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How to Choose Colour

3 ways to Coordinate Colours for your Entire House

By 05/09/2011July 10th, 202216 Comments

The best way is with a designer you trust. We know what will work today and how to pull it all together to create a look and feel including colours that flow from room to room. If you are choosing everything yourself, here are some guidelines from a recent consultation:

If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain 🙂 Okay, that’s a bit dramatic but that quote popped into my head the other day when I was thinking about writing this post. Alline and her husband Tex drove up from Seattle last Monday to meet with me in my home office which that day ended up being the dining room with all the finishes for the dream house they are building.

I love being around couples who are so obviously happy together. They have two boys in college and now they are finally going to have the house that they want. It’s very exciting!

They brought a trunk full of stuff.  Carpet samples, tiles, granite and here are the plans, spread out on my dining table in my (not finished) dining room.

I still haven’t found the perfect sideboard so I just have a little vignette sitting on a dresser (above). Notice I took the advice of one commenter when I wrote this post and filled a container with jelly beans for a hit of yellow.  I tasted all 3 kinds of yellow jelly bellies in the store before I bought them. Grapefruit, lemon and pina colada. I bought the pina colada flavour so I wouldn’t eat them. Yuk!

Okay here the 3 most important guidelines for colour flow:

Start with the Granite, Stone and Tiles – Here the selection is the most limited
Alline had picked out a 6 x 6 gray/green porcelain tile for the backsplash to go with the granite she had chosen.  Although I confirmed that it was the correct undertone, I suggested a beveled white subway tile instead.

As soon as I pulled it out she said “You know what, that will look fabulous behind all the blue and white accessories that I have for my kitchen!”.  The colour scheme for her living room was blues, creams and whites.

Make sure you are clear which undertones are in your fixed finishes. They HIGHLY dictate the colour scheme.

Then they showed me the stacked stone they were thinking about for the living room. The colour was not finalized because that’s my job, but I am not a fan of this look because it’s way too bossy in my opinion (example below).

If you choose it today to coordinate with your existing colour scheme, it will most certainly not work 10-15 years from now when you want a change. Plus it’s really too earthy, muddy and murky to go with the fresher, cleaner colours we are decorating with now. I recommended a simple carrara surround in a slab or tiles which also happened to perfectly coordinate with the Glacier White granite they had chosen for the kitchen (we want flow after all).
 Photos by Maria Killam
If at all possible – have some preliminary colour choices made for furniture in your living room.
This space is usually the starting point for colour flow through the main areas of your house.  Alline and Tex had already selected the sofa and chair fabric.
We spent 4 hours together, and in that time we chose all the colours for their house, confirmed finishes for 2 bathrooms, backsplash, kitchen cabinet white, fireplace surround and exterior colours, and this is the sweet email I received from Alline the next day:
“Just wanted to say a huge thank you for your consultation today. It was fabulous! I am still digesting it all.  It was so much fun. I love your colour recommendations. Can’t wait to get this house built so we can paint it beautiful! I was so excited last night I could hardly sleep!”
Have I mentioned I really love what I do?  
If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.
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  • Luciane at says:

    Good morning, Maria!

    This so exciting! It's just wonderful to work with people that actually have good taste and are open to learn even more.

    I love your tips and ideas. Great ones, Maria!

    Have a blessed week!


    Luciane at

  • Kathysue says:

    Maria you gave such good recommendations to your clients. It is so gratifying helping someone with their home and making them feel comfortable with their choices. You did just that, great job, Kathysue

  • Kristie at The says:

    Great post, Maria! I'm sure your clients' home will exceed their expectations – it's so important to have a designer (like you) to help clients see the big picture and pull all their ideas together, weeding out some and adding some as you go along. Have a great week 🙂

  • Carol Standil says:

    Thanks for another great post, Maria. I love the choice of the white subway tile for the backsplash. It brings the counter top to life!
    I am SO looking forward to your Toronto workshop!

  • Jil Sonia McDonald - Interior Designer says:

    What a wonderful post. Maria, you have such wonderful expertise and such perfect design sense. You have such a concise way of explaining things to your clients – that we all learn from you. That couple is lucky to have hired you as their interior designer. Thanks for sharing and selecting the perfect photos to explain why things do and do not work.

  • Donna Frasca says:

    Great post Maria, very organized office (you should see mine) and I love your pops of yellow.

    Do you think white tiles should be chosen to accommodate all colors schemes 10-15 years from now or should one get a little bossy with color and have fun living in the now?

    I love your diary style of writing. It's so refreshing from some of the stuffiness I've been readying. It really makes me feel like I'm in your office hearing you think out loud. Love it!

  • pve design says:

    Good to know that somebody listens to me 🙂 – 18 year olds not so much 🙁
    Love your little touches! Positive your clients do to.

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Donna,
    Good question. With the colours my client had happening in her decor, the gray-green backsplash was from out of no-where. Also as I mentioned in this post, her blue and white accessories will definitely look better against a white backsplash. And it's too gray anyway for where colour is going now and in this case, totally kills the fresh clean look of the granite and draws attention away from it.
    Thanks for your comment!

  • leighcard says:

    I loved this post from you and the email from your happy client! This is one of the reasons that I enjoy following you. You are happy at what you do and you great at doing it! What a blessing! Thank you, Leigh

  • Naturally Carol says:

    Ha! Ha! I would eat those Pina Colada jelly bellies! I love them. Great idea though!

  • Susan says:

    I totally agree with you about the white subway backsplash, and the stone fireplace–I shudder at the thought of trying to dust it, but If the couple was seriously drawn to tht rough hewn look for a reason, Olympia has a split-face carrara mosaic that cou work for them too. Just a thought.

  • Marcy says:

    The color courses that I took in college were my favorite. You understand the nature of color and are able to share that. I adore your work!

    I've featured your site at today and I look forward to meeting you at blogfest next week.

  • Vintage Beachgirl says:

    This is not relevant to this post but….I have been trying to sign up for your monthly newsletter for a while but when I click on the link all I get is a blank page. I'm using an iPad could that be the problem? Thanks for any help you can give. VBg

  • Linda McMullan says:

    Thanks sooo much for this post – I'm renovating the kitchen in our Beach Cottage and have to coordinate colour with the other rooms, which aren't changing right now. I just figured out while reading your post & looking at the pictures how to do that in a sensible fashion. I've also rediscovered Benjamin Moore paints from reading your blog…how could I have forgotten Benny Moore??

  • Mira says:

    I came accross your blog a couple weeks ago and since than I am totally hooked up. 🙂 Anyway, I just wanted to say Hi. 🙂

  • What a lucky couple, and lucky you to do what you love. Makes it all worth it, yes? 🙂

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