Design Recipes: Your guide to creating a color story

Muted neutral tones help create a soft, soothing color vibe. (Handout/TNS)

Warm tones are repeated in this family room through the use of artwork, toss pillows and ottoman. (Handout/TNS)

A black and white color scheme serves as a bold and powerful color story. (Handout/TNS)

Artwork serves as the inspiration for a green color palette. (Scott Gabriel Morris/TNS)

Shades of pink create a fun and festive color scheme in a children’s bedroom. (Scott Gabriel Morris/TNS)

Cream, gray and chartreuse create a modern color story. (Scott Gabriel Morris/TNS)

Ideally, your home should reflect your style, taste and sense of design. The launchpad for such inspiration often begins with color. Creating a color story can help provide inspiration for a successful design. Often a successful story begins with an inspirational piece, which can be anything from a graphic, colorful area rug to a one-of-a-kind art piece or a side chair that has an interesting pattern. Color blocking, also often called color mapping, is a popular design technique in which a color is repeated or mapped throughout a space. The technique allows a color scheme to feel cohesive. Add to your story with complementary fabrics, furniture and even finishes.

Here are more do’s and don’ts to keep in mind as you design your space.



Do choose an inspirational piece that helps you make a bold color statement.

Do repeat a color in ways that are both subtle, such as accents and accessories, and bold, such as upholstery or area rugs.

Do build color from a neutral palette. Great foundational colors include white, cream/tan, black, navy blue and brown.


Don’t have a color stand alone. If you introduce a color into a space, repeat the color elsewhere at least once in the same room.

Don’t overlook interesting ways to incorporate color such as metals and finishes.

Don’t use more than three colors in the same space. Typically a mix of a primary, secondary and pop of color works well.

Don’t choose trendy colors. Choose ones that will stand the test of time and can remain in your color story for years to come.

Cathy Hobbs, based in New York City, is an Emmy Award-winning television host and a nationally known interior design home staging expert and short-term rental/vacation home designer with offices in New York City and The Hudson Valley. Contact her at or visit her website at

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