A friend recently asked me if she should paint her kitchen walls green to compliment her red cherry wood kitchen cabinets. I asked her if she liked the color of her cabinets and she said no, she was tired of the bossy red wood but heard green “complimented” red so she thought green might be a good choice.

Okay folks, let’s clear up the misunderstanding about the word Complimentary when it comes to colors. Colors opposite one another on the color wheel are called  Complementary with an “e”. This is different from the word Complimentary with an “i” which is used as in, “oh that pearl necklace looks great on you”.

When complementary colors on the color wheel are placed next to each other, they make one another appear more intense and brighter.

complementry colors


Since my friend didn’t want her cherry cabinets to appear even redder, she didn’t want to use the complement of red which is green.  See how bright these cherry cabinets look against the green walls in the photo below.


The rule to remember, is if you want a color to pop or appear brighter then use it’s complement (opposite color on the color wheel). However, if you want to tone down a color choose a color that is either very close to it on the color wheel or choose a neutral. In this case my friend didn’t want to put red or orange on the walls so she choose a neutral.

Cherry Cabinets

 Look how much more toned down these cherry cabinets look against the neutral light gray walls.

Speaking of complementary colors, I couldn’t help but share this photo of a leaf I came across last Fall while hiking.  Sometimes even nature gets confused.

complementary colors

complementary colors

How about you?  Did you confuse the word complementary with complimentary when referring to color?

If you would like help choosing the right color for your home give me a call.






Linda Holt | Interior Designer & iPhone Coach

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