Connecting Rooms With Color

A color and paint specialist shows how the right colors can create harmony among four connecting rooms.

By: Barbara Jacobs

One of the most frequent requests I hear is: "I want my rooms to flow." What do homeowners mean when they request "flow"? According to Webster, flow is "to have a smooth continuity." That’s a fair definition of what I think most of my clients want, which is a color scheme that works smoothly from room to room in connecting spaces.

Many of today’s homes feature open floor plans, and that is the case in my example home. You can stand in any of four connecting rooms—kitchen, family room, foyer and dining room—and see portions of the other rooms.

The Challenge

A color scheme that effectively flows from room to room needs to do so without repetition. The space should be dynamic but not too distracting. There needs to be balanced amounts of light, texture, contrast in hue or value, and movement or pattern.

The Solution

To create a successful flow, you need to tap into the basic elements of design: color, shape, scale, light, texture, pattern and balance. Ideally, these components are combined in a way that creates a pleasing flow, like a quietly moving stream with undercurrents rather than a completely still pool or wildly moving rapids. The key is to look at the big picture. Regard the connected spaces together, not as separate entities. Take in the entire vista as you would if you were looking at a distant view from the top of a hill.

The Method

july05decnews_FlowDRtoFOY

july05decnews_FlowDRtoFOY

Using a blended patina technique with no pattern, a softly grayed celadon/ocher glaze in the foyer creates a dynamic balance with the cool, deep plum walls of the connecting dining room.

Choose three to five favorite colors and consider how you want to see them in the space. What color will be in the background or featured more prominently? Which colors will carry through from one room to the next, and where will they appear? Let existing furnishings, artwork or wall colors inspire you.

The most obvious way to create a pleasing flow is to carry elements of the rooms into each other. These color connections can be bold or subtle. For instance, in the home that illustrates this story, we layered colored glazes of soft patinas to evoke a sense of colored air. This subtle technique allows you to include colors that may not be distinctly visible but have an almost internal effect of connecting spaces.

july05decnews_DRtoFam

july05decnews_DRtoFam

White trim, as seen here in the foyer, family room and dining room, is a unifying element throughout the home.

The family who owns this house loves color and is not afraid to use it. Their home is an excellent example of color that effectively flows from room to room, creating spaces that are dramatic and comfortable.

Color Theory Basics

You know that red, yellow and blue are the primary colors; green, orange and purple/violet are secondary. But it is through the value (lightness and darkness) and saturation (strong, hue-rich "saturated" color or weaker versions of the same color) that the colors we use are most often defined. For example, is a red the color of a ruby or a tomato? American flag red, or "old rose"?

july05decnews_DRtoKIT

july05decnews_DRtoKIT

In the dining room, a deep plum burnished Venetian plaster was put on the walls above the existing white wainscot.

Colors are grouped in color schemes, such as complementary, split complementary or triad. You can see these color combos when you look at the color wheel, which can help you choose color pairings and proportions that will become the springboard for selecting actual paints and fabrics.

Color Tips

july05decnews_FlowKit

july05decnews_FlowKit

In the kitchen, strong red-orange glaze was brushed on in a multidirectional technique. The rich red flows beautifully into the adjacent bronze family room.

• Vary the colors from room to room by varying the intensity of colors within adjacent color families: for example, blues and greens together.

• Contrast fabrics to walls, or relate them to wall colors as monochromatic variations. In a low-contrast palette, texture creates visual interest.

• To create a pleasing scale, choose color accents (small areas) that contrast with walls and floor colors (large areas).

• Feature artwork or other special items by creating a focal point through contrasting color or brightness.

Next Up

Outdoor Living Spaces: Ideas for Outdoor Rooms

Learn about options and ideas for outdoor rooms and outdoor living spaces.

Opened-Up Kitchen Shares Space With Dining Room

FINNE architects worked with a homeowner who wanted to open up her dark, cramped kitchen. The new space has a contemporary feel to it and an open floor plan that shares space with the dining room. Design elements including elm wood and pendant lights were used to unify the spaces.

Orange Paint Colors for Kitchens

Discover the best orange paint colors for your kitchen.

Red Kitchen Paint

Discover the best red paint to use in your kitchen.

Color Me Inspired

Sometimes color inspiration for your home can be found in unexpected places. Get Color! expert Jane Lockhart shows you where to look.

Color Matters to Jill Morton

We tap an expert on everything from creating color harmony to color symbolism and myths.

Outdoor Rooms Add Livable Space

Spend less money on vacations and more time with friends and family on your deck or patio.

Warm Paint Colors for Kitchens

Get ideas on how to use warm paint colors in your kitchen.

Small-Space Living Room Layouts

Use smart strategies to make your small living room feel larger.

Basement Renovation Transforms a Cold Space Into a Warm Family Room

See the before and after photos from another amazing Candice Olson basement makeover, and get tips on how to turn your home's lowest level into a welcoming place to gather.

Stories We're Following

Shop This Look

Found a living space you love in HGTV's Photo Library? Get the look in your own home with products from Wayfair.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.