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How to Choose Colour

Are you Decorating in the Dark?

By 08/16/2010January 23rd, 201724 Comments

How many times have you been in a store looking at a piece of furniture or a toss cushion and wondered if it coordinated with your existing colour scheme.  This happens to me when I’m shopping for clothes. I wonder if the top will match the shoes I have at home and every time I think “Why didn’t I match the shoes to a colour chip?”.

When I’m sourcing accessories and furniture for clients I always carry their colour chips and fabric clippings in my purse so that I am prepared.

Shopping for area rugs is so painful, many people go for years without the right one.  But the best way to do it is to take your sofa cushion and coordinating fabrics and bring them directly into the store.  When you are flipping through the rugs, take your cushion and plop it right on top and you’ll know if it’s close to being right.  If the rug is hanging up, ask to have it taken down as the colours can change dramatically when they are on the floor, which is obviously how you need to see it before you take it home to try it.  A little preparation saves a lot of frustration and returns!

Do you carry your colours and fabrics around?  Better yet how about the colour of that orphaned skirt?

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me for on-line or in-person consultations.

Related posts:
How to Choose an Area Rug
Attention on Area Rugs
How to wear Colour or Neutrals—Which group are you in?
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  • Teresa Hatfield says:

    Been there. So difficult to match without everything there. Love this post.
    Teresa (SPlendid Sass)

  • Muffy says:

    My MIL taught me this a few years ago. She has a plastic bag for each room in her house with fabric swatches & paint samples. Some of the baggies include pictures of the rooms. The baggies stay in the back seat of her car. She always gets them out & puts them in her purse if she is on vacation or riding with someone else. It might seem a little hyper organized, but it is so helpful when you are out shopping!

  • Denise says:

    I'm very lucky to have perfect "colour pitch". I can see something in a store and know if it's too light, too dark, too yellow, too pink, or just right. My "colour pitch" works perfectly if I'm trying to match something. For those times when I'm trying to contrast or complement something, I make sure I have my fabric samples and paint chips with me!

  • Ren- Lady Of The Arts says:

    I am still trying to find the right rug- but I'm pretty in love with the one you posted!

  • Lissa @ After Adornment says:

    Yep, learned this the hard way too. I saw the perfect rug at a flea market and was afraid the color might not work….came back and it was gone!!!! I always carry swatches around now.

  • Between you, me and the Fencepost says:

    I saw the perfect chair at a garage sale this weekend but wasn't sure if the colour would match my couch. I should cut a piece off my couch and carry it around with me.

  • Kathysue says:

    Maria, I always carry swatches, it saves so much time and guessing. To answer your question about the lemon cypress on my porch. If it turned brown it was over watered. The guy at the nursery said water every 1 1/2 to two weeks. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I do not over water it. This is my first time planting it!! Loved the color had to have it!! Thanks for the compliment on my porch I do love sitting out there in the mornings. Have a great week,Kathysue

  • Angela N says:

    I keep small fabric swatches and paint color chips for each room in the small zipper pocket of my purse. That way I always have my colors with me.

    I am in love with the side table in the photo with the turq chair! I am looking for something similar for my family room for a side table. You have inspired me to add a bit of rustic in with my modern furnishings. Thx!!<3

  • Elements says:

    There are some things I find essential to take home and try and rugs are one of them….sometimes in a room the colours in a rug will actually go better once they are in the room rather than in a showroom full of artificial light…but if this isn't possible your right there are many a handbag full of swatches and snippets of colour and fabric….

  • Diana says:

    I carry a small notepad around with me. The notebook has a little plastic pocket in the front of it where I keep all the paint chips for my house and fabric scraps. On the first page behind the pocket, I have all the measurements written for spots that need a piece of furniture or window treatments, etc.

  • Maria Killam says:

    HI Angela,
    That's funny I didn't really notice the rustic stool beside the chair I was so madly in love it.
    Thanks for pointing that out!

  • Sally@DivineDistractions says:

    I'm a little obsessive about having everything I need when I'm shopping. We have notebooks on our large projects, and smaller ones have folders. I take it all with me when we're shopping even it if stays in the car utill it's needed. I even used to have swatches from all my clothes that I put in a small spiral to keep in my purse while shopping. Scary, huh?

  • Maria,I have to tell you, relating to this post, that I was shopping for my own accessories today at Arhaus — do you have that in Vancouver — and they had some fantastic raspberry pillows with a beige embroidered batik-inspired design. Check it out! And thanks for visiting me, again, I appreciate it! PS Do you have a winter Colour Workshop planned yet?

  • Steph@TheGraniteGurus says:

    My non-designer friends mock me because I always carry paint chips for my own home as well as any client's homes that I am working on. I also always have a tape measure in my purse!

  • Ideezine says:


    I have pictures on my iPhone-idea generator app.
    A tote bag for swatches on rings, paint chips, and fabric pieces.
    I have color memory and can match color by sight. So I'm covered.



    Such a great idea to carry the colors with you.

    Thanks for your continued visits to my blog and for your sweet comments. You are a busy lady, so it means a lot.


  • Anne-Marie @ 10 Rooms says:

    Sigh, yes, this is why I can never buy a small purse – at any given time I am carrying a small porfolio around in there 🙂

  • heather @ what's blooming this week says:

    Yes, yes….I carry paint chips and fabric scaps around with me. In fact, I just discovered a paint chip from my now-husband, then-boyfriend's master bedroom from 2 houses ago tucked neatly in my wallet. Carried that chip around for a year looking for a bedspread to match the grey/green that he had already painted the bedroom. It worked – while on a business trip I stopped in a store and there it was….the perfect bedspread that's still on OUR bed.

  • Erika at BluLabel Bungalow says:

    I have a large accordion file that I keep in my truck. Each tab has the client's name on it and inside their paint/fabric samples. It helps me to be prepared at all times!

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  • Michelle says:

    You are so right! I think it would be great to design from the rug out. So that is why I am looking for the perfect rug for our bedroom, before I make any other major color decisions.

  • Christina Rodriguez | The Diva's Home says:

    That is so funny about matching your shoes to a paint chip! Good idea too! Also remember that the rug colors will look different depending on which way you turn it!

  • Donna says:

    Maria, I certainly have been guilty of shopping in the dark and very recently too. You picked all these great colors and then I forgot to take the cards with me in my purse. I have a feeling my curtains are the wrong color. I sure wish I had taken the moss green card with me. :o) Great reminder!

    Donna :o)

  • Ada's Decoration Inspiration says:

    A little prep goes a looong way. GREAT advice as usual!

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