Balancing Cool and Warm Tones in Your Home

Any decorator will tell you that color can be tricky, but those with experience know it’s all about balance. Basic color theory says that the three colors of yellow, orange and red on the color wheel are warm tones while on the opposite side, blues, greens and purples act as cool tones. When decorating, the analogous warm and cool trios will always work together; however, incorporating elements of each creates a combination that adds interest to a space and can be accomplished with a few different tricks.
Wood = Warm. Unless wood is whitewashed or possesses a gray stain, wood in its natural state or stained with brown tones will always add warm tones to a room. Choosing textiles or accessories in shades of blue, green, or purple will balance the warmth found in those wood pieces and/or flooring.

blue linens wood furniture bhg

Consider Complements. Combining colors that sit across from each other on the color wheel will energize a space, this deep teal pillow paired with burnt orange leather is a perfect example.

mixing cool and warm


Add Metallics.  Gray neutral tones can read as cold so bring warmth and contrast with brass and gold leaf metallic finishes. The warm wood tones also help to balance the cool neutral.

gray and gold dining room bhg

Mix It Up.  Great patterns found in textiles are always a jumping off point for decorating a space. A hot pink or coral patterned pillow pops against a cool tone mint green wall. Also note how the dark brown sofa is balanced by the pairing with two blue slipper chairs.

mint walls blue chairs

Follow Nature.  Take a cut from the great outdoors, nature never gets it wrong! The earth tones found in bark and branches offer a foundation for the vivid colors found in bright purple blooms. Repeat the technique indoors by using wood and earth tone neutrals in the background and pulling pieces in bright colors into the space as accents.

vibrant and subdued

For even more great advice on how to decorate with color, pick up Better Homes & Gardens Color: The Complete Guide for your Home !