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Dark or Light: Which Color Scheme Works Best?

One of the biggest remodeling changes you can do is painting, going in one of two directions: light, or dark. But how do you know which one is right for your home?


Rules

  • 60/30/10: The standard rule of thumb to use is 60% of a room is a dominant color, 30% is a secondary color, and 10% is an accent color.
  • Color wheel: There are three primary colors—red, blue and yellow—which can be combined in any number of ways to get the rest of the colors on the wheel. Adjacent colors are analogous, while opposite colors are complementary.
  • Temperature: Colors with red or yellow mixed with them are “warm”, while blue mixtures are “cool.” Two colors with the same name can be different temperatures, like purple: a blue-tinged purple is cool, while a red-tinged purple is warm.
  • Intensity: How much gray is presented refers to how saturated the color is. Less saturated colors are more subdued, while more saturated colors are bright and vivid. And each color has a lightness or darkness value attached to it.
  • Shades/Tones: If white is added to a color, it alters the shade of it. But if black is added, then its tones are different.


  • Room Size

    Generally, the size of a room has long dictated the color scheme in it. Homeowners tend to prefer light colors in small rooms to maximize the illusion of space, and choose dark colors for larger rooms. But this is by no means a hard and fast practice and daring homeowners stray from it all the time.


    Illusions

    There are many ways homeowners use illusions to tweak colors so they can have exactly the palette they want.

  • Lines: If you use one color and paint a rectangle above a thin line on a white background, the line will appear darker even though it’s the same color. This is because there’s a lot more and brighter space surrounding it.
  • Inset Shades: Try pairing two shades of the same color together and watch how each intensifies the effect of the other. Light blue will appear pale against a dark blue background, with the dark blue becoming even more subdued in contrast.
  • Color Spaces: Another neat trick is to manipulate colors based on how much space they occupy. A patch of color will seem brighter if surrounded by a large dark space, and darker if surrounded by a larger lighter space.
  • Outlining: Finally, the last trick to remember is outlining a swatch of color will either keep it enclosed or make it seem like it’s spreading out. Darker borders achieve the former effect, while lighter colors do the latter.


  • Final Thoughts

    Whether you want to go bold and dark or subtle and light, there’s always a way to achieve exactly what’s in your mind. Light colors are no longer strictly for small rooms to make them look bigger, and dark colors won’t always weigh down a space. It’s just in how you manipulate them. 

    Amy Wright
    Christina
    Amy Wright is the Lead Editor of Remodeling Central. When she isn't playing with her dogs she is trying to remodel a classic Chicago style brownstone with her husband.

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