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  • Writer's pictureEvie Polkadot

The Colour Wheel: Complimentary Design

Continuing on from my previous Colour Wheel post about Monochromatic Design, this time, I am going to talk to you about Complimentary and Split-Complementary design.

When it comes to finding a colour wheel to work with, there are so many variations online and some of them differ greatly from others.

When I was creating mood boards for this series of blog posts, I came across this wheel on Google and decided to use it, because I liked the variation of shades it displays for each colour.

It's nice to see a broader spectrum, rather than the single hue of each colour.


Achieved by taking two colours which sit opposite one another on the wheel, you can achieve a bold and bright design, with each colour enhancing the other's pigment.

As you can see here - placing the purple beside the yellow makes the yellow's pigment glow brighter, whilst the yellow sitting beside the purple, gives it a bolder hue.

These two colours could either be used together throughout the entire scheme, or one could be the main feature, whilst the other acts as an accent.

Examples of Complimentary Design

Below are a selection of mood boards I've created in order to show you some examples complimentary interior design; you'll be most used to seeing complimentary palettes such as red and green, blue and orange and yellow and purple:

In this design for a child's bedroom, I've used a yellow-orange shade between 'Tangerine' and 'Goldrush' - and combined it with blue tones, closer to the violet end of the spectrum.

Using the orange-yellows for accessories and furnishings helps the accent colour to stand out against the deeper shades of the blue - and, being the main colour in the scheme, the blue looks richer against the orange-yellow tones of the palette.

This palette is made up of the blue-green (turquoise) tone, 'Lagoon' and the red-orange (coral) colour, 'Sorbet'.

I found this lovely, whimsical wallpaper with both colours in and then teamed it with other materials, furniture pieces and accessories in the same two colours.

I really love this design; it's impactful and bold and, despite only using two lighter colours, it really packs a punch!

For this dining room design, I wanted to show you the more earthy shades among the wheel - by using this olive green shade, between 'New England Ivy' and 'Fern' and then pairing it with a muted pink.

I then used dark woods to bring the scheme together and to enhance the more natural element of the design.

I love this wallpaper by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, too!

Using a deep green and raspberry pink, this complimentary design really has an impact.

Green is the main colour, whilst the pink takes on the accent role, standing out in bold protest against an otherwise serene scheme.

This design gives me the feeling of walking through an avenue of Rhododendrons in a stately garden, which I recently did on a visit to Kew.

I love it!

Split Complimentary

By using one colour from one side of the wheel and the two colours sitting either side of the opposite colour to the first, you can achieve split-complementary design.

This scheme adds a little extra to the basic complimentary style by including a third colour to the palette.

I'd recommend using two of your colours for the main design and using the third as an accent. For example, violet and pink walls with a yellow sofa.

Examples of Split-Complimentary Design Split-Complimentary design can be achieved in a number of ways and each colour you choose can offer you three different options for colour palettes, which is pretty fun to play around with. Depending on how much impact you wish to achieve, you can use two colours from split-complimentary as the main part of your design, and one as the accent colour, or you can use one colour as the main feature, with the two other colours being accents. Have a play around to see which you'd prefer!

To begin this set of examples, I have created two boards here to show you what I mean by using one, or two accent colours. In the left design, purple is the main colour, whilst pink and green are being used as accents, only featuring in one or two details, such as the light fitting and the wallpaper.

In the right design, pink and purple are the main colours of the design, with green being the only accent, bringing the whole scheme together nicely.

Both designs use cream as a neutral.

In this sunny design, I've used Cole & Son's Lilac wallpaper in both yellow and lilac - mainly because I couldn't decide which one I preferred!

The accent colour here is a pretty rose pink, which adds an extra layer to the design and isn't a colour I'd have thought to put alongside the other two. But it works - and that is the beauty of a split-complimentary scheme; often, colours you would expect to clash, surprise you with their harmony!

When I picked out this palette, it made me think of beach huts, so that's what I designed!

Using this punchy coral as the main colour in the scheme, with blue and turquoise as the accent colours, this design is bold, bright and cheerful.

I'd go a little further and add a yellow to this design, too, if I was actually creating it, but that's a whole different palette!

This is one of my favourite mood boards!

For this design, I used shades of colour from the blue-green, yellow-green and red sections of the colour wheel, resulting in this rich, luxurious scheme.

Olive is the accent colour here, whilst teal and red take on the leading roles to create a design fit for cosy evenings and romantic conversations over a glass of wine or two!

I want to redo my lounge now! Somebody please buy this design!


And that concludes today's blog post!

I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about complimentary and split-complimentary design.

As always, I am available online if you have any questions - and, as always, I thank you for taking the time to read.

Lots of love!

Evelyn M

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