Home & Garden

Decorating adventure begins with picking a color scheme

Photo illustration by Chris Ware and Pablo Alcala

The idea of having a house of my own made me determined to transform my mini-maison into a space worthy of a daytime slot on HGTV.

After my freshman year living on the University of Kentucky's campus, even with all of the TLC I gave my single dorm room, I grew tired of the twin beds and community showers.

I moved into a house with two great roommates, in a great location and for a great price, but there was only one downside: My bedroom was still the size of a dorm room.

Only my full-size futon and a few pieces of furniture, donated by my parents in Tennessee, could fit in my 12-foot-by-10-foot room.

Small spaces just come with the territory of college life, whether it's a dorm, apartment or small house, but this does not mean it has to be small on style or big on price.

Without having to take out loans, beg my parents for money or push my bank account to the point of overdraft, I set weekly goals to revamp my space on a dime.

I'm starting with choosing a color scheme.

In the simplest terms, that's the planned use of colors. The "pick a color, any color" concept doesn't exactly work, but making a plan does not have to be a chore either.

After speaking with some Lexington interior design experts, I was able to choose my own contemporary color palette of white, black and turquoise. I'll also share the wisdom they passed on that helped me arrive at that choice.

Avoid commitment

The saying goes: Fashion fades but style is forever.

That is apparently true for interior design, too, says Rebekah Ison, an assistant professor of interior design at UK.

"Buy something that you're going to like for a while, then add those crazy colors," she said.

Avoid painting your room with a trendy color. You'll likely grow tired of it soon.

Try to keep your space versatile. Turquoise is a trendy color for interior design, but rather than douse my room in it, I chose to add it to pieces I can change in and out to accent my signature colors of black and white.

Choose your neutral

Creams, beiges and grays are popular neutral colors, but any color can be your neutral, said Duane Anderson, co-owner of House by JSD.

"These colors are very trendy, but if you do not like them, don't use them," he said of those creams, beiges and grays. "Think of the house as a black dress, and you can layer it and add color to suit you."

I chose to stick with white on my walls as a neutral and add black and turquoise accents for character and originality.


Choose a color from a pattern or image you really like. Use it as your main color, and then pull out the other colors in the pattern to help with the rest of the room.

"Ikat patterns are a popular pattern trend that can make a good start for a color palette," said Ann VanMeter interior designer for Wild Ikat Design, which specializes in decorating dorms and apartments.

In most any pattern, there are several hues, making it easy to pull out colors.

I do not have very many patterns in my space so I used a different inspiration technique: I looked to some of my photos from the beach from years ago. I pulled out the colors of the sky and ocean to set my palette.

Start big and go small

A "cookbook" way to pick a color scheme is to start with big furniture and work into smaller pieces, VanMeter says. And with that furniture comes color.

"A couch or a bed is a good place to start since it will be there longer than say a vase or other accessory," she said.

Many students will be stuck with furniture that comes with a furnished apartment or with pieces that were passed down from family members.

In my case, I embraced a black futon that I already owned and started looking for smaller pieces of furniture to tie everything together.

VanMeter suggests using the colors found in big pieces of furniture to make the resulting look appear as if it were planned from the start.


Over the next four weeks in Life + Home, Anyssa Roberts, a summer reporting intern at the Herald-Leader, will take readers through the process of decorating her room in her new home.

Coming next week: smart storage

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