Adding small but intentional pops of color to your interior — aka accent colors — can make a big difference to your overall aesthetic. And introducing them as part of a room makeover doesn’t have to be daunting. Our expert-approved guide to choosing the right accent colors will help you avoid clashes to create cohesion and interest.

What Is an Accent Color?

Brad Smith, interior designer and CEO of Omni Home Ideas, says accent colors draw attention to specific elements of a room or add visual interest. “They can be bold or subtle and are usually used sparingly compared to the room’s dominant colors,” he says.

What Is the Purpose of Accent Colors?

So what are the benefits of accent colors and how can you effectively incorporate them into your design scheme? Smith says they’re especially useful for freshening up a room without committing to a complete overhaul. Below are some reasons he suggests for introducing accent colors in your home.

Highlight architectural features

Choose a paint color to highlight architectural features, like crown molding, mantels or window trim. This can add interest to a minimalist design, draw the eye to unique details, or break up a large space with high ceilings.

Add depth and drama

Erica Fecundo, an interior designer for tiny house company Häuslein, says, “Incorporating accent colors in your interior design project can help to break up monotony and add a sense of excitement to the space.”

Pick a contrasting dark accent color to turn a dull, one-dimensional space into something more dynamic, inviting and well-defined.

And don’t worry if you want to stick with neutral colors or monochromatic schemes. “Using different shades and tints of the same color can add depth and sophistication to a room,” Smith says.

Inject mood-making personality

If your favorite color is dark purple, you might not want a whole room dedicated to this bold shade. But by adding a favorite color in small accents, like artwork, you can introduce personality or create a mood without it being overpowering.

Interior designer Rudolph Diesel says accent colors allow you “to experiment with bolder or more vibrant colors you might be hesitant to use as the main color scheme.”

Transform on a budget

When you’re on a tight budget, Diesel says introducing accent colors is “much easier and more affordable than repainting an entire room.” Adding a few unifying decorative accessories is perfect, even if you want to mix things up every season.

Interior designer Chrissy Arsenault suggests using nature as your inspiration. “Try adding brighter hues like lilac, coral or creamy yellows in the spring and summer, with more saturated hues in the fall, or cool tones such as navy or deep green in the winter,” Arsenault says.

Create cohesion

Using one or two accent colors within a room or across your whole house can create a sense of harmonizing flow and cohesion.

If you have a favorite piece of art, why not introduce the dominant color from this across other furnishings to tie everything together? That makes the piece more of a focal point.

Follow trends

While there are some classic color combos in interior design, trends come and go. If you want to follow fashion without worrying about making big changes when it goes out of style, why not introduce trending shades via accent colors?

Diesel says on-trend “mustard yellow adds a lively touch to a space when combined with the cool and versatile nature of charcoal gray.”

What Is the 60-30-10 Rule?

Getting the balance right when introducing accent colors can mean the difference between impressive cohesive contrasts and jarring blends that are too much. “A good rule of thumb is to use the 60-30-10 rule,” Smith says. “Sixty percent of the room should be a dominant color, 30% a secondary color, and 10% an accent color.”

The primary color acts as the anchor point in the space and often covers elements like the walls, flooring or large furnishings like sofas. You might use the visually supportive secondary color on one large accent wall, an item or two of furniture, or even across soft furnishings like curtains or area rugs.

The pops from your accent color typically come from things like throw cushions or other textiles and decorative accessories like art, lamps or vases.

Of course, this is just a rough guide. You can play with tones and quantities without rigidly sticking to the classic rules.

What Are Complementary Colors?

“Complementary colors are those that are opposite each other on the color wheel,” Smith says. “When used together, they create vibrant contrasts.”

Typically, accent colors complement the other dominant shades within a space to create visual balance. However, sometimes using analogous colors lying adjacent to one another on the color wheel — like blue, blue-green and green — can create a soothing atmosphere.

According to Diesel, some classic complementary pairings include blue and orange, red and green, and yellow and purple.

Fecundo says shades of blue and green — including navy, teal, turquoise and olive green — are popular, on-trend accent colors. When the dominant colors are neutral, like beige, gray and white, they provide a calming contrast. “For instance, navy can be paired with gray and white for modern, chic home decor,” she says.

Read More