It isn't vital to understand color theory when decorating your home, but a basic understanding of the color wheel can help.
The Color Wheel
The color wheel was developed by Sir Isaac Newton in 1672. Basically, he discovered that when light refracted through a crystal prism all the colors of the rainbow were represented. When he took this spectrum and imagined it as a circle he created the color wheel, which made the relationships between colors easier to see.
A color wheel is made up of 12 hues: three primary colors, three secondary colors and six tertiary colors.
Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Colors
Primary colors are red, yellow and blue. These are considered pure colors because they can't be created from any other colors and all other colors are created from them (for example, blue and yellow mixed together make green).
The secondary colors are green, orange and violet. These colors are created when equal parts of two primary colors are combined (for example, red and blue mix to create violet).
Tertiary colors are made by mixing one primary color with one secondary color. These colors are red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet and red-violet.
Black and White
An important thing to know when trying to understand color theory is that all surfaces reflect and absorb colors in light, but the human eye can only see the colors that a surface reflects. A white surface reflects all colors while a black surface absorbs all colors.
The Color Wheel and Interior Decorating
You don't need to have a solid understanding of color theory and the color wheel when decorating your home. The right color scheme will vary depending on the eye of the beholder. However, having a little basic knowledge of color theory and the color wheel can make it easier to come up with a successful color palette.