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What Is It That Makes Your Home’s Color Palette “Classic”?

Updated: May 7

If you've ever had a lengthy conversation with an interior designer, you may have noticed them saying the word palette quite a bit. Interior designers love palettes, because they bring order to interior spaces. A successful palette can establish a relationship between the furniture, paintings, wallpaper and other elements in a room. A palette can give you direction when you're selecting furniture and fixtures. And, a good palette establishes an ambiance, while revealing small things about your character.

It's important to have a palette in mind when you're moving forward with a home redesign. Some palettes are grounded in a time period, and some palettes are just...timeless. Classic.

But what's a classic palette? When should you use a classic palette, and when should you use a palette that's grounded in trends? That's what I'm going to talk about today.

What's a Palette?

When you think of a palette, you might think of an artist palette dotted with scattered blobs of paint. This is a palette in the world of two-dimensional art.

In the world of interior design, a palette is a collection of colors used in a physical space. The paint on the walls, the color of the floors, the patterns on the couch, pops of color in the pillows, the color of the curtains gently blowing in the breeze - all of these features make up a palette.

When you're redecorating a space, the palette represents a starting point for the process. Once you've selected a palette, you can go on to select the wall color or wallpaper, flooring finishes, upholstery patterns and more.

Ok, So What's a Classic Palette?

Color preferences change over time. Colors that people might choose today are different from the colors people might have selected years ago. Color preferences are always changing, so what is a classic palette? Is it derived from a time period?

A classic palette is somewhat subjective and may vary depending on who you talk to. In general, I think a classic palette is one that looks attractive in most settings and can be combined with a variety of different furniture styles as well as architectural styles.

Some might say a “classic” palette is all white and marble. Others might say you can’t go wrong with tans and browns. And what about all the trends that come out? How do you know one of them won’t become “classic”?

In my professional opinion, a classic color palette is made up of those colors and finishes that stand the test of time. They're used in homes again and again, through all time periods. In just about any context, they're attractive and soothing. They don't get tired. They age well.

Past Palettes

I'm just going to take a minute to talk about the color trends of the past. These palettes have come and gone.

  • 1950's. If you've ever seen a pink tile bathroom from the 1950's, or a mint green toilet from the same time period, you know what colors were popular in this decade. Pastels ruled.

  • 1970's. The 1970’s were characterized by earthy colors including browns, greens and golds throughout. Remember the Brady Bunch house?

  • 1980's. The 1980's were famous for shades of tan, mauve, and over the top bright brass chandeliers. If you've ever seen an episode of the Golden Girls, you know what I'm talking about.

  • 2010's. Just a few years ago, gray was the in color - or you might say, the only color. That trend has thankfully faded out, but even today if you happen to walk into a house with gray floors, gray walls and all gray furniture, you know that house was probably decorated in the 2010's.

Throughout all of these trends there are colors and finishes that have survived. These colors may contribute to what we consider a classic color palette.

The True Classic Palette

For many people, the classic palette consists of whites, marble and medium-toned hardwood flooring (think walnut stained color). For fixtures, a mixture of soft brass and brushed nickel hardware fit best. Having just one metal throughout makes the house look one dimensional. There’s a certain balance these finishes bring to a home. I recommend using different finishes in different areas of the home, or mixing finishes in the same room.

One reason this palette can be considered a classic is that it's easy to mix it with nearly any architectural style or interior design style. It can sway traditional, transitional, modern vintage or my personal favorite - bringing all the styles together to create a home that looks lived in and loved.

How to Use Palettes Around Your Home

Don’t get me wrong. I may like the classic color palette, but I also like pops of color. There are so many fun things you can do with color variety. I'm not someone who shies away from using color in unusual ways and in unusual spaces.

Just take a look at any of my previous projects or check in on blog articles that discuss my favorite colors. I think bold colors make your house attractive and give it character.

That said, I would stick to using bold colors in ways that are easy to switch out. You can always repaint the walls, for example, but the flooring is much harder to remove. Make the walls, curtains and throw pillows whatever color you want. Choose a rug that shows your love for the color mint green or fuchsia. But be careful about buying a sofa that you won't love for a long time. The same goes for your flooring.

Scared to try those bold colors? I have some suggestions.

  • Choose your palette ahead of time. I think the most useful thing you can do to ensure that the use of color in your home is attractive is to choose your colors ahead of time. This allows you to go into your redesign project with a plan that you can follow.

  • Dabble. Don't go heavy-handed with vibrant color. Instead, wade in carefully until you find the sweet spot of just enough color.

  • Mix the bold colors with a classic palette. You can mix white, greige and wood with nearly any vibrant accent colors you'd like. This helps disperse those vibrant colors and makes your room more elegant.

  • Work with a professional. If you're not comfortable using bold, vibrant colors in your home decor, and want help mixing vibrant colors with a classic palette, I suggest contacting a professional interior designer. Your interior designer can help you choose classic colors for home.

Want More Suggestions About Classic Colors for Home?

Did you know that I sell room design palettes now? I am creating all different palettes to use in any room and the classic palette above is now for sale! Visit the Room Palettes to see which one works best for you. I will be adding one each month so make sure you sign up below to not miss one!

I love helping clients choose their own color palette, and I'm happy to help you too. I can use a classic palette to decorate your home and mix bold colors with it. Whether you're looking for someone who can help you integrate accent colors into your home decor, or you're seeking someone who can help you choose furniture, walls and floors that all coordinate, I'm happy to help. You can see my experience working with colors right here on my blog. If you have questions, let's connect!

Until next time,

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