How Much Color Is Too Much Color?

Here in the Bay Area of California, we see tons of homeowners and apartment dwellers alike who want to create that eclectic, bohemian feel in their living spaces. They dream of including lots of patterns, mixing earth tones with bright colors, and incorporating knick knacks from a wide variety of cultures and events they’ve attended. But at some point you have to wonder… How much color is too much color? When does the variety start giving you a headache?


A Basic Rule of Thumb

When it comes to choosing a color palette for the room you’re decorating, we have one simple guideline: Set a primary color, a secondary color, and a “pop” color, and use them to your advantage!

We’re not saying you have to only use three pigments in your entire room, because we know that can get real old, real fast. But it’s also not a great idea to make your room look like a rainbow floated down from the sky exploded. When you choose a primary, secondary, and pop color, your design stays grounded.


Your Primary Color

This is the hue that will be your steady foundation, taking up 50% or more of the space. We suggest using an earth tone, or even a more interesting color, which meets the following criteria:

  • You love it…or at least like it a lot, and know you won’t get tired of it.
  • You would hypothetically be okay with it covering every inch of wall space in your room (even if you don’t actually plan to use it for the wall paint).
  • It meets the Goldilocks rule—it’s not too dark, and it’s not too bright; it feels just right.

Once you pick your primary color, find a way to make it actually look like it’s the base color for your whole room. Maybe that means you’ll paint the walls or ceiling that color, or maybe you’ll use that color when selecting your big pieces of furniture, like your sofa and arm chairs. For some people, their primary color is a tone of wood, which makes up the ceiling beams, coffee table, or flooring.


Your Secondary Color

This shade will take up most of the rest of your room—maybe 30-40%. Have fun with this color! Make it as loud or pastel or dark as you want it to be, and find furniture and accessories which are inspired by this color. Some good places to use this color are in the window curtains, poufs, throw pillows, and wall art.

Keep in mind that your secondary color doesn’t have be one specific, solid shade. For example, if you choose lime green, you can certainly use patterns that incorporate other shades of green, or even thin stripes of another color. For more inspiration, check out this pouf… If my secondary color in a room was navy, blood orange, or teal, this pouf would be a great addition to the room.


Your “Pop” Color

Your final anchoring color should be totally different from your primary and secondary colors. Obviously, you want it to coordinate well, but this is the color which will allow you to really have fun with the final details and accessories of your room. Here are some ways you can incorporate your pop into different rooms of your home:

  • Living Room: The tray in the center of your coffee table, paint color of the inside of your bookshelves, and clock hanging on the wall
  • Kitchen: The hardware on your cabinets, flower pots in the windowsill, and backsplash tiles
  • Dining Room: Your napkin holders, knick knacks on the buffet, and patterns on the chairs at the end of each side of the dining table
  • Bedroom: The lamps on your bedside tables, jewelry box on the dresser, and frame of your full-length mirror
  • Bathroom: Soap dishes and toothbrush holders, the rings holding your shower curtain, and scented candles
  • Home Office: Desk accessories like your pen holder, your wall calendar, and the keyboard cover for your laptop
  • Backyard Deck: Lanterns hanging from the trees or ceiling, the handles of your grilling tools, and drink coasters on the table

If you’re having trouble thinking of a pop color, look at the design elements you already have picked out for the room. Are you using a floor tile which has tiny flecks of red? Does the portrait of your daughter over the fireplace include a bright hair bow? Maybe your throw pillows have interesting tassels that draw your attention.


And Everything Else

Sometimes you’ll come across an amazing foot stool at World Market, or you’ll have a meaningful statuette that you want to include in your design, and the colors don’t fall into any of your Primary, Secondary, or Pop categories. In that case, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Your three anchoring colors are not the end all, be all—they’re just a tool for guiding your design. If the accessory in question is a slightly different shade (or even a very different shade) of blue than the pop color you chose, that’s okay!
  • The room you’re thinking about right now is not the only room in your home. Maybe that souvenir from your honeymoon just really doesn’t fit the style of your living room, but you have a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and other spaces where it may look better.
  • Nothing in your home has to stay the way it is—it’s YOUR home! If you receive a gift from a loved one that you feel like you just have to showcase as the centerpiece in your dining room, who’s going to stop you? Pick your priority pieces, and let them determine your new Primary, Secondary, and Pop colors. It should be fun, not stressful, to change things up.


Are you ready to design the perfect sofa that uses your Primary color? Or do you need a pouf that includes your Pop? We have two showrooms in San Francisco, and San Rafael where you can bring in swatches of your anchoring colors and work with our professional team to find the perfect pieces for your home.

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