swatches_webBy Randi Wilson  |  A trip to the paint center or fabric store can be overwhelming.  With thousands of colors and patterns to choose from, where do you start?  The secret to creating a color palette: find a source of color inspiration.  Choose something that catches your eye and sparks your interest and use it as your jumping off point.  Many designer color schemes begin with a swatch of beautiful fabric, interesting wallpaper, an exotic rug, artwork or photographs.  After you’ve found your source of inspiration, employ the rule of three.  Choose three colors from your item and use them throughout the room for furnishings, paint and/or wallpaper, area rugs, window coverings and accessories.  You may use a variety of shades, patterns and textures, as long as they remain within your color palette.  Bold or vibrant colors are fun and interesting, but they should be tempered with timeless colors that won’t appear dated or tired within a few years.  Neutrals, such as white, beige, gray, black, and brown, do not need to be included in your three color palette, but should always be utilized in the design plan.  While you may not want to highlight these colors, they play an important role by bringing balance and harmony to a room.   If you like to participate in design trends or experiment with non-traditional colors, find a way to judiciously incorporate them into your overall design scheme.  It is easier and more affordable to purchase new accessories and accent pieces then to replace a purple velvet sofa!

Now that you’ve chosen a palette, how do you properly portion the colors in the décor of a room?  I recommend applying the 60:30:10 rule.  Choose a main color for 60% of the room, a secondary color for 30%, and a subordinate color for 10%.  The subordinate color is typically used for accessories and accent pieces.  To illustrate the 60:30:10 rule, I will explain how to design a room around the Suzani pattern fabric pictured in my photo.  I would choose light beige for my main color and use it to paint the walls.  Creamy white would be my choice for a secondary color.  Use it on upholstery, as well as crown and baseboard molding, for decorative wall contrast.  Finally, I would use a mix of teal, lime and chocolate brown for my subordinate colors.  A ceramic lamp, artwork or an area rug in one of these colors would really pop.  Use your inspiration fabric and the coordinating stripe pattern on throw pillows, draperies or to cover an accent chair.

Use the design rules, rule of three and 60:30:10, and you should find it much easier to combine colors to create an balanced, interesting room with composed, coordinated style.

Randi Wilson is a Certified Interior Decorator and owner of Wilson Interiors, LLC.  She can be reached by phone at (707) 616-4687, or by email at  Photos of her projects can be viewed at