A Monochromatic Color Scheme Can Be Many Things — Except Boring!Tualatin remodeled master bathroom monochromatic color scheme

People may think that a monochromatic color scheme is boring. After all, it’s only one color. Yes, it’s one color, but it includes the darkest shade to the lightest tint of the same hue. For a monochromatic color scheme to be effective, there should also be a contrast in texture, smooth to very rough. Every color in the world can be the basis for a monochromatic color scheme. Color psychology has been studied for hundreds of years.

Color Names Are Purely Marketing

Have you ever wondered how paint manufacturers come up with color names? It’s amazing! Most of the major manufacturers have in excess of 2,000 color options. There are very few colors that have the same names from one company to another. It’s nothing more than a marketing ploy. The names are supposed to make us feel positive about the color, and the manufacturer. No one in their right mind would select a color if its name was “Baby Poop”! Here’s a very short explanation about how professionals describe colors:

A Color System Used By Professionals

Munsell Color SystemFirst, there’s the color name, the hue, taken from the color wheel that’s been used for centuries since Sir Isaac Newton first developed it in 1666. Next is the brightness of the color, that’s called the value, followed by tints and shades which are the lightest and darkest of any color. Last is saturation (aka “chroma”), which determines how strong a particular color is. I was introduced to the Munsell Color System by an art teacher, and have used it ever since. It was developed by Albert H. Munsell and adopted in the early 20th century because it describes color in a universally-acceptable way, without the psycho-babble used by paint companies.  At the left is a chart that shows how it works.

The bathroom project featured in today’s tip is as close to monochromatic as possible, including the natural walnut cabinets. The color on the Munsell Chart is 5.5 Yellow-Red. The value is between a 3 and a 4, and there’s a full range of values. The countertop is in the middle and shiniest. The cabinet pulls, sconce trim, mirror frames, and accessories are bronze, the darkest shade of the hue. The cabinets are about next to the darkest in color. Natural walnut has a higher saturation and the wood grain can vary a lot. Below is an example of the color.

Example of monochromatic color schemeYears ago, a client wanted her bathroom walls to be painted to look like “pongee” (a type of silk fabric). Of course, without a sample to match, it would be impossible to achieve what she wanted. One of the paint manufacturers did have a color called “pongee,” but she didn’t like it. We collected several pongee fabric samples that allowed her to make a decision. This emphasizes the importance of communication and understanding each other.


Color is probably the most important aspect of our living environments because it helps us to express ourselves. There is no right or wrong way to use color. It’s 100% a personal choice. Don’t let anyone, especially a design professional, judge you for your color biases!

  “See the Possibilities. Create a Positive Difference.”

If you are stuck trying to figure out your bathroom or kitchen layout and color scheme, I’d love to help you! I offer compassionate creativity that solves problems and inspires communication. Call me so we can talk about your specific needs!

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ is a Homeowner Advocate who specializes in helping homeowners with remodeling and addition projects. She has been the principal of D. P. Design since April 1984. Diane is the author of the award-winning book “THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling” and many design awards.

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