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Choosing Color: How to Identify the Undertone

Choosing color, whether paint for the walls, fabrics for furniture, or new floors, can be SO tricky and frustrating!  Not only are there so many colors to choose from, but they look different in the store than they do at home so it seems they are always changing.  Add to that the undertones and the process of choosing a color is even more complicated.  When decorating a room, it is usually easy to find the right masstones but if the undertones don’t work, the entire color scheme can look just a bit off.

So how can you determine the undertone of colors?  Here’s how.



Color Definitions – Masstone & Undertone

Before we begin talking about how to determine an undertone, it’s important to understand what it is!  With the exception of the three primary colors {red, yellow, and blue}, all other colors are made by mixing two or more colors together.  A masstone is the major color – the one that is immediately apparent.  An undertone, on the other hand, is the color that has been mixed in, which may or may not be immediately apparent.  For example, blue with a bit of yellow mixed in will look different than blue with a little green mixed in {moss green versus aqua green}.  For some colors, the masstone and undertone are very similar and other times, they can be very different.




How to Identify the Undertone


1.  Compare It to Other Shades

The phenomenon that makes colors appear different depending on what they’re next to is called Simultaneous Contrast.  One way to determine an undertone is to place the color next to other colors and see how your original color shifts.

One method of comparing colors is to compare your selected color to other shades of the color that are in the same color family.



Let’s look at the color blue for instance.  Here is a look at pale blue on the paint fan, but they vary in their undertone.  The ones on the left have a green undertone, whereas the ones toward the right have a purple undertone, giving them a more periwinkle appearance.  By comparing different shades, the undertone starts to become more apparent.


2. Compare it to Other Hues

Another way is to compare your selected color to other hues.  One way is to compare complementary colors.  For example, to see if your blue has any red in it, you’d compare it to green.  To see if it has green in it, compare it to red.  To find if it has yellow, compare it to purple.

Complementary Color Scheme


You can also compare a color to it’s true color.  Here, the color on the left looks blue when compared to orange:



When compared to a truer blue, though, you can see that it has some green in it!




3. Look at it In Your Space

Because colors are influenced by the light and by their surroundings, it’s very important to look at a color in the space you intend to use it.  In one room, a slight undertone might go unnoticed but in another, it might become exaggerated and stand out!  The only way to really know is to look at it in the space you intend to use it and various times of the day {so that you see it in all different types of light}


4. Take a Picture

I’ve learned that not everyone’s eyes are equally sensitive to colors.  Some people truly have a hard time seeing undertones, no matter what other colors you compare them to or what light you look at them in!  By accident, though, I discovered that undertones tend to pop more in photos, allowing those who have a hard time seeing undertones to more easily spot them.

This last weekend, my husband and I went shopping for new wood floors {more about that later}.  We picked out two browns that in daylight, looked nice and neutral.  When I got home, though, I saw a problem!  One of our neutral floors had a red/purple undertone and no matter how much my husband looked at it, he just couldn’t see what I did.  {Red is the one color that won’t work in my house.} He happened to be looking over my shoulder when I snapped a picture, though, and suddenly, he could see exactly what I saw!  Can you see it here?




So when in doubt, take a picture!


If you’ve ever gone to the paint store and wondered why there are so many choices, now you know and hopefully, you now know how to spot undertones a little bit better!


Need more info about choosing the right paint color!  Try THIS POST!

Tidbits&Twine How to Choose the Perfect Paint Color



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My 5 Favorite Decorating Tips

Today I’m sharing with you a few of my favorite decorating tips that will help transform your house into a home!  As you know, my home is constantly evolving, whether because I’m redecorating or just moving things around, but either way, these are tips that I follow in my own home and they work in any room with any decorating style.




1. Coordinate Throughout Your Home

Let me begin by saying that coordinating is not the same as matching.  Coordinating doesn’t mean that you have to use the exact same colors, finishes, or fabrics from one room to the next, but rather that they complement one another.  This could mean you use various shades of a color palette as you move room to room, or you keep a consistent tone {either warm or cool}, etc.   By coordinating your colors and style from one room to the next, you’ll create a more open, flowing space that feels larger.  One caveat, though – I typically follow this only for spaces that are visually open to one other so feel free to create something unique if a room is separate from the rest of the house {like a bedroom}.


My kitchen and family rooms are open to one another and so I’ve carried the same beiges, blues, and blacks from the kitchen, to my family room, and even into the guest bedroom.

TIDBITS & TWINE Kitchen 3 2014 REV



2. Include a Variety of Textures

Texture adds depth and dimension to a space with helps to give it a warmer feeling and lived in look.  In my home, a lot of my texture comes from vintage books, baskets, and heavily-woven fabrics because those items work with my decorating style.  But even if your style is modern or minimalist, you can still add texture!  Cool grays, whites, and chrome look even better when they are paired with a few great pieces of polished wood {not to mention that the wood helps to keep the space from feeling cold}.

{Casual Elegance via Tidbits&Twine}
{Casual Elegance via Tidbits&Twine}

TIDBITS & TWINE Master Bedroom  5 2014


So as you shop for accessories, make sure to include a few textured items that will help give the space dimension!


3. Pull Conversational Furniture Away from the Walls

Sofas, chairs and the like are meant to create intimate gathering spaces where you can talk to one other.  Often times, the first thought is to put a sofa against the wall, but doing so often leaves your seating areas too far apart from one another.  Furniture that outlines the walls also creates an issue with having a large open area on the middle of the room that becomes troublesome to fill!  If you pull furniture away from the wall, you not only create areas for conversation, but also allows you to break up the room’s remaining space and create a cozier feeling overall.



4. Mix and Match

One thing that gives a home its character is the use of different textures, finishes, and styles.  And honestly, it’s a more realistic approach to decorating, in my opinion.  Not everyone can toss out everything they own and start from scratch.  Most of us buy a few items at a time and as our tastes change, our homes become a mishmash of varying styles, finishes, colors, etc.  The trick is to balance your use of different finishes, though, so that you create a look that is intentional, not accidental.



5. Make It Your Own

A home should always be a reflection of you and your family, so while magazines and catalogs show us lots of pretty pictures, they aren’t realistic and they aren’t you!  Always add items that are meaningful to you when you’re decorating, whether family photos, children’s artwork, family heirlooms, or even vacation memories!

Remember, you’re creating a space that is uniquely you!

Tidbits&Twine Gallery Wall 3c AFTER



There are, of course, lots of decorating “rules” and truth be told, I’m not a big fan of rules when it comes to decorating.  I think of the tips above more as guidelines to follow {or bend} depending on what works for you!

No matter what, the goal of decorating should be to create a space that is functional, beautiful, and YOU.


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6 Small-Scale Decorating Ideas for Empty Corner Spaces

We’ve all had it happen to us at one time or another.  We finally get a room furnished and think it’s “done” and then it happens…that lonely and empty corner catches our eye and suddenly, looks as if it needs to be filled!  It always seems that once a room is furnished, it’s the blank spaces that grab our attention.  Sometimes empty corners are necessary to give our eyes a break and keep the room from feeling too crowded, but other times, they just feel…well…empty.  Even if you don’t have room to fill the corner with a large piece of furniture, there are still ways to decorate it on a smaller scale so that it looks complete, but without taking up too much space.  Here are some creative ideas for corner decorations!




Here are 6 small-scale ideas for decorating these corner spaces to make them feel more connected to the rest of the room.



1. Plants

A tall houseplant is an easy way to fill the void while adding a great organic shape to a room!

{Designer David Lawrence's home via Habitually Chic}
{Designer David Lawrence’s home via Habitually Chic}


Alternatively, a grouping of smaller houseplants fills the void equally well.

{via Pinterest}
{via Ashlee Raubach Pinterest}



2. Ladders

Another easy, but often more rustic looking idea is to prop a latter in the corner.  It adds height and texture but doesn’t have a lot of visual weight and so fills the space without overpowering it.

Here’s a look at the old orchard ladder I have in my family room corner.  It’s obviously dressed up as an advent calendar for the holidays in this photo, but it otherwise holds a small selection of grain sacks.



If you have a little more space, you can open up the ladder and use the rungs as display shelves.

{via African Sketchbook}
{via African Sketchbook}



3. Shelves

Corner wall shelving is a great solution for adding storage and/or display to a room.  If you want to minimize the look of it and keep it from adding too much visual weight, consider painting the shelving the same color as the wall, as shown below.

{via House Beautiful}
{via House Beautiful}


Alternatively, you can make more of a statement with your shelving by using a contrasting color and/or staggering the shelves for a more eclectic look.

{via A Home West}
{via A Home West}



4. Chair

If you have the space, a reading nook always looks great tucked away in the corner, but if not, even just a small side chair can help fill the void!

{via Pinterest}
{via Pinterest}


A hanging chair is another great option because it allows for a bit of fun and whimsy, but keeps the floor space open which helps to give a more open feeling to the corner in general.

{via Passion Shake}
{via Passion Shake}



5. Art

Art is a great option for filling an empty corner because it adds a lot of visual interest and provides a focal point, but without taking up any floor space.  Below, a picture rail has been used to add character and charm!

{via Southern Living}
{via Southern Living}


These vertical frames continue the linear look of the space but help to visually break it up a bit.

{via Bosworth Hoedemaker}
{via Bosworth Hoedemaker}



Any who says that art has to actually hang on the wall?  Here, it has been simply leaned and layered against the wall for a casual look.

{via Passion Shake}
{via Passion Shake}



6. Small Vignette

A small grouping of objects {known as a vignette} is another great way to add character to an otherwise, unused space.  A vignette is a great way to show off objects you love and helps to pull the entire space together.

{via Apartment Therapy}
{via Apartment Therapy}


{via Cherished Bliss}
{via Cherished Bliss}



There are lots of other options that you can consider – oversize lamps, small tables, dress forms, corner cabinets – but whatever you choose, just make sure that it coordinates with the rest of your decor so that it doesn’t look like an afterthought, even if it was!


Happy Saturday!



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