Our Whole House Color Palette

Q: Hi guys! I was snooping around your blog to try and find a floor plan of your new home with the colors you used for each room (like you did in the post from Feb 24/2010) but I didn’t find one! I would L-O-V-E to see what your new house looks like now, with a visualization of the color scheme per room. Is this possible, or am I asking way too much? HAPPY NEW YEAR by the way! – Danielle

A: Oh yeah – we’re way overdue on that! So when Danielle submitted that comment here, we officially bumped it to the top of our to-do list. We did one of them for our first house, and it was fun to see how our paint colors have evolved over the years. So without further ado, here’s our current house’s color palette as it stands now (we still have to paint the guest bathroom and the spare room). It’s not too easy to see all of the colors (ex: the back of the dining room built-ins are dark teal, but it’s not as easy to see those little slivers of color in the image below as well as the office stencil and Clara’s closet stencil) but it was fun to play around in photoshop and make an updated floor plan for this house’s paint picks so far. Note: click here for a full list of these paint colors.

The cool thing we’ve realized is that most of our rooms with brightly colored walls tend to have a few more neutral choices to balance things out (ex: our greeny-yellow walled kitchen has white cabinets/counters and a soft gray backsplash with brown cork floors). And our rooms with more neutral colors on the walls tend have more color added in with brightly patterned curtains & pillows, geometric rugs and bold art, painted furniture, etc. But we’ll get to that a little more in a second.

First, just for fun, here’s our first house’s color palette. We still seem to love blues and greens with a fair amount of neutral tones, but we traded in the creams and tans for soft and taupey grays and added plums, pinks, and warm yellow-y green to keep it from feeling too cold. We’ll always have a special place in our hearts for the “sea glass” colors of our first house though. Especially in a smaller home with some pretty tiny rooms, keeping things flow-y and neutral was really helpful when it came to making it feel open and airy. Our current house is larger, so a few hits of color among the other more toned down walls make us happy (and don’t seem to chop things up as much as they could in a smaller floor plan).

 We’ve actually seen lots of pretty homes with the same exact color on every wall of the entire house (whether it’s a crisp white tone, a soft tan color, a taupey-gray, or even something more daring like celery, yellow, or a muted blue-gray tone everywhere). Meanwhile we’ve also seen a ton of gorgeous homes with a different paint color in every single room. We tend to fall right in the middle of that spectrum, preferring to use a handful of colors in a few different spaces.

I think we like to reference a few over-arching wall colors in a few different places just so there’s some sort of flow and relation among the spaces, but not too much straight up cloning going on (thanks to varying other items like rugs, art, pillows, curtain fabrics, etc). For example, we have the same soft grey tone on the walls in our living room and our dining room, but the dining room has deep teal paint on the back of the built-ins to differentiate it, and also has colorful curtains and a bright yellow door…

… meanwhile the living room has a green geometric rug, colorful pillows, and softer tone-on-tone curtains with dark painted beams. So we’ve found that in rooms where we have softer or more neutral walls we layer in more patterns and colors than the rooms with brighter walls (like our kitchen).

Maybe the biggest change? Our first house had white curtains in every. single. room. except for Clara’s bedroom. So one major difference here has been that we’ve embraced more colorful and patterned curtains in nearly every room.

Bold color was definitely less present in our first house. Comparing our color-coded floor plans above might make that pretty clear, but it’s even more evident when you actually look at room shots. While our first living room was softly layered with tone on tone colors…

… our current living room (the pic above this one) definitely has more pattern and color going on (bright pillows and vases, a larger geometric rug, etc) as well as more high contrast choices (dark beams and a dark sofa).

Another place we tend to bring bright color into our current house would be art and painted furnishings. See how the green chairs and bright wall of art in the office really liven things up? Yet we have neutral tones in there to add balance, like the white cabinets, wood counter, and natural jute rug.

And of course things like the homemade headboard in our bedroom – and guest bedroom – add some interest, pattern, and color along with a few more bold and geometric rugs:

The green headboard from our guest room above was also in our first guest room, so we were inching towards our current color preferences back then, but we definitely kept it more toned down in there with neutral tan walls, plain white roman shades, no rug, etc.

Just for fun, here’s a picture of our first bedroom to compare with our current bedroom shot three pictures up. It appears as though our love of cozy bedrooms has remained (especially with pretty chandeliers and breezy white curtains) but we’ve definitely turned up the dial with brighter pillows, a patterned headboard, and a bold rug in our current house.

We still have moments of calm tone-on-tone color here though, just to balance those hits of bright hue that occur almost everywhere else. For example, there’s our sink nook…

… and our hallway of frames

… and our laundry room. There’s some soft avocado color on the walls, but the rest of the room is pretty neutral (white cabinets and shelves, a natural-toned light fixture, white appliances, cork floors, etc) since it’s such a small space and we didn’t want it to feel cramped.

Actually if you look back at the commonalities among those three spaces that I just mentioned, they’re all small – so I think that’s definitely a factor when it comes to how much color and pattern we add. And then there are rooms that are a bit larger, like the hall bathroom, which got a plum undertone in the grey paint (it’s subtle but definitely noticeable in person) and some bright art along with a colorful window treatment and some teal knobs on the vanity.

So there you have it, a meandering brain dump with a much overdue floor plan of our house’s color palette. It’s nice to stop and examine these things occasionally because then we can look back on them (posts like this are essentially a time capsule for us, since pages like our House Tour are constantly being updated – so all the in-the-middle stuff gets bumped out). Welcome to our time capsule.

How do you guys like to decorate? Do you prefer one or two paint colors throughout your entire home? A different color in every room? Or a handful of colors that reoccur in a few places? There’s definitely not one right answer, so we’d love to hear how you guys like to color your world!

Psst- For a more exhaustive tour of our first house followed by all of the before & afters of our current house, click here and then here.


  1. says

    Love this, thanks for sharing! How many of your patterned curtains are actually store bought as curtains versus fabric that you turned into curtains/shades yourself?

  2. Laurel says

    I love how you guys have repeated similar posts like this over time! It really helps to understand everything fom te layout, to the color choices, to the transformations of your house over time! It reminds me of that post you did a while ago about how items in your house were holding up over time. You rated your printer and a few other things! I’d love to read another post similar to that! For instance I’d love to hear how you feel about Karl the couch, your bed, how the desk you built has worked out, maybe how you like your kitchen appliances and laundry machines, chairs, rugs, and everything else!! I feel like John might have fun coming up with a good rating system! :) Maybe similar to the style of the one in your book that rated time, cash, and sweat? It would be cool to see a post like this with some regularity (maybe every six months?), even repeating items as your opinions of their quality and cantankerous-ness (new word!) changes!! Anyways, just a thought! I know you’re hella busy with a million other things! This might be the kinda post you could do reusing pictures while you’re traveling all over on your tour!! :D

    • says

      That would be fun! Love the idea Laurel! We’ve been meaning to do another update post about how things are holding up since that last one was over a year ago! Man time flies…


    • says

      It’s too small by a few feet on all sides. Our giant sofa wouldn’t work with it (and the living room rug’s too large to go in our bedroom). Hope that makes sense!


  3. says

    Great post! I think your design style has really evolved. It makes me wish I had started out the basics of my house with a cooler palette, but I’m making it work with what I have. My open living space has mostly neutral walls so I can bring in lots of colors without it being too crazy. I did talk my hubby into painting the wall behind the TV a dark, dark olive green though. I think it will help make the TV disappear though, and the lime green record cabinet in front of that wall should look awesome.

    Great job on your house!

  4. Jill says

    I’m not sure if it’s accidental or not, but as we’ve painted rooms we’re actually using a color scheme similar to your house (warmer greys, subtle yellows, & blues). I’ve stumbled across a problem though: I have found my absolute favorite paint color EVER (Behr’s Cathedral Gray) and now I just want to paint every room that color. For serious.

    We used it first in our spare room upstairs, and will be using it for the upstairs bathroom (in progress!) too. I also used it in our office downstairs, and may want to have it in the downstairs loo as well. I feel like I’m developing a problem, but how could something that feels so right be wrong?? haha

  5. Taya says

    I love seeing your color palate in one Image. Also, am noticing some new formatting on the sidebar of your page and that in the yellow title bar “life” has been swapped out for “our family blog.” Sneaky sneaky! Lol. It looks great!

  6. MegS says

    Your wall colors were perhaps your biggest influence on me when we bought our first house 3 years ago (yes, I’m in the 3+ years YHL club!). I am a color LOVER but you inspired me to go neutral on the walls when I probably would’ve painted each room a different (bold!) color, left to my own devices. I even did the all-white Ikea curtains in each room– SO DREAMY! It looked fabulous. When we bought a rental property, I did what I had originally wanted to do and painted every room a BRIGHT BOLD color– all variations of blue or green. That was fun, and the college kids that rented it didn’t mind, and I actually fell in love with two of the colors, but I will NOT be doing that again! It felt kind of like a Dr. Seuss house. Or Crayola vomit. And now as we’re contemplating a new house (!), I’m very, very excited to get to experiment with color again! It will probably a nice blend of neutrals and brights this time– maybe some painted ceilings and white walls?! We’ll see :)

  7. Brandy says

    Not a post specific comment, but I just wanted to say that you guys are doing an awesome job juggling everything in your lives right now with the book signings and holiday madness and everything else while still keeping up with your readers and their requests and questions. If you’re anything like the rest of us, you might feel like you’re doing a horrible job balancing it all and not sure how long you can keep up the charade – but from an outsider’s perspective you’ve got it all together! :) Hang in there and just keep doing what you’re doing and sharing it with your readers because we love it, and you!

    • says

      Aw thanks so much Brandy! You’re so sweet! And we love you right back. We are definitely looking forward to the middle of February when we’re back from all the tour stuff and life gets to go back to normal, but it’s also really fun and exciting to get to meet you guys at tour stops and stuff, so we’re trying to hold on for the ride and enjoy it while we can!


  8. says

    I forgot to tell you about how being a YHL reader helped me out this weekend…we were playing Battle of the Sexes with our neighbors and the question for the ladies was “The well known brand name of a small, rotating tool.” (I’m paraphrasing, I’m sure!) I said “Hold on a second, I know this because John talks about it…Dremel!” My husband, and most of the men there, were in shock! So…Thank you, John for prepping me for trivia night!

  9. says

    So glad I stumbled on your blog this morning – I LOVE everything you’ve done and can’t wait to explore more! When I read your resources post I recognized the names of the shops and thought “My, those sound familiar….”. I moved to Richmond as a young married adult in 1980 and (sadly) I recently had to move away. The closest HomeGoods(and pretty much any good shopping)to me now is an hour away, and I have a new house to decorate! I was in Richmond last week and did a mad dash to many of my favorite shops. So go outside right how hunny and kiss the ground at your feet! I hope you get to stay and raise your lovely daughter in Richmond, like I did. I am very thankful for all my wonderful years there!

  10. Natalie says

    I love the greys in your house!
    I read your blog everyday…like I have an YHL addiction! Its currently 3am in Australia and im doing university homework , but checking your blog for new posts is way more fun!
    Have you got any tips on painting window trim, do you tape off the glass or do you go all free hand on it?
    – Natalie

    • says

      Aw thanks Natalie! You’re so sweet! As for trim, we used to tape it off but after years of doing it we can now freehand it (well, I can). It’s not too bad with a short handled brush, and much faster than taping once you work up the skill :)


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