Simple design guidelines will help you select from the thousands of available paint colors.

How to Select a Paint Color Based on Furniture Color

by Mike Matthews

Selecting a room's color scheme from scratch can be a challenging task, but it's much easier when you're designing your room to complement an attractive piece of furniture. An interior decorator might choose her paint by applying the protocols of color science, but a do-it-yourselfer can select a perfectly appropriate color scheme by following some simpler rules, or by letting her smartphone do the work.

1. Color Wheel

Refer to the color wheel for help in selecting paint colors that that are an attractive fit. For example, if you're looking for a wall color to complement an orange sofa, you'll find that blue is at the direct opposite point on the wheel, which defines it as orange's complementary color. Alternatively, select a triad scheme by picking the colors at equidistant triangle points on the color wheel, resulting in shades of cyan and purple. For a softer variation, pick yellows or tans, which are similar colors found on either side of orange on the color wheel.

2. Color Preference

If you're looking for a companion color to a sofa, take one of the chair's cushions to the store and pull out some sample chips from your paint dealer's color rack. Holding a chip next to the cushion will help you confirm whether a color looks and feels pleasing to the eye. You can work with a single color in the fabric's pattern, go with the main color of the sofa or see how a contrasting color might look. Each color chip contains four or five variations of a basic color. While you may only select one of those variations, you can feel certain the choice is suitable if each of the hues on the chip represents a compatible color.

3. Color Collections

All major paint brands offer color collections or color palettes designed to help homeowners present a specific decorative theme. For example, if you're looking for a color scheme that supports an Early American, forest green sideboard, a paint company's Williamsburg or Colonial collection might be helpful. In similar fashion, a Victorian collection might provide ideas for designing a room to complement a varnished yellow Chippendale chair. Colors to complement a brown leather couch might come from a lodge-look collection. You'll find a rich variety of color collections that support many historical periods, nature themes, moods and primary colors.

4. Color Matching

At one time, color-matching equipment was only available at paint stores. Today, there are apps for your smartphone that will allow you to snap a picture of your furniture and convert a portion of that image to a matching color of paint. Many of these apps will also recommend compatible or secondary paint colors and offer some practical design tips. In many cases, you can upload your color choice directly to your paint store, hardware store or home center.

About the Author

Mike Matthews is editor of Green Building Product News, a national publication that covers sustainable innovations in building and remodeling, and he has spoken at national conferences on green building. He has also served as founding editor of "Paint Dealer" magazine.

Photo Credits

  • Martin Poole/Photodisc/Getty Images