Colour Theory in Interiors: Complimentary Colours

In my day job I have worked as a make up artist and later as an educator, teaching make up artistry. As part of this training, it is vital for junior make up artists to understand the science and significance of colour theory. Colour theory is the study of the relationship between colours, so of course applies to pretty much all aspects of art and design. While I am very instinctive when it comes to design choices in our home, I realise that this is because I have over 15 years experience in obsessing over lipstick colour choice and it has possibly translated to how I use colour in our home.

To kick off the discussion, lets talk about the most effective colour relationship to add dramatic flare to your home; complimentary colours. When referring to complimentary colours, these are colours that sit opposite each other on the colour wheel as demonstrated below. When complimentary colours are put next to each other, they make each other “pop” and appear stronger.

complimentary colours

Complimentary Colour Theory is used a lot day to day in order to grab your attention; think traffic lights. These are coloured as such so that when the signal switches from Green to Red the drivers attention is caught. You also see complimentary colour theory a lot in the botanical world; think of a beautiful yellow and purple orchid; that certainly will catch attention and ensure pollination!

So how does this look in interiors? Lets look at few examples… I am always surprised by the positive response I get from pictures of the very simple sideboard pictured below. To “stand out” on instagram, your posts need to be a scroll stopper; much like how the green to red light stops and cautions drivers. So with that in mind, it makes a little more sense why versions of this image gain traction; the teal green is complimentary to the neon pink handles (as pink is Red + White) so therefore perhaps captures attention.


Once you start to think about Complimentary Colours in interiors, you’ll be amazed how often you see them being used. I have trawled some of my favourite instagram homes to bring you some of the finest examples of complimentary colours to inspire your next redecoration or up cycle project. I’ve looked at this in two different methods; how to go for it with complimentary colours for a strong statement and how to build in complimentary colours into your home through accents.


Complimentary_Ingrid Polka Dot
Photo Credit: @polkadotgird
Complimentary_Kate Dreyer
Photo Credit: @changoandco
Complimentary_Sarah Nude and the Novice
Photo Credit: @nudeandthenovice

Above, Ingrid from @polkadotgrid has chosen an orange lampshade to compliment her aqua Kitchen units. The orange and yellow hues are also bought out in the huge map wall hanging to the left. Take a look at Ingrids feed; this room is incredible from every angle!

Similarly, the room put together by @changoandco has added subtle touches of orange to the blue bedroom with a lamp base and cushion. What a fantastic way to combine such bold colours without overpowering the room.

I adore Sarah from @nudeandthenovice take on complimentary colours with her orange sofa and the stunning blue frame; what an effective way to brighten her furniture without taking over the room. I love it!

Complimentary_Lou Watkins
Photo Credit: @louawatkins
Complimentary_Katie Woods
Photo Credit: @comedowntothewoods

Above, the fabulous Lou from @lou_a_watkins and Katie from @comedowntothewoods have chosen a statement wallpaper, but their hints of complimentary colours remain subtle. With Lou’s bedroom she has added a soft pink sheepie rug and artwork with pink accents. It looks just gorgeous and is quite the scroll stopper!

With Katies study (which by the way is behind the most awesome secret door) the complimentary colour is found within the wallpaper with its soft pink background behind the cheese plant motif. She has carried on the accents from the wallpaper into her furniture (that chair!!) and art; a simply stunning space!

Both of these rooms work really well because both Katie and Lou have picked similar hues in the colours they are complimenting. A bold red and a mint green wont compliment as well as a blush pink with a mint green because the strength of colour will be too different.


First up Jo from @acolourfilledlife and her colourful Kitchen

This kitchen is FEARLESS! Frankly, it makes my eyes and heart smile to see people be so bold with their interior choices and Jo certainly delivers. Its one thing to be ballsy enough to use paint to create statement colour combinations, but what makes this kitchen is that Jo has pushed the colour theory to her tiles too. These colours are all beautifully bought together with the green and pink wallpaper; kitch, fearless and totally cool. I love this kitchen!

Next, Emmas daughter Indy’s colourful purple and yellow paradise!

This is such a fun space for a little girl and it sounds like 4 year old Indy took the lead in creative direction. This Kawaii inspired room is bright, bold and super cute! Emma from @emmaworrollo says “I wanted it to feel fizzy, busy and alive; because that’s what kids minds are like” I think the two of them couldn’t have done a better job in delivering a vibrant, eccentric and delicious room!

Now lets shoot over to Oxford and take a look at Lissi’s from @oxfordone bathroom

The combination of this deep coral orange with the navy blue is pure bathroom magic! I barely know where to start with my love for the statements in here, but that wallpaper is just jellyfish heaven. Lissi has carried on the rich colours from her statement wall into her roll top bath which reflects the deep coral while avoiding a matchy matchy look. Bravo Lissi, your bathroom is fabulous!

Lastly, I have to have a shout out to Sara @sararaak across the Pond in Washington and her incredible front door

Complimentary_Sara Raak

This front door has it all as far as complimentary colour theory; a lime door and magenta door mat, tied together with a pink wreath?? What more could a colour obsessive want to see in their insta feed! Way to go Sara!

So whether you go for an accent of complimentary colours or all out to a bold statement, feel armed with the knowledge of how you can combine colours to make them work harder and pop more!


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