1. Choose colors that you are comfortable with and that inspire you.
The first place I look is in my closet. Your closet can be a very telling place to discover your go-to colors. Do you wear almost all black and white? Lean toward red? Love denim and white? Gravitate toward hot pink? Jot down what you discover. Your most and least worn colors can tell you a lot about your color comfort zone.
For most of us, we lean toward similar colors in both what we wear and how we decorate—plus you know those colors are flattering and something you'll love over time. Another quick way to discover colors that comfort and inspire you is to look at all the home things you already own, especially those favorites that you've had for years and know you will keep for years to come. It's easy to browse through Pinterest and see amazing rooms, but the true test is living with a space over time. So pay close attention to your shopping patterns for both decor and clothing and you will likely get some insight into your personal "perfect" color palette!
Colors that inspire me tend to be a little different than my comfort colors. Personally, my comfort colors are a lot of textured whites, creams, denims and natural wood, while the colors that inspire me most right now are hot pink, deep turquoise, cobalt blue and blush. Note both ends of your spectrum.
2. Create a mood board of things you love.
Once you've identified those go-to colors, start to compile a pin board or folder on your computer with LOTS of items in those colors. Save different textures, rooms, art and even outfits that inspire you and suit your style. Once you have them saved together, you can create a mood board.
Mood boards are helpful because you can see your overall style more easily. I like this because when I'm shopping for individual items, it's easy to get overwhelmed or to accidentally pick a bunch of cute things that don't compliment each other. Having a mood board to reference (I keep mine saved on my phone) is an easy way to remind yourself of the vibe and style you are going for.
The other thing I love about creating a mood board is that it's easy to see how your colors are going to work together. Maybe your first pass will feel too one dimensional, in which case you can add a few more colors! Or maybe it will feel cluttered and chaotic, a color scheme that would benefit from an extra large dose of neutrals.
In either case, creating a mood board is the fastest way to see how your colors and style will work, and it's so low commitment that it's a win-win!
3. Mix neutrals and fun pops of color.
Maybe I'm a little crazy, but I even like to plan out my neutral colors. For example, in my new color story, black is sparse and natural wood is sporadic, while white, gray and cream are used heavily. Ask yourself—Do you have favorite neutral colors? (to maximize) Are there any neutrals that you dislike? (to minimize)
Neutrals are an awesome way to balance intense color and create a more chill, airy or timeless design. While homes with no color aren't my personal cup of tea, an all neutral palette can be beautiful and very easy to execute. And while I've never lived in a home without bold colors, I would imagine it would feel very comfy and relaxing.
If I lived in a magazine (which, sadly, I do not), I would decorate each room in head-to-toe intense, saturated color. But I have lived in a room that colorful and I didn't love it. It gets old. Plus I love switching things out each season and neutrals make that really easy!
Find your balance. Find your ideal proportion on neutral vs. color.
These pops of color are a great place to use those colors from your mood board that inspire you, but would be obnoxious if overused. A little bit goes a long way with some colors, so use them wisely and have FUN.
4. Focus on paint and permanent pieces first.
I like to build my color story like a pyramid, placing the biggest priority (both money and time spent on decisions) on the more permanent "bones" of my design first. Paint colors are a big priority. For both my current and my future home I chose mostly neutral colors with just a few statement walls. The other elements I have spent a lot of time picking out are our hardwood stain color, a new couch (still haven't decided), rugs and light fixtures. These are pieces that I don't plan to swap out or change while we're living in this home. Choose things you will keep and be happy with for a long time.
If you do choose to go bold on paint colors or furniture, make sure it's with one of your top few favorite colors, something you've gone back to over and over for years–not a seasonal or trendy color.
The details decorating phase is a little bit more fun. Choosing throw pillows, rugs and artwork are more like a reward at the end of all the other stuff. At least that's how I look at it!
5. How and when to break outside the palette.
In my current home I didn't regret my color scheme or want to change it in a major way the whole time I lived there (Yay! Success!). But I didn't always stick to it strictly. For parties and holidays I incorporated a few more colors. I also added different pops of color in certain rooms, like a pink-based art wall in the dining room and coral in the laundry room.
Your chosen color story can represent all the items in your home that you want to mix, match and last a long time. With that said, it doesn't have to become some sort of rule book. Once you've established your basics, you can feel free to break out of your color zone and add as much as you want!