In the Interior Design profession, we often find ourselves with having a great variety of projects and clients, and we need to identify the personality of a given project very quickly. We are finding our design schedules shortened, and we must find our inspiration as early in the process as possible. Naturally, every project varies but the following is what I have come to identify as a guide that has served me well in a starting palette for a project:

Here’s a starting point:

WARM PALETTE – Earth Tones (Serene, Established, and Neutral). A warm palette can lend itself to more conservative institutions. I generally like to add a variety of textures.  Client type: Law offices, Investment firms and Civic organizations


COOL PALETTE – Grey Tones (Clean, Modern, and Austere). Classic and timeless style, it is great to soften with natural materials.  Client type: Media providers, Retail and Spaces where the design becomes the ‘background’ and the product is the feature


ADD CONTRAST – White (Complimentary, Bright, and Fresh). A heavy dose is essential to every project; it provides a great balance when paired with any other color. It is highly versatile and can be universally applied to any project. Client type: All types


ADD A LOT OR A LITTLE – Bright Colors (Energy, Movement, and Fun); most successful when paired with ‘youthful’ and more adventurous clients. Client type: Social Media Upstarts, Hospitality projects and all types of creative companies

My design sensibility aligns most with projects that have a great deal of white surfaces and a variety of colors to create contrast.  I don’t shy away from mixing various colors and firmly believe it is our role to push the boundaries of our respective clients. For the more color-averse clients we do tend to focus on one central color as an accent throughout their space. Creating the right balance and tonal contrast of the colors of the materials, furniture and detail elements of a given project will not only help express your client’s brand, but will assist you in the achievement of a successful project.

Kelly Capp, Associate IIDA Senior Associate + Interior Design, AECOM