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How to Choose a Color Story For Your Space

Whether you’re looking to create a room decked out in neutrals or a bold, colorful space, it’s vital to spend time creating the perfect color story for your design before committing to any furnishing or décor. 

Simply put, a color story is a palette of colors you plan out to make a certain style statement throughout your space. While some designers like to use artwork or inspiration images to dictate a room’s colors, I begin every design project with a multicolored fabric. I call this the “bridge fabric” because I use its colors as the bridge across every item I select for the space and, ultimately, across every space in the home. 

For the project pictured here, I used a Chiang Mai Dragon fabric from Schumacher in China Blue as the bridge fabric. I make sure to look for bridge fabrics that include at least one neutral, and because I always treat navy blue as a neutral, this fabric provided the room with a good base in creams and navies. I then pulled in the cobalt as a lively accent color, giving the whole space a vibrant, but still classic, look and feel. 

Once you pick your bridge fabric, you can pull the color story for your room from it. That doesn’t necessarily mean that everything you select for the space needs to perfectly match a color in your bridge fabric. It does, however, mean that every color you bring into the space needs to “play well” with the bridge fabric’s colors. That said, I do frequently select a room’s paint color directly from one of the bridge fabric’s neutrals.

With your color story in place, you can begin selecting all the items that will go into the room. Save choosing a paint color until you’ve found your main furnishings because it’s far easier to find a paint color that goes with a sofa than the other way around. Another trick I love for working within the color story is to use decorative carpets instead of area rugs. Frankly, finding a one-of-a-kind antique rug in exactly the right colors and size can be a long shot at best, but decorative carpets come in a wide variety of colors and patterns and can easily be cut and bound in the perfect size for any space.

From there, you’ll want to expand the color story for the whole house. That involves varying the intensity and ratio of the colors. For example, using the bridge fabric from this space, you might then create a room that’s primarily navy with accents in cream and the fabric’s paler blues.

Another room could be done in whites, grays, and creams with notes of the fabric’s teal blue, and still another room, in a lighter teal (as if you added white to the fabric’s teal until it was just a light wash of blue-green) with navy and white accents. 

As a final step, create even more continuity between your rooms by layering in finishing touches, such as books and fresh flowers in hues from the color story, throughout the entire house. 

Happy designing! 

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