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Blank slate - need help with a color scheme.

Justin James
7 years ago

Long post, sorry! Don't know where else to go...

My father just purchased a home within the past couple days, and he's left me with decorating duty. I'm having a difficult time. Backstory: we both live downtown in separate apartments. He works downtown and I attend college downtown. He had this crazy idea to buy a home in the burbs so he doesn't have to pay for and maintain two apartments. The problem is that we both have very bachelor styled apartments: leather sectionals, glass and stone tables, etc. My sofa is going in the loft space upstairs, and his in the basement. So I have to fill the entire first floor - except for the master suite.

I don't know what to do with colors at all. We both have a "transitional" taste, somewhere between traditional and contemporary, but also with a little twist of rustic. Simple, not too much clutter, and neutral colors. I like, and my father wouldn't mind, pops of bold colors. Accents, decor, etc. I can pick out nice furniture, but colors confuse me haha.

My father likes the white cabinetry and ceramic sink, but not so much the counter tops. He wants granite (Who doesn't?), but isn't sure what color. He wants black granite, but I think that might be too stark?

There's a formal dining room, but he's going to use that as his office - he works from home a lot. There's a comfortable space for a 60'/6 person dining set off of the kitchen (pictured above). I was thinking either a black or grey table, but I could be totally wrong. I went to a local furniture store, and a salesman helped me play around with customizing a Canadael dining set. I liked the Peppercorn Black and Weathered Gray the most, but I'm not sure how it would look with the wood floors and cabinets. I know that an area rug can offset the floors and table a bit. If I went with a black or grey table do I have to stick with those colors for other things like a sideboard? I can't imagine a black table with white cabinets and brown wood floors with a maple sideboard. Like I said, lost on colors...

This is the great room off of the kitchen area. My father kind of wants to shy away from leather (since we already have so much of it) maybe a chair. Once again, grey came to mind for fabric for the sofas. I found a sofa set that I liked. I looked through all the fabric samples. Grey just stands out to me the most, but... grey table set, grey sofa... white cabinets... I'd need a lot of colorful throw pillows. I was thinking that if I did grey seating, I could do a fun ottoman with a trey to offset neutral overload. I'm also completely lost on curtain colors. The fireplace will be updated at some point too.

The dining room is very 90s with the gold plated chandelier and brown wood trim. My father said that the first thing he is doing is yanking the lighting down, haha. He also wants to paint the trim throughout the house white. We're not sure if to leave the carpet, try to match the wood in the rest of the house, or do something totally different. At the furniture store I went to they had a nice display of custom shelving that would look nice along the back with a desk in the middle of the room.

Loft at the top off the foyer that overlooks the great room, basically a small living room. The brown trim has to go, and I was wanting to put laminate wood flooring down. One of my good friend's family owns a flooring company, so I can get it for extremely cheap. I have a white leather sectional in my apartment living room that I was going to put up there with some other random odds and ends.. I was thinking of a grey flooring (lol obviously) at the top of the landing.

I really need some ideas for paint, curtains, and furniture so that everything isn't grey. I could honestly get carried away and paint all the walls grey, put up grey curtains, buy all grey furniture, have grey flooring, grey linens, grey decor, grey everything. Haha.

Thanks! Any advice appreciated.

Comments (14)

  • redtartan
    7 years ago

    In the kitchen - If going with a stone, I'd love to see something that has some fleck of colour that picks up the colour of the wood floors. You can still have black in it, but a nice reddy brown fleck would be great too. It's nice bright looking room so a bit more colour on the walls would be nice. Espeically since the cabinets are white.

    kitchen DIning area - with the floors and the cabinets you could do either gray or black. You are both flexible with your design tastes so you could do a nice rustic gray table or completely different and do a sleek black one. It comes down to what you want from that room. I personally like the idea of the rustic table in a gray. Is the maple sideboard, just plain maple that has shellac or is is stained? The sideboard might compete with the floor but if you can pull something else into the room that has the same tone of wood it could work. For example some rustic wood and metal bar stools at that counter.

    Living room- the gray sofa would be fine, even with a gray table in the next room. Grab some chairs in another colour, add a few pillows with pops of colour. It doesn't have to be a tonne of them. Do you want a splash of colour with the curtains or do you want neutral? The tone of gray you choose will determine the accent. Some grays look better with purples, others yellow, red.......
    Yes please paint out all that trim. Our house has the same 1980's wood trim. It's not even nice wood either and it is in every single room of the house, baseboards, windows, doors and doorway. Ughh. We've been slowly painting over all ours and wow the difference.

    I'm not a big fan of carpet myself, but hardwood is a big expense. It would look best matched to the house but your dad could also just live with it for a bit. It doesn't look like it's in bad shape at all.

    So now here's the question, other than gray, what colours do you like. What colour clothes (no gray lol) are you drawn to? If you walked into a department store, what colours would draw your eye? Gray is a neutral so you can pretty much choose any other colour to go with it. You want colours that make you feel good.

  • Justin James
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago


    Black with a nice red fleck in it would be nice. I like the green counters that are in there now with the white. However, they're of a man-made material I believe. Would a really dark green counter look nice or black with some green in it (if that exists?).

    Canadel had some nice styles of tables, some a little more to the rustic side. The Weathered Grey I mentioned is really nice. My father would like a sleek black more. They also have a ton of upholstery options that we could put on end chairs and/or a bench to liven the area up. I really like the idea of a rustic grey table as well. I'll talk to my dad.

    Example of the weathered grey

    I haven't picked out a sideboard. I was just using that as an example. Should I match it to the tables then? My father has a black buffet/sideboard/wine rack thing that he puts his dishes in, wine glasses, mixers, etc. I don't even know if we need a sideboard in the area, but most people that I know have something to that affect.

    Yeah, I was thinking a grey sofa/love seat combo with maybe some patterned accent chairs with yellow or a limeish green and coordinating that with throw pillows on the sofas. Purple is definitely out. Neither of us are a big fan. I'm drawn to lighter grays to medium grays (like charcoal). My apartment has bright wood floors similar in color to the house. I have light grey walls with a white leather sectional. I have desk, bookshelf, media combo wall unit in a light grey-brown. My dining set is a sleek ebony. But then I have a red locker unit from ikea and a bunch of bold lime/yellow greens throughout. Some medium blue-navy as well.

    We'd probably go with simple curtains, nothing with valances or frills or too drapey. For the wall of windows, especially the top windows my dad was looking at those roll up curtains/fabric blinds. There isn't a big privacy concern since its against a park, and is very wooded. He'll probably never want them closed.

    Flooring costs isn't too much of a concern. The form dining room isn't that big that it would be costly to put hardwood in. He'll probably leave it alone for a bit like the fireplace (which is also that awful 80s-90s brown). The carpet was replaced in the bedrooms, loft, and dining before the owners moved out. I'm definitely painting over the trim or going to have it replaced. Is it easy to paint over? What about the fireplace?

    My father is the guy who tends to wear all black, haha. The only time he wears color is when his girlfriend or I have bought him something with color. I wear A LOT of grey and blue. That's probably more than half of my wardrobe, grey and blue. But I like greens, reds, tans, etc. I wore a pink polo yesterday, so I'm not opposed to color. I like the idea of an accent wall of color. It just hard for me to see it, hehe.

    We're trying to get all of the basics down in the house like furniture, appliances for the kitchen, etc. We own artwork and photography pieces. We have plenty of the extra stuff like vases, console tables, and things of that nature that we can use temporarily over time until we build on it. The house is really nice, and has good bones. Perfect layout - the master suite is on the back left corner of the house on the first floor and the two bedrooms upstairs are on the right of the house. Its just outdated in some areas like the [ugh] brown trimming and the counter tops. After my parents separated my father pretty much resumed a bachelor lifestyle, so its kind of hard to put together a 3,000 Sq Ft house together all of sudden after he woke up one day randomly wanting a house. Really appreciate the feedback :)

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  • Justin James
    Original Author
    7 years ago


    Yeah I think my father would considering touching base with one. The furniture store I went to has a good design studio too. They do a lot of custom furniture, but it starts getting pricey. The sofas I was looking at started at around 3K without customization/base models. The dining sets start out at about 2K. Which is within the budget, but how much do designers usually run for? My father pays for my university tuition out of pocket and he's putting X amount of money down/up front for the house.

    I didn't even think about a designer though, so good idea :)!

  • Nothing Left to Say
    7 years ago

    One way to pick colors is to choose art pieces you love and then use the colors from those for a color scheme. For example, we own a painting by a family friend that has blues and yellows/golds with some brown and a few green touches. It hangs in our living room, so our curtains are a pale gold, our sofa is brown, our chaise is blue, our rug is off-white with a brown border and our walls are off-white. We have blue and yellow throw pillows.

    It's often nice if your color scheme is connected throughout a house. So one room might be yellow and grey with blue accents and the next might be grey with yellow accents and so on.

  • redtartan
    7 years ago

    Lots of natural stone can have green flecks or striations (sp?). You're right about not needing a sideboard or cabinet in that area. I was confused by your post. I wouldn't match the furnishings, they should complement one another but not all one matching set.

    I like the wood table. Looks a bit like weathered barn board colour. Is there enough space for something that big? They style and colour will look good with the beadboard on the walls.

    Instead of getting a matching sofa / loveseat combo, you may one to do a sofa and some chairs. It's hard to tell from the pictures but it would look like it would be a tight fit with both. Also putting chairs instead of loveseat gives you the option to do some coloured or patterned chairs.
    I love the idea of yellow, but I am biased. I love fall colours and tend to gravitate towards them. Yellows, reds, greens would all look great with rustic furniture.

    Definitely nothing frilly on those windows. I'm sure someone could help you out with styling them, I've never had tall windows like that so not sure where you'd put them when you have windows over the fireplace. Perhaps just shades with simple sheer drapes that run on the bottom windows only. Sheers can be coloured if you like, don't have to be white. Or you could just leave them completely bare.

    Trim is very easy to paint. Tape off where you don't want paint going and prime it and paint it. You may need two coats of primer. They also make a plastic product that you place on the floor when painting. It slips under the baseboard and you move it along as you paint so paint doesn't get on your floor. I've used it in the past and it worked well.

    So since you own some artwork already that's actually a great jumping off point for you. What I would do is figure out where you want the art and then use the colours from those peices as your accent colour or finding a complementary wall colour. Grab a bunch of paint samples that you think you'd like and compare them next to the art.

  • Justin James
    Original Author
    7 years ago


    They have a ton of different options for table sizes and shapes. I was just showing you that table as an example for the wood :P. The one I picked out in the store is a standard rectangle table, like 60 inches/seats 6. The guy said that a 60 inch table would fit in the space nicely.

    The pictures are a little deceiving. Even being in the room is deceiving because the room is so tall. It's actually a pretty good size room. I'm worried with a sofa and a couple chairs there might not be enough seating. Maybe a smaller sectional and couple chairs? I don't think my dad wants a sectional though, haha.

    I've never liked yellows and reds together. I'm not sure why. I like yellows and greens, more a springy look. I used the Pantone Spring 2013 color scheme for my apartment living room/dining/foyer mixed with grey/white/neutral.

    I used a lot of the green, blue, and red, and some of the orange.

    Yeah. He and I discussed some black out roll up shades for the top and curtains for the bottom. For windows separated by a window do you put one panel on each window and have the wall hooks to hold the curtains back (I think I saw that in a magazine once, lol)... or two panels on each?

    My dad's artwork is very minimalist and mine will probably stay in my room/the upstairs loft. Haha.

    I just don't know what to do with wall color. Neutral with an accent wall or just all neutral? If he does a black counter it'd be nice to do some sort of back splash with color.

    Would that floor tool that goes under the baseboards work on carpet ok?

  • redtartan
    7 years ago

    If you have something to accent than an accent wall can be nice, but if you are just doing an accent wall for no reason then I'd say no. Just do the whole colour the same. For example you may want to do a dark colour in the living on the wall that the fireplace is on.

    Floor tool does work on some carpet areas, depends how tight the carpet is to the baseboard. I tried to look it up but can't find it. I can't remember what it was called. It was in a sheet of about 4" wide by 2ish feet long. I'm going by memory so I might be so off. They were white and I likely got them at Home Depot, but I'm in Canada so not sure if it was stocked in US as well.

  • MtnRdRedux
    7 years ago

    The easiest way to approach this, in my experience, is to look through photos or magazines and figure out what you like, and then copy it. Your quest is a little too wide open for now. People can be more helpful if you can specify what you want and your budget.

    So, for example maybe do a search on kitchens with white cabinets and dark counters. Or go to a showroom. Or if you are really open minded and need a place to start, start with looking at the least expensive option (maybe something on clearance locally eg) and see if that might work.

  • MagdalenaLee
    7 years ago

    I agree with Mtn, you need to first pick out some pictures that you find appealing. You can do a search in Houzz using your key words and create an idea book. Then you can narrow down exactly what look you are going for.

  • Annie Deighnaugh
    7 years ago

    I too agree that pictures can give you some direction. There are many many pics of nice looking places on houzz so I'd definitely go through that. In fact the easiest way to come up with a color scheme is to come up with an inspiration first...a picture from a magazine, a piece of art, fabric you want to use in the room, colors from the view can be anything.

    Color wise, the rooms should coordinate if they're open to each other, but that doesn't mean they have to match. They should go though. Take a look at Benjamin Moore's Affinity line. All of those paint colors are designed to go with each other so that will help a lot with making a color choices blend nicely.

    Also one aspect you didn't mention is practicality and maintenance. I know several friends who are sorry, for example, that they went with black granite as it shows every speck and crumb. Same thing with carpeting...your tweeds and prints in mottled colors will show the dirt less than will light or solid colors.

    You might also peruse "Using Design Seeds" which is a series of threads from quite awhile ago that shows how to take a picture or image for color inspiration and translate that into a room or multiple rooms that you want to coordinate. It actually goes on for several threads. That may help inspire you.

  • ianna
    7 years ago

    go to a showroom and look at choices for countertops. I say you always take samples and check it out in your house. consider the lighting and consider the surrounding cabinetry. I do say too dark countertop is not really great looking. I also experienced in an area with hardwater, that it always stains too easily requiring constant wiping and cleaning. Instead try checking out synthetic stone check out dark grey colours. The contrast will be nice and not stark at all.

  • jlc712
    7 years ago

    Hope it turns out to be a good arrangement for you and your father! It sounds like you have some furniture to work with, and some good ideas to start with. I agree with painting all the trim white, and replacing the carpet in the office. Maybe a cork floor? It would be soft and quiet, and you wouldn't have to worry about matching the existing hardwood.

    Countertop color-- Maybe a gray, or wood? Black would be a lot of contrast, but could look nice too.

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    I think you could do the kitchen nook table in white or gray, and do a sideboard in a wood tone, white, or any bright color.

    In the great room, with your gray couches, I think you could pull in almost any color you want. I like navy, turquoise, bright green, or orange with gray. Like everyone above has said, find an inspiration picture or item, like artwork or a fabric, to find your color scheme. I think rugs are a great place to start, and will give you ideas for colors for paint, curtains, and accent furniture pieces.

    Here are a few photos, maybe you will see rugs/colors/window treatment styles/accessories that you like--

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  • zorroslw1
    7 years ago

    Definitely go with neutral curtains. Cream, off white, soft beige. Use a soft fabric that will hang nicely. By our fireplace we plan to hang soft curtains on each side. Put the curtan only pulled off to one side of the window, on the left side make it on the left and on the right side pulled to the right of the rod. This will give you a nice open look that can be pulled closed at night for privacy. Online pictures would be a good source of inspiration. Also, a designer can give you ideas, it doesn't mean you necessarily have to buy furniture from their store. You could let them know that and ask if they would just charge for the design session. Gray would be a good base color and then add color with stools, pillows, area rugs, table cloth or center piece. Much can be done without breaking the bank. I would suggest not trying to do everything at once but get the main pieces and give some thought to the colorful accessories.