Choosing colors, the ‘rule of five’ comes alive

HousediningroomlampmontageI’ve been lucky enough to meet two amazing TV decorators: Amanda Pays from Fine Living’s "Breathing Room," and Kitty Bartholomew from HGTV’s "You’re Home: Kitty Bartholomew." (Kitty and I later wrote a book together, now out of print).

Amanda and Kitty shared with me two golden nuggets of decorating wisdom.

But really, those nuggets never really clicked until now, as I’ve begun to navigate my own whole-house upgrade.

Here’s what Kitty told me about choosing colors: Start with one item you love — a painting, a rug, a piece of patterned wallpaper, patterned upholstery or whatever — and choose your colors from that. If those colors look good all together in that painting, for instance, they will work together as a decorating scheme. In Kitty’s own house, she used a painting as a starting point.

Here’s what Amanda told me about choosing colors: Pick five colors (includes woods and metals) and run with those throughout the whole house. For instance, you might choose nickel (metal), ash (wood) and three colors. Then your house will have a flow. And Amanda’s house really did feel serene and pulled together.

I knew all this. But it didn’t seem to apply to me somehow. Until tonight, that is, when I was sitting in the living room and gazing upon the stained-glass lamp you see here. It hangs above my dining room table. The lamp is kind of a pain, really. It’s too small for the space I’m asking it to fill. The way it flares out makes it easy to bump your head on it. And if you’re a short person sitting at the dining room table, the bulb in the lamp shines right in your eyes.

But here’s the one thing it has going for it: I love the colors so much I could eat them.

And then it hit me: These are my colors! These are my five! Can I get a "duh"?

Now it all makes sense: The yellow I’ve painted some walls. The green laminate counters I see no need to replace. The dark metal bathroom faucet I’ve already bought. The RED of my exterior. Hello? And when I add the cedar wood that is all over my house, I’ve got it covered.

So these are my five: 1) brick red, 2) sage green, 3) butter yellow, 4) dark metal, 5) cedar.

Now, as I shop or decide or ponder, I’ll ask myself: How would this fit into my five?

Do you have five? What are they?

3 Comments on Choosing colors, the ‘rule of five’ comes alive

  1. Inland Empire

    there is also the business suit model of color. 70% of one color (the blue suit), 20% of a 2nd color (the white shirt) and 10% of a 3rd color (the red tie).

  2. Brent

    I’ve been struggling with my own design demons, so I too know the feeling of finally internalizing some commonly held wisdom.

  3. riley

    My brown Tabby cat. Black and bronzish stripes. Dark red nose. Green eyes. White paws.
    I also read once that artist’s oil colors –sepia, umber, sienna, cobalt… — nature’s colors — will almost always work.