If you want to freshen the look of a room by changing the curtains but don't know how to coordinate window coverings with walls, floors and furnishings, let your imagination soar. When it comes to color, top designers are disregarding traditional color schemes and using bold colors in tight palettes. Using hues within families of color is the key to bringing it all together. Texture and pattern can highlight, or tone down, colors in the palette. Color can open small spaces, create a niche within a space or minimize large spaces. If you want to match new curtains with other elements such as carpets or walls, here are a few tips and guidelines.
When we look at the outside world, there are gradations of dark and light from earth to sky. The earth is dark, often in shades of grey, brown and terra cotta. The space between earth and sky is full of color, such as the variegated shades of green in trees, brightly colored flowers and hues of the built landscape. The sky is brighter and lighter. Many decorators use this gradation from dark to light to coordinate colors in a room.
If your floors are dark, use lighter shades on the vertical plane from floor to ceiling. Window coverings can play to either the light or the dark according to the mood you want to create. For an airy, light-filled space, use lighter colors and light-weight fabrics. To accentuate darker hues, try heavier fabrics that diffuse or block light.
Classic colors also come from nature. The golden-yellow hues of sunshine blend well with shades of green reminiscent of trees or with turquoise seen in the sea and water. Greys and tans evoke rock and sand. If your space is predominantly earth tones, use curtains to add a pop of color. Cherry red or ocher curtains can enliven the room without overwhelming it. Just make sure it is a color you can enjoy for a long time.
Use Classic Color Combinations
Some color combinations never go out of style. Perhaps the most classic is black and white. Black evokes a feeling of formality and dignity. White gives a feeling of light and purity. If you have white walls, pick a soft shade of black for windows. The dark curtains contrasting with the light walls create a focal point at the window. A soft shade of black offsets the dense saturation of pure black. Layering gives the best of both worlds. Use the dark color for mood, thermal insulation or to keep light out. White sheers give privacy as well as light when the dark curtains are open.
Many designers combine hues of orange with shades of blue. Navy and tangerine or sky blue and persimmon are examples. Play off these colors with hues in the same family. Texture can be used to accentuate a shade. Pattern can combine several colors that echo the palette of the room.
Blue and white are a favorite combination. The many shades of blue, as diverse as cobalt blue, navy, turquoise, denim and robin's egg, all contrast nicely with white. Patterns set a theme. Gingham and plaids give a country feel, while geometric prints complement a modern or minimalist theme. Paisleys or repeating patterns in large motifs play up the window. Curtains without patterns soften the window. Although patterns may highlight a dominant color of the room, pattern can also echo other shades.
Another way to use classic color combinations is to pick two predominant colors from the room and expand the palette by adding color from the same family. Several designers recommend using a scale of 60-30-10 to balance color. If you have a predominant color in the room, curtains can balance the ratio. For example, in a room with a predominance of navy blue and a secondary color of deep reds, curtains can combine secondary and accent colors without overwhelming the scheme. Pillows, throw rugs and other accessories can play up color and pattern.
Use Pattern and Texture
If you tend toward a monochrome decorative scheme, pattern and texture will enliven your space. Window dressings, area rugs and throw pillows can change the feel of a room. Mixing and matching types of patterns, sizes of patterns and colors will transform a ho-hum room to a vibrant one. Texture can also add to the décor.
Don't be afraid to mix patterns. There are, however, some basic rules that make mixing patterns come together. You can apply the 60-30-10 ratio for room color to pattern and texture as well. Choose three different designs, such as chevrons, polka dots and florals. Varying the size of two of the patterns makes each distinctive and creates interest. If you use a floral for curtains, try throw pillows in the same floral. Contrast the floral with a small geometric pattern and a stripe. The key is to coordinate colors and hues. Use one color as the theme, and use related colors for contrast and interest. Balance patterns with solids so that the eye is not overwhelmed.
Interesting patterns for curtains include ikat, plaids, toile, florals, chevrons and paisleys. Each sets a mood. Florals are romantic. Paisleys can give a bohemian look or add a touch of formality to a room. Chevrons speak energy. They work well in sunrooms, beach houses and bathrooms. Toile is elegant and formal. Pair toile with a contrast in pattern, not a floral.
Damasks and jacquards use elements of both texture and design to set a mood. Damask is elegant and formal, traditionally made of wool, silk or linen. The subtlety of design is created by the weaving technique, which uses the threads in the warp and weft to create contrast in color, sheen and texture. Damask has a raised pattern that is seen in reverse on the opposite side. Damask holds up well, repels water and is timeless in look. Jacquards are similar, but the texture is flat instead of raised. Both work well as draperies and can also be used as throw pillows for a repeating theme of color, texture and design.
Consult the Color Wheel
Decorators and designers rely on the color wheel to find compatible colors and see how colors relate. The wheel shows hues around a circle, illustrating the relationship of primary, secondary and tertiary colors to one another. The three primary colors are red, blue and yellow. The three secondary colors are green, violet and orange. Tertiary colors are hues of these shades as they go around the wheel: red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet. The colors opposite one another are complementary colors. Blue is opposite orange, one reason that decorators pair these two colors together. Yellow is opposite violet, and red is opposite green.
Adjacent colors are called analogous colors. These colors can be used to vary tone or create highlight. If red is a dominant color, it can be softened by using red-orange or red-violet. You can see how colors can set a mood and reflect light. Pairing opposite colors can create a vibrant look. Toning a color down with white or deepening it with black also adds to a look. Although they are not on the color wheel, neutrals, such as tan, white, grey and black, are used to soften or contrast color. The pattern and color of curtains can be used to complement, enhance or dominate the color scheme of a room, all based on the science of the color wheel.
Contrast Warm and Cool
As you select colors for your curtains and accessories, consider how colors affect feelings and comfort. Colors evoke feelings of warmth and coolness. Cool colors include blues, greens and violets. Cool colors are associated with water, sky and grass. They are calming and soothing, appealing to the intellect. Warm colors include yellows, oranges and reds. Warm colors denote heat, fire and sunshine. They are stimulating, appealing to the emotions. Looking at the color wheel, we see that warm and cool colors are on opposite sides of the wheel. This is because each color absorbs and reflects light differently. Light colors reflect light more than dark colors do.
Black and white also denote warmth and coolness. White is cool, and black is warm. Neutrals do not have much pizzazz by themselves even though particular shades may have warm or cool hues. However, when paired with color, they add sophistication and excitement or tone down intensity.
By contrasting warm and cool colors, you can play up mood and enhance a feeling of comfort. If you live in a hot climate, go with cool colors at the windows of living rooms and bedrooms. If you live in a cool climate, warm colors at the window will contribute to a feeling of warmth indoors.
Pairing curtain color with the room's purpose contributes to the ambience. Deep, warm colors such as burgundy complement dining rooms, where guests want to feel cozy. Often bathrooms and bedrooms are decorated in cool colors because these are places where you want to relax. Bright red curtains at a bedroom window may affect your sleep. The key is balance. If your walls and flooring are in cool colors, try warm colors for curtains and accessories to balance the look.
Go With Your Feelings
If you like a color, explore it. Almost any color can be used if attention is paid to scale, intensity of hue and how it is combined with others. Analogous colors on the color wheel are often considered to clash, such as using red and orange together. However, if you use an analogous color for a hint of contrast or to lessen the intensity of the hues, it can work. In the 60-30-10 scheme, a fourth color can be added by splitting the secondary color.
If in doubt, take color swatches home. See how your choices match wall color, floor coverings and furnishings. Think about the mood the colors and patterns will set. If you have antique carpets for flooring, you may prefer to let them be the focal point. Use one of the carpet's secondary colors at the windows to complement and enhance. If your floors are herringbone wood, a paisley drapery in rich colors will complement both the pattern and the warmth of the wood.
Your living space should reflect your taste and lifestyle. Although there are basic rules that help bring a space together, ultimately it has to appeal to your sense of beauty. Explore your tastes and experiment. If you have a basic palette to work with, accessories and window coverings can be easily changed to reflect seasons, mood and taste.