07/18/2011 05:34 pm ET | Updated Sep 17, 2011

Take Your Home from Hot Mess to Harmonious by Understanding Color

Think of a room you walked into that you instantly loved. Regardless of the style, I guarantee that you loved it because the colors all worked together. You can't really understand how to work color into your home effectively unless you understand the fundamentals of the color wheel. Perhaps you already do, but if your house feels like a bag of Skittles threw up on a rainbow, maybe you should read on.

This might sound all too art-school-ish 101, but it's not. It's really important and a basic necessity for anyone with even a remote interest in decor and design. The color wheel is your tour guide to decorating with an aesthetically pleasing color palette. In layman's terms, just pay attention and it'll look good, OK? Then, Google and print out a color wheel and you are on your way!

Here are the basics.

Primary colors are the basis for every other color out there. They are red, blue and yellow. Secondary colors occur when you mix two primary colors. Are you with me so far? For example, red and blue make purple, a secondary color. Blue and yellow make green, red and yellow make orange, etc. It kind of takes you back to your finger-painting days, doesn't it? Then there are tertiary colors. These are made by mixing a primary color with an adjacent secondary color. For example, turquoise is a mixture of blue and green, lime green a mixture of green and yellow, and a bright crimson is a mixture of violet and red. The other three tertiary colors (yellow-orange, red-orange and blue-violet) don't have any widely recognized names.

Great, so how do I work this into my own home decor? Easy, sort of. Once you understand how the color wheel works, it'll all make more sense and take the head-scratching out of it. I promise!

Complimentary colors are the colors that are opposite each other on the wheel: red and green, blue and orange, etc. This is why we love color combos like turquoise and red, or navy and orange. They are least like one another. They contrast one another, and when paired, they produce a visually stimulating effect. This is my favorite look; I think it creates the most interest.

Then we have harmonious colors, those that are similar. Navy and light blue, or purple and lavender, are good examples. You can branch out a little further into color with an analogous scheme, which consists of two to six colors that sit next to each other on the wheel. Using three colors is called a triad.

A triad scheme is bold but still balanced. It's made up of any three colors that form a triangle in the center of the wheel. So, look at your color wheel and start with a color you love. Then pick the other two colors to form a triangle and you have a triad. I told you this wasn't rocket science!

That's as far as I am going to go with the color wheel, because that's all you need to know in order to have your house looking fab and not crazy colorful or absent of color and totally boring. Besides, you're probably not a design student, just someone who wants their space to look better. Using color is the easiest and most effective way to do that.

Life is not black and white; it's meant to be lived in color. It's meant to be fabulous. Otherwise, what's the point?


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