corner—proof that you certainly can mix metals. You just want to make sure there is a dominant metal in the space, like gold is here.

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Jewel tone decor6. Mix Up Your Textures

When decorating with jewel tones, you can have a lot of fun mixing textures within your space. Consider throw pillows: you could choose a chunky knit pillow, next to a velvet pillow of the same color—but the different materials and textures add a ton of depth to the look. Another texture to mix into the look? Leather. It makes a perfect backdrop for these vibrant, saturated hues while also adding organic warmth, which is where jewel tones thrive.

This room portrays another eclectic approach to jewel tones. This room is earthy and natural—in fact, earth tones have the main stage in this look, while jewel tones are more supportive. Just remember: when mixing textures and colors, just make sure the colors you’re using are either the same shade or color family, so they’re complementary rather than competing for attention.

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Color Coordinated: The Best Color Schemes for Home Offices

We’ve all had those days in the past couple of months—feeling endlessly distracted and having an impossible time concentrating. The deadlines don’t stop, but it feels like our focus has all but disappeared! Don’t worry, you’re not crazy. We all have those struggle days!

Did you know that color can actually play a huge role in productivity? So, when thinking of home office design ideas, it’s important to not just consider the furniture but also your office paint colors!

There are so many routes you can go with home office color schemes that will help inspire productivity. So, we’ve rounded up our 11 best home office color schemes that will get you inspired, motivated, and ready to tackle any deadline that comes your way. Keep reading to discover the best home office colors for productivity! (As a bonus, they may also give you some fun home office layout ideas!)

Green and Gold

Green is the easiest color on the eye—so it’s good for those who work long hours! It’s a color of balance, harmony, nature, and restoration. And who doesn’t need a little more of all that in their work life?? This soothing color is great for adding a natural, organic feel to your home office. And pairing it with gold, like in the office pictured above, adds fun, glam contrast to an otherwise organic office space.

How to incorporate green into your home office:

In terms of office paint colors, a soft green is one of the best office colors. So, paint the walls a soothing shade of green, and then don’t be afraid to add a monochromatic element by going for a green office chair or other piece of furniture. Add artwork, decor, or office accessories with pops of green. Perhaps opt for an area rug that features green in the color scheme. And, of course, add in some natural greenery with plants! Remember, green pairs well with natural wood tones and other earth tones, so for desks or shelving, opt for wood pieces.

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Breezy Blue

Blue is the color of intelligence, trust, logic, communication, and efficiency. So, it’s a really great color for an office space where constant focus is needed! The light blue shade pictured above is inspired by water and is super soothing—perfect for a home office. But there are so many shades of blue you can incorporate into your space! We’d just recommend avoiding cobalt or super saturated blues which can be straining to the eye, especially when looking at a screen.

How to incorporate blue into your home office:

Breezy blues pair really well with neutrals and whites, as well as wood tones—making it another one of the best office colors out there. Consider painting all the walls a pale blue to set the tone. It’s not an overpowering color, so good for an all-over wall color versus an accent wall. Then, add blue artwork, a rug with varied shades of blue, along with blue and white decor on your bookcase.

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Dark & Moody

Greys and black are serious, creating a sense of both studiousness and drama. While a color scheme of greys and blacks is rather dark and moody, it’s actually a great palette for offices where serious work takes place and you’re handling important matters!

How to incorporate dark and moody colors into your home office:

Grey and black offices can look very sleek and masculine—so they’re great for those with minimalist and modern styles, who appreciate a dose of drama. To begin with, make sure you vary the shades of grey used to create a sense of nuanced depth in the space. Grey and black need balance, otherwise you’ll create a home office that feels depressing and dull. So, add pops of white, metallic finishes, and wood for contrast. And make sure you allow plenty of natural light in your office space, along with a few plants to add a lively pop of greenery.

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Preppy Peach

Hues of pink—like a preppy peach, soft blush, or rose petal—encourage feelings of positivity and whimsy. They give off youthful and energetic vibes. This color family can evoke happiness in a space—making it great for the home office of those who do creative work.

How to incorporate peach into your home office:

A pink color palette is great for glam, mid-century, and eclectic spaces. The key to pink is using different hues of pink throughout the space to create more depth—like a mix of peach or coral with blush or millennial pink. Accent shades of pink with neutrals (especially bright whites), along with furniture that has a lighter, airier feeling. So, no dense, heavy furniture here! Pink is feminine in nature, so add florals and softer decorative elements to compliment a pink home office.

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High Contrast Black & White

Black is a color of power and formality. White embodies simplicity and light. Together? They create a look of sophistication, style, and drama. A black and white color scheme is great for a simple office with a clean aesthetic.

How to incorporate a black and white color scheme into your home office:

A black and white palette can really be used in any style of home office, and there are many ways to bring this color scheme to life. Above, we paired white furniture against a black wall—but you could also do black furniture against a white wall. Either way, it’s a wonderfully high-contrast look. (However, if you go for a black wall, consider simply doing it as an accent wall rather than painting the whole room black!) And make sure you include black and white patterns and decorative objects in the decor as well. Then, add pops of greenery to break up the monotony of a black and white palette and to add a bit of warmth to the space.

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Warm Neutrals

Warm neutrals have a naturally calming effect. And opting for neutrals with a light yellow undertone helps promote feelings of joy, warmth, and energy. We’d say those are pretty good qualities to encourage in a work environment, don’t you think? This color palette is great for quiet work where serene solitude is key.

How to incorporate warm neutrals into your home office:

A warm neutral color scheme is ideal for a minimal home office, where you want to add a touch of warmth to minimalist style. We recommend using neutral and warm materials—like birch wood, teak, honey-colored woods, and warm metals like brass and brushed bronze. Avoid harsh contrast and make sure to take advantage of natural light in your office space. With a minimalist space, it’s important to layer in textures for visual interest—like the soft, textural rug pictured above.

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Cozy Brown

Brown is a color of simplicity, trustworthiness, warmth, and earthiness. It’s a great color palette for creating a cozy space to work. It makes your home office feel grounded and secure, so you can simply focus on getting work done.

How to incorporate cozy browns into your home office:

Cozy browns are good for rustic and traditional spaces. When going for this color scheme, incorporate lots of warm woods, leather, and earthy decor. The key is to vary the brown tones—incorporating taupes, whites, dark browns, and camel browns to avoid flatness. Adding plants to a home office like this will add that complimentary pop of natural color that goes perfectly with browns. And artwork with blues and greens also help liven up the space. In addition, warm metals—like the brass lamp pictured above—complement a color palette of cozy browns.

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Earthy Green

Earthy green is a color of hope, growth, freshness, and prosperity. Sound like characteristics you’d like to incorporate into your outlook on work?? This is a great color scheme for a home office where you want to create a sense of calm but also have serious work to get done. It’s easy on the eye, and—bonus—it also creates a great backdrop for meditation and conversation.

How to incorporate earthy greens into your home office:

Earthy green is a good color for home offices with rustic, transitional, or traditional styles. This shade of green looks good with natural, rustic wood finishes and neturals. Go for an earthy green wall—then keep the rest of your space simple. Or, if you like more color, pair it with complementary colors like yellow and different shades of green.

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Sea Foam

What do you get when you mix light blue and green? Sea foam—a charming, lighthearted color. This ocean-inspired color is easy on the eye and adds a peaceful and cheery vibe to your home office. It evokes feelings of being at the beach or on the coast, which might just put you in a headspace to focus so you can chill out and relax after work! Looking for small home office design ideas? Seafoam is a perfect subtle accent color for marking off a small space for a home office within a larger room!

How to incorporate seafoam into your home office:

Seafoam is a great color for coastal and transitional spaces, since it innately has that beachy vibe. Paint an accent wall seafoam, then pair it with neutrals and other shades of blues and greens. Natural materials, like rattan, go really well with this color as well. Keep the overall palette muted and low-contrast though—otherwise the seafoam color might start to fade out and lose its impact!

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Jewel Tones

Jewel tones are richly saturated hues. Think: sapphire blue, ruby red, amethyst purple, citrine yellow, and emerald green. They’re colors that evoke energy, power, and fun. A mix of jewel tones are great for bold personalities who exude a lot of energy when working. Too many of these colors can be a lot on the eye though, making it hard to focus—so don’t overdo it for a home office!

How to incorporate jewel tones into your home office:

This color scheme works great with glam, transitional, and eclectic styles. Rather than painting your walls a bold color, add pops of jewel tones in the decor, curtains, rug, and furniture instead. Balance out the jewel tones with neutrals and greys, along with woods and metals, for a cohesive look.

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Dark Blue

Dark blue is a peaceful and imaginative color that can help reduce stress. It can also be seen as secure and serious, making it a great color for focus and serious work. But, at the same time, it has a calming effect that balances out the serious side.

How to incorporate dark blue into your home office:

We love the idea of a dark blue wall in a home office; in our opinion it’s another one of the best office colors out there, and goes with just about any style. Just make sure you balance it out with neutrals—like white, black, and grey—and don’t overload your space with other colors. But you could add variations of other shades of blue in the art and decor, along with pops of white and greenery. Dark blue is a muted but dark color, so make sure you add lots of light to your home office to balance it out—both ambient and natural.

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