• Wei Shen

Forget about interior color trends 2020, if you know how to make your home prettier with any color.

Updated: Jun 5, 2020

Generally speaking, for any residential interior space, there are three major factors that determine the living quality:

  1. Distribution of natural light;

  2. Ceiling height;

  3. Colors.

The first two factors are greatly inherent in the architectural property which cannot be changed fundamentally during an interior renovation. So what's left for the interior designer or homeowner to play with is the color.

I've always felt that many architects and interior designers too often forgo colors out of fear or lack of imagination, rather than in pursuit of an aesthetic principle. But for individual homeowners, the simple start for you is to get a little bit more curious and always ask "what if", then you will see how fabulous and unique your own place could become.

There are trendy colors released every year for fashion as well as the interior industry. I suggest ignoring it completely because those colors are come up with by designers somewhere in the world who don't know you at all. And, color preference is really subjective and personal.

Let's look at the 2 pictures below. To me, their color schemes and applications are showing a high level of sophistication. In the first picture, the dull yellow appeared in different shades throughout the duvet cover, the upholstered love seat, the curtains, and the frames of a mirror and a few wall arts. The subtly of the application through different scales and densities successfully prevents us from telling instantly that dull yellow was chosen as the dominant color. Instead, we just feel attracted to this inviting vibe, ignoring the color scheme, and wish to stay.

Images from and

As to the second one, it appears neutral at first glance but we could discover that the pink skin color of the girl in the painting echoes a few shades of the flowers in the curtain. Without the curtain patterns, this bedroom will be lacking an essential amount of visual interests and details. However, the scale of patterns on the curtain is so humble that the curtain doesn't carry away all of our attention. Lastly, the three green leaves in the vase beautifully contribute to completing this cozy and lovely scene.

The main emphasis of any color applications is on the integration of color with form in ways that strengthen the overall design concept. In the interior design field, there is always a fine line between "well-thought-of" and "matchy-matchy". The color palette is not an exception.

Unfortunately, it's not a simplistic subject and there are not many resources regarding this subject for the general public. What we can easily find online is mostly about interior color trends of the year, how we emotionally respond to certain colors, and many misleading dictums, etc. For those who are really intrigued by interior colors, I have two books to recommend: Light: The Shape of Space, Designing with Space and Light by Lou Michel. (John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1996) and Color in Three Dimensional Design by Jeanne Kopacz. (McGraw Hill, 2004).

The impact given by colors of a room is determined by many factors such as proportions, materials & textures, lighting, as well as patterns, so talking about color solely is not sufficient to help learn how to benefit from color applications. To be honest, talent, instead of the design rule of thumbs, plays a very important role in a great color application. That's why we see certain DIY homeowners' work having a much better sense of color than that of many trained designers.

But don't be discouraged, as long as you get the right way to train your eye, you can always improve.

So here I am trying to scratch the surface of interior colors as well, but most importantly, to get you into some sensations of different color applications and to make you think just a little deeper before starting a project. It's a very complicated subject, so today we are only going to talk about ceiling and wall paint colors. I'm not going to opt for any specific color since the color preference is really personal and varies significantly by individuals.

There are no bad colors, only bad applications.

The 4 pictures below are showing the color mustard yellow applied on the ceiling, half of a wall, an entire wall (example used here is a full-wall cabinet), and multiple walls in a room. So we are going to see the 4 types of applications one by one.

Images from and

Pictures above demonstrate the major surfaces where you can apply a big stroke of color in a residential interior. As you can see, the same color, different applications, totally different results. However, don't forget to look into other elements in each photo; in fact, their close interaction with the dominant color is the key to the successful interior.

Take the first picture as an example. The mustard yellow is applied on a ceiling that is featured with a classic crown molding and a minimalist ceiling medallion, where a modern pendant light in brass finish with a black cable is naturally growing down. This small group has now anchored the primary ambiance of this dining room as soothing, elegant, and with a small dose of fun. All the big surfaces together here successfully endow the rest of the room with great flexibility but no boredom. Not only does the contrast between off-white and black bring in so much energy, but it also supplements this unique ceiling in just a perfect way that makes you feel pleasantly excited.


As a matter of fact, the majority of homes in the world have white ceilings, which indicates a huge potential of increasing the aesthetic quality to your home by looking into the most ove