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BathroomsUnderstanding Undertones

Are your Colours Married?

By 05/10/2010January 26th, 202119 Comments

You know the old “There should be a minimum of 3, maximum 4 colours in any room before it’s just a mess” rule? Well I’m exaggerating here but truly, wall colour is the same.

If you have tile or stone that already has 4-5 colours in it. . . and sometimes (I know if you’re reading this it was already there and you have to live with it) the countertop also doesn’t relate to the flooring (like in this bathroom below).

Do NOT then pick a wall colour that does not relate to a single thing in your bathroom! By the way, same rule applies everywhere else too!

For example, in your living room, the first place to look to see which colour you should choose for the walls is your drapery, sofa or carpet. Wall colour (because there is so much of it) should pull your space together, therefore, the biggest elements of a space should be repeated in the paint colour. There are always going to be exceptions to each rule depending on your taste and preferences, so consider this as a guideline.

Prior to the rich caramel/brown colour I chose for this client’s powder room (which now relates to the Travertine floor), it was painted a gold beige tone (chosen by the last homeowner).

I am so sorry I did not take a ‘before’ photo. The goldy beige colour read as a greeny/yellow in this room which did not relate to the Travertine or the Marble Counter (which was more orange/yellow as you can see).

Flooring and counters in kitchens and bathrooms should relate in some way to each other; however when they don’t I recommend using paint colour to tie the space together for the best effect.

When choosing a colour for your kitchen or bathroom, your tile or countertop is the first place to look for the colour (especially when they are not solid) otherwise it can look like you moved in, decided you hated the granite or tile, and specifically chose an unrelated shade because you didn’t want to see more of it on the wall (which could make it jump out more, so be careful if you are doing that!).

Colours that are married usually look more harmonious than colours that are simply meeting for the first time!

Are your colours married or have they just met?

Need help choosing the right neutral or colour?  My How to Choose Paint Colours: It’s all in the Undertones ebook takes the hundreds of choices down to 9 neutral undertones along with list of all my other go-to best grays, broken down into 3 undertones, green, blue and purple. The beige undertones of pink, yellow, green, gold, orange and taupe along with the best greens and blues. 

My bonus book of  colours is worth the price of the ebook alone but you will also get my system of understanding undertones so you can stop making mistakes when sourcing tile, carpet, countertops, etc.

The only way to choose the right colour every time is to combine my system of understanding undertones with the most indispensable colour tool available. You can purchase your own set of my curated large colour board collections here.

If you would like to transform the way you see colour, become a True Colour Expert.

Related posts:

Colour is Context

Slate or Porcelain Tile in the Bathroom

The Right Way to Create Flow Using Colour

How to Know if the Tile you have Selected has the Right Undertones

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  • Kim@Chattafabulous says:

    Very clever post! I'm sure your colors will enjoy a long and happy life together!

  • Nichole@40daysof says:

    Ohhhh! This is a good post for me right now. Very concerned about formal living room.

  • Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions says:

    This post reminds me of my own powder room that we redid a couple of years ago. I love the color you chose here, Maria.

  • Annie @ The House That Jade Built says:

    Another great post! You always have the best photo examples to prove your point!

  • Alicia Clinton says:

    great post, Maria. i love to read your blog!

  • Danica says:

    This rule is my most used rule I learned from your class last year! It's always at the front of my mind when I'm picking colours.

  • Charlotte's Color Specialist says:

    My colors are married and still honeymooning! Pretty pics Maria.

  • Renae says:

    Such good points to address, I went through this not too long ago with a client of mine. It was a fun project!

  • FrenchGardenHouse says:

    mmm…not sure, I think mine are dating! xo Lidy

  • Trish says:

    Great post Maria, I learn something off you everyday, your blog has become my bible!!!!

  • heather @ whats blooming this week says:

    My colours when we moved in were married, then divorced because of our furniture and now remarried as we put our stamp on things.

  • pve design says:

    I love happily married colours, but then again, I do love a really good fighting couple…like purple and gold or blue and orange – but I think you are giving great advice. You truly are more than just a colorist- but a colortherapist.

  • Sally@DivineDistractions says:

    Great post, Maria, and such an important and overlooked concept. I did a color consult last week, and when I walked over to the box of tile for the room and went through my fan deck, the client said "I never thought of doing that" ! EEK ! It seems to simple to play off the color that's already there, but I guess that's why people hire you and me! LOL

  • De Anna says:

    Hi Maria — great advice, and I love the bathroom you do such great work. I've heard this rule before (4 colors max) and always wondered…does the trim color count as one of the colors? The wood flooring in a living room? I know you've said in the past that wood floors are like bluejeans and they go with anything but do you count them as one of the 4 colors?

  • Between you, me and the Fencepost says:

    All colors in the room must relate. I was of the school of thought if there was just a bit (like in that tile)of color I could ignore it and paint anything I want or just relate to the color I like. Now I know. Colors must not be living in sin! No shacking up! I can't stop now . . .

  • Lauren says:

    haha funniest timing! was just about to leave this coment when yours popped in!

    anyway, love how simple you've made it and i think mostly my colors get married although sometimes they've just met 😉

    natural teacher!


  • Donna says:

    Hi Maria, I'm home! I sent little comments all over for other friends, but with you, I always have to sit down and put on my 'thinking cap'. I feel as if I'm in interior decorating class since color, in particular, is just one of the few things that I cannot figure out on my own.

    My biggest problem is well…the whole house! Ha! No, I would say that there are some things in our new home that I don't really need to change. But my mistake in my favorite room, the sewing room/office, is that I've tried to decorate with my own favorite colors and old decor in spite of the fact that it clashes with a very specific color scheme in the house and very much so with the adjacent room (very open connection).

    When you asked, "Are your colors married or have they just met?" My first thought was.."What if it looks like they agreed on a permanent separation?!" We've rented over 20 years and had to adjust each time. One of the things I've noticed, is that I fight the new color scheme by forcing my old one into it. If I had to start from scratch, I don't know what I'd do!

    As it is, I think the present color scheme is good for my decor in the kitchen and living room to some degree, but the extra room is white. That doesn't really go very well with the kitchen it is adjacent to which has a sort of rustic blue with white counters and the oddest olive green wall paper you have ever seen. It's supposed to match the Sante Fe' border which I've replaced. The new border, not up yet, is similar colors but with old world roosters.

    I can work with this color scheme, especially with my antiques and decor. It looks like it's 'married'. But I put all my pastels in the very next room…out of habit because the walls were white and I wanted a springy kind of room and I have a lot of pastel decor and didn't know what to do with it all. It just doesn't work. You walk from a pastel room into a Old Country colors room and it's a very striking contrast and there are no doors to separate the two.

    There's just no way to blend those two color schemes! It's like a war with specific zones and I know in my heart that it's all wrong. After reading your post, I think know why too! I think I need to give up the pastels and put them away until one of the teens vacates their room and I can have a completely separate sewing room.

    I bought three prints by Beatrix Potter that I think hold the key to what the colors should be. They are not pastels but rather light shades of gold, olive, rustic blue, and few highlights of off red. Those paintings are very important to the room and I bought them specifically for that room. I think I can pull off a 'spring' look with the right green or maybe just a light tan or gold..but it can't be light spring leaf. It needs to be a different green. Kind of a little dusky. I'm going to peruse through your blog and see if I catch the green I'm thinking of.

    I've made this mistake before but am so glad you talked about this. It invariably takes me 3 years to finally give in and allow all the colors in the house work together instead of having broken territory from color scheme to color scheme! Now I understand what my problem has been–I think! Thanks!

  • Tara says:

    Well put post Maria. This is why I see so many stone surfaces so dating at times (like out of date) because they are very picky on the colors they will marry. I hope I don't look like a bad girl in seeing it, I didn't even know how to remedy this problem of color divorces before I met your blog. I have searched the world (ok K.C.) over to find a great very neutral granite (Kashmir is maybe ok) But I just have to go with Marble it is the most versatile. Thanks Maria.

  • ohslowburn says:

    My colors just read this post and are filing for divorce forthwith. It's going to be a long painful process since there are two children involved (aka, we're not doing much decor-wise for a while!).

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