5 Tips for Using an Analogous Color Scheme

Color plays a pivotal part in the design process as one of the most defining aspects of a scheme. Color dictates how a room makes you feel the second you walk in, setting the tone for the action that plays out in the space and how you experience and remember it. Color can instruct you to relax or stay alert, feel fresh and invigorated, or be moody and dramatic; that's why it's important to get it right.

Interior designers often turn to the color wheel for inspiration when developing a color scheme. It's a great tool to observe how colors interact and guide your color-fueled decisions. There are a few tried and tested color formulas that you can use to ensure a harmonious scheme, namely monochromatic, analogous, complementary, split complementary, triadic, and tetradic. Here, we will discuss analogous color schemes and how to implement them successfully.

What is an analogous color scheme?

Contemporary Bedroom
Katie Bassett Interiors

Analogous colors are three colors that sit next to each other on the color wheel, like color neighbors! The trio usually comprises one primary, one secondary, and one tertiary color. For example, a cool analogous color scheme might consist of blue (primary), blue-green (tertiary), and green (secondary).

The word 'analogous' comes from the Greek 'analogos', meaning proportionate, according to due proportion. In this context, the name refers to the close relationship and similarities between the colors that make them compatible. "An analogous color scheme uses three colors that are directly related, creating a visually pleasing and calming effect", says Angela Hamwey, founder and creative director of Mackenzie & Co. "These colors are often found in nature and work well together to create a harmonious design."

Midcentury Bedroom
Heerwagen Design Consulting

Nature is an excellent source of inspiration for a color scheme. You only have to look outside your window at the trees in autumn, watch the sky at sunset, or admire a fresh bunch of flowers to see evidence of an analogous scheme in action and register the soothing effect it has on the body, mind and soul. "We look to nature to inspire our palettes and create a seamless transition between the indoors and outdoors", says Angela. "We particularly like to use blue and green to create a calm, serene feel, but layer them thoughtfully, so they don't overpower the design." Perhaps because of their connection with nature, analogous color palettes bring a naturally relaxing and balanced energy to a room.

We often associate analogous palettes with colorful hues, but the same approach can be applied to neutrals too. "Using analogous neutrals creates a cohesive design that feels natural and organic and doesn't overwhelm the space with color", says Angela. "To successfully implement an analogous neutral scheme, pick three similar colors and use various shades and tones. For example, in our Curtis Point project, we primarily used creams, tans, and browns throughout this home to replicate the natural beauty of the surroundings", she adds "We created a seamless transition from indoors to outdoors and accented the design with natural textures such as rattan, jute, and lots of greenery."

How to decorate with an analogous color scheme

Contemporary Living Room
Holly Scott Interior Design

There are no boundaries to an analogous color scheme; they work well in every room of the house. However, we do have some tips to help you get the best out of this color formula!

1. Define the Mood

There is an infinite range of colors, so knowing where to start when picking one to influence your scheme can be challenging. Begin by pinpointing the mood and feel you want to create in the space. For example, you might want your bedroom to feel soft and serene, dark and dramatic, or warm and cozy. In color psychology, cool shades, like blues and greens, have naturally soothing qualities, while warmer shades, like yellows and oranges, have an energizing effect.

That said, the feelings we associate with different colors are also entirely personal. Look at various colors and ask yourself how they make you feel. Do you lean more toward a cool palette or a warm one, darker shades or lighter ones? Remember, all colors can have a warm or cool undertone, so don't write off blues and greens if you prefer a warmer palette. Just look for blue and green shades with a warm yellow undertone instead.

2. Check the Undertones

Talking of undertones, since analogous color palettes are composed of similar colors, they naturally feel harmonious. However, where it can start to feel awkward is when the undertones of the colors differ. For example, a warm orange and orange-yellow can look awkward next to a cool lemon yellow. To avoid this mismatch, pay attention to the subtletiesof each hue to ensure the undertones of all three colors are consistent, pairing warm with warm and cool with cool.

Eclectic Living Room
1st Option

3. Apply the 60-30-10 Rule

This rule applies to every color scheme you put together. If you were to use an equal amount of each color or overdo your dominant hue, your space would feel awkward. The 60-30-10 rule is a handy tool to ensure you achieve the right balance between the colors in your palette to create a harmonious space.

Start by picking a dominant color to fill 60% of the space on the walls and large furniture. If you have already chosen your analogous palette, the color in the middle often works best as the dominant shade.

For those of you who already know what color you want on the walls - i.e., your dominant color - but weren't sure what to compliment it with, you're already halfway there. Now, you have to look at a color wheel and see what colors sit next to it on both sides. These will be your supporting colors, split into 30% and 10% quantities. For example, if your starting point is blue, that would be the most prominent color and backdrop to the room, and blue-violet and blue-green would support it.

The color you allocate for the 30% can be used as an accent through window treatments, accent furniture pieces, or large area rugs. The remaining color will be your 10%, introduced with decorative accessories, like scatter cushions, artwork, and ornaments.

4. Create Tonal Contrast

"Choose one darker shade to create contrast" suggests Angela. "The only possible con to an analogous color palette is that it can create a monochromatic look. While this makes for a cohesive design, it may lack interest or contrast." In an analogous color palette, the colors are closely related, so they tend to merge into each other, feeling overwhelming to the eye.

Avoid this by using tonal variety to create contrast between the shades and playing around with lightness, darkness, and saturation levels to add dimension to the space. For example, in a blue-green living room scheme, you could use a pale teal on the walls and contrast it with a vibrant emerald-green sofa and a variety of light and dark blue scatter cushions.

Traditional Kitchen
PlaceDesign Kitchens and Interiors

5. Use Print and Texture

Print and texture offer another excellent opportunity to add interest and dimension to your analogous scheme without disrupting the harmonious palette. Pattern and texture appeal to the visual and tactile senses and prevent a space from feeling flat and lifeless.

The most obvious way to introduce patterns is via soft furnishings and textiles, like window treatments and upholstered furniture, and wallcoverings. Though, when you look closely, you'll see patterns can also be found in different materials or appear through repetition of shapes, like a wooden herringbone floor or chevron tile backsplash, for example. Add textural variation by selecting a variety of materials and finishes that can be layered on top of each other to create a sense of movement, dimension, and history in the space.

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