Color Wheel Combinations: Complementary Color Schemes (Part 1)

color wheel complementary colors purple yellow

Opposite from each other on the color wheel, complementary colors create a bold but balanced look. Need inspiration? Here are a few ideas to try.


It’s no secret that complementary color schemes are naturally pleasing. Orange looks even more vibrant against a blue backdrop, and purple and yellow really pop when paired together.

In fact, there may be a scientific explanation behind our reaction to complimentary colors: according to Nancy from Apartment Therapy, complimentary color schemes give off a soothing vibe, since they stimulate different centers in our visual cones (i.e. peepers).

How does that translate into beautiful color combinations? Let your eyes, and these complimentary color schemes, guide you.

Here are a few stunning complementary color schemes to try:

1. Soft and subtle

cozy kids bedroom

In this children’s bedroom, tints of soft purple and muted yellow create a sunny, complementary look. With hints of tan, white, and gray delicately weaved throughout, this design creates an air of calm. It’s the perfect place for sleepy eyes to dream away the afternoon.

Complementary color schemes are often bold and vibrant, but a softer look is possible too. To tone down the vivacity a notch, choose muted colors with a less intense saturation, and add neutral accents for additional balance.

2. Royally regal

royal blue grey brown dining room

(image: Wicker Paradise)

In this lavish dining room, shades of deep-blue and orange-brown create a regally modern look. Made of plush velvet and lustrous leather, these magnificent chairs take center stage in all their imperial elegance.

Like a clear sky cresting through a thick cloud cover, this sunny table arrangement creates a feeling of warmth amidst gray walls, floors, and window treatments. This design is ideal for those who wish to add some sparkle to an otherwise modern, monochromatic look. The resulting appearance is lively yet somehow understated.

3. Memories of India

complementary colors living room burgundy couch green pillows

(image: Kenny Corbin, Urbane Apartments)

Hailing from the far east, Indian interior design is known for its vibrant colors and rich, handmade textiles. In this captivating living room, a red-violet couch and a few yellow-green pillows create a complementary look against a gray backdrop. An ornate wall mirror and a few blooming orchids really pull this look together.

This design is a great option for those who aren’t ready to commit to a complementary color scheme. If you wish to adopt a more muted look later on? Simply purchase new pillows (in white, tan, or gray, perhaps), and replace that wall mirror with your favorite piece of art.

4. Modern Mondrian

modern kitchen complementary colors

(image: Jeremy Levine)

Reminiscent of Piet Mondrian’s famous Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow, this design is colorfully and carefully cubed. With a somewhat analogous color scheme in the kitchen, the courtyard adds intrigue with daring dashes of blue and orange.

Besides a few strategically placed accents (the orange cupboard and red fruit bowl), this kitchen is mostly monochromatic in nature. With a metallic kitchen island and appliances, and wood ceilings and floors, this design masterfully marries a variety of colors, textures, and patterns, for a bright but balanced look.

Cast your vote

Which of these complementary color schemes would you try? For me, it’s a tie between #1 and #2. Be sure to weigh in below!

Tell us more in the comments section, too!


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