Abigail Ahern's color family tips are a 'game changer' – this is what you need to know

The maximalist designer has the secret to a sophisticated scheme, and she's tried and tested it in her own home

Pink painted room with black and white accessories
(Image credit: Little Greene)

Any admirers of Abigail Ahern may already be aware of the designer's rule of four. The tip is amongst Abigial's most famous teachings – meaning simply that you should avoid using more than four colors in one space.  But is it really that simple?

While this rule may seem boldly unorthodox – it isn't as restrictive as you might initially expect. Instead, Abigail Ahern's color family tips do not involve block-colors. Rather, they use four color families – with varying degrees of shades that are darker and lighter than one another. 

Therefore, when searching for painted wall ideas, a new rug, or a colorful sofa, Abigail recommends exploring the varying shades of a color family to create a 'sophisticated and beautiful space.' 

But what exactly is a color family, and how can you make it work in your home? Sharing her interior design ideas, Abigail revealed everything you need to know.

Abigail Ahern's color family tips

Green painted dining room with green table and hanging light

(Image credit: Little Greene)

Restrict the number of colors 

'I would never have more than four colors in a room – which means I can mix anything with anything without [making the space] feel chaotic,' Abigail explains in an interview with Livingetc

As a celebrated maximalist, the idea of limiting color may appear contradictory, but as Abigail explains, a restrictive color palette is the key to achieving an eclectic scheme, the stylish way. So, what are Abigail Ahern's color family tips?

'When I say to restrict the number of colors in a room, I don't literally mean you should stick to that one color – and use that block color throughout. I mean [you should] go up and down and color family,' Abigail adds in a tutorial. So, how do you experiment with a color family? 

Abigail recommends navigating the 'saturation scale.' 

Yellow painted kitchen with traditional furnishings

(Image credit: Little Greene)

Go up and down the saturation scale 

'People get a bit scared because they think I am only using three colors and that will look boring. I want to show you how it isn't boring – by taking a color family palette and going up and down the saturation level,' Abigail explains. 

'You take a color family, and you go lighter, and you go darker, and that's how you add huge amounts of variety.' 

While it is important to experiment with saturation levels when choosing paint colors, Abigail urges you to remember the rule when choosing accessories too. 

Home office with cream and beige walls and floral artwork

(Image credit: Little Greene)

Pull out paint undertones through your accessories 

The designer demonstrated her modern home decor ideas by showcasing the accessories in her home, which are in the same color family of the Crosby paint on her walls. 

Abigail draws from the paint's pink undertones to curate a collection of sculptures, vases, and flowers with similar pink and orange tones. While these accessories are not the same color as the paint, they all reflect its undertones and tie the wider scheme together. 

'Everything feels as if it has been carefully planned, and it is because I'm taking a color family, and then I'm going slightly up and down on the tonation, and then I'm layering it throughout this area, so it will always read as sophisticated and beautiful,' she adds. 

Pink painted living room with black and white furnishings

(Image credit: Little Greene)

Dare to embrace the rule of four? Abigail Ahern's color family tips offer the perfect starting point. 

Megan Slack

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team.

Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US whilst studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site.

Megan currently lives in London, where she relocated from her hometown in Yorkshire. In her home, she experiments with interior design trends and draws inspiration from the home decor ideas she observes in her everyday work life. Her favorite pieces include her antique typewriter and her expansive collection of houseplants. When she isn’t writing, she is browsing London’s coffee shops and bookstores to add to her ever-growing library, taking over the open shelving in her apartment.