How to paint rooms different colors if the rooms converge?

The rise of open living has to be one of the most significant shifts in our homes in recent times. For all its benefits, open plan design comes with some challenges, especially around using paint colors creatively on walls in your space. After all, how do you successfully paint rooms in different colors if those rooms are next to each other?

It’s understandable why simple, one-tone paint palettes go hand-in-hand with open spaces. Often there is no obvious place to make a color change, and if you paint open spaces in different colors, the effect can be unpredictable. Keeping it simple is playing it safe.

But if you love color, you don’t have to choose between the joys of an open life and embracing the paint ideas you want. Whether you’re dealing with rooms separated by open doorways, different zones in an open house, or just adjacent spaces, interior designers have tricks for introducing color when rooms are next to each other. Here’s what you need to know.

Luke is a freelance writer and stylist specializing in modern, luxury design. Here, he shares some of his top tips for painting adjoining rooms, and pulls tricks from his extensive contact book with design experts.

How do I choose paint colors that match?

Before going into the finer details of running through colors in adjacent rooms or spaces, think about how your color choice will work. When rooms are side by side, wall colors don’t just stand on their own, so they must be taken into account in the vistas created from every angle you see as you use the rooms.

“Choose colors that complement each other as your eye moves visually from one space to another,” says interior designer Ginger Curtis, founder of Urban Designs (opens in new tab). However, this does not mean that they have to “match” per se. “I often prefer colors that contrast yet complement the colors around them,” Ginger adds. ‘For example, moving from a dark, moody dining room open to a light and airy living space.’

an open space with two colored walls

(Image credit: Linda van der Wal – Studio Danish Summer)

The cornerstones for creating a color palette are the same for an open space as they are for any room, and depend on your interior style and color preferences. When using different colors in rooms to match, a tone scheme may be the best solution for your space, or something with more contrast.

How do I make the rooms cohesive?

Creating a color palette in an open space means that your design should feel connected, with each space referencing the other. “A good rule of thumb is, if you’re going to paint rooms in an open space different colors, re-apply the color in an accessory, artwork or fabric from the other room,” says the San Francisco-based interior designer. Holly A Kopman (opens in new tab). “A little accessory can do wonders when connecting rooms.”

a living room and hallway in shades of gray

Credit: Paint and Paper Library

There are a number of ways you can go about this to strike the right balance and ensure that a larger space doesn’t have too many themes of color. Creating a continuous line between the spaces can be as simple as a small but impressive accessory in one area that is the same color as the dominant color in another. Alternatively, you can apply the 60-30-10 rule to the larger space, which allows different areas to be painted in different colors while still feeling like they’re part of the same scheme.

Where should the color change of the paint take place?

“The other key factor in looking for natural breakpoints to stop and transition from one color to another,” says Ginger Curtis of Urbanology Designs. In most spaces, this will be deferred to architectural details, rather than choosing random dots and color blocking with paint. Whether they are niches and niches, corners, structural beams or doorways, the best open spaces to use different colors in have these breaking points to add structure to your space.

“Always keep in mind where the corners are,” says interior designer Annaliesse Kelly, founder of AK design (opens in new tab). “I recommend doing a color change on an inside corner rather than an exposed corner.”

This also ensures a cleaner finish. “Pick a spot where you’ll have the cleanest transition, ideally no visible edge, where it can be difficult to get the sharpest finish without the paint bleeding on the other side of the corner,” Annaliesse explains. “This is especially true if you go from white to a highly contrasting color like black. You want the paint lines to be completely straight, trim to trim.”

rooms in different colors next to each other

Credit: Margaret D Lange. Design: Collective Works, Koi Color Studio

Trimming, especially around doorways between rooms that converge, can also be an effective way to structure a color transition. They can be painted an entirely different color, whether that be a neutral color like white or a third color that complements both spaces. However, door frames also create a lot of extra angles for those all-important breakpoints between colors.

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