How to use colour with confidence
Before embarking on a colourful interior be aware of how colours make you feel. The effect that different colours has on us should not be underestimated and understanding colour psychology is key to expressing the desired mood for the room.
Red has the longest wavelength and as such is a powerful colour and has the property of looking closer than it is. This is why it stands out so much in paintings, wall coverings and fabric designs. It grabs your attention and it is difficult for your eye to take in anything else around it. Used with care, red can liven a room and create drama and a quickening of the pulse, too much can overwhelm and become bawdy and uncomfortable to be in.
Best for: Dining rooms as it promotes sociable and lively feelings, and stimulates the appetite, or use in Bedrooms for similar reasons.
Combine with: Fuschia and orange and white for a contemporary ‘hot’ look, and as a strong highlight with a softer cyan blue.
Blue has a short wavelength and objects/ surfaces in blue appear further away than those with longer wavelengths. Lighter blues are calming and restful and create very pretty rooms, whereas a bold and dramatic theme can be created with darker blues. Good lighting and texture is key to bringing a room to life from the ‘cool’ side of the colour spectrum.
Best for: Bedrooms, bathrooms, studies.
Combine with: Taupes for a subtle, elegant look, and with lime for a stylish and cool scheme.
Green sits in the centre of the colour spectrum and doesn’t require the eye to adjust. It is therefore an inherently restful and balanced colour. Green can appear ‘cold’ and lifeless if not used correctly. Ensure your lighting warms the scheme and, like blue, use plenty of textural elements; wool, timber and other natural elements to complement the colour.
Best for: Bedrooms, living rooms and places of sanctuary.
Combine with: Citrus tones for an energized and fresh look, and with mid greys for a sophisticated palette.
Yellow is a very difficult colour to decorate with. As a longer wavelength it is essentially stimulating and can lift the spirits. The wrong tone, however, can have completely the opposite effect so it is crucial to pay attention to how a tone makes you feel before you commit to a room scheme in yellow.
Best for: Kitchens, family rooms, bathrooms.
Combine with: White and orange for a current, clean look, or use a pastel yellow with other ‘ice-cream’ tones for a pretty and upbeat design.
As the colour with the shortest wavelength, purple (or violet) encourages spiritual and ‘far away’ thoughts. Within a design it can be used to add distance and a sense of space. Purple can provoke a melancholic mood if used in isolation. More so than with any other colour, it is also not a colour to choose if you are on a tight budget as less expensive fabrics and wallcoverings in purple can look ‘cheap’.
Best for: dramatic Dining Rooms, bedrooms
Combine with: Biscuit colours to achieve a better balance, or with soft grey-greens for a dignified result
As a total reflection, white can be a strain to look at. Whilst it creates a heightened sense of space and calm, it is vitally important to use natural texture in an all-white scheme and many shades of white to move away from a sterile look. White is my favourite ‘colour’ to decorate with and can achieve stunning results.
Best for: If used cleverly, all rooms.
Combine with: Texture, layering, good lighting and more texture!
Black absorbs energy and the psychological implications of that should not be ignored. As no wavelengths are reflected it is ‘heavy’ and the common misconception that wearing black makes you appear slimmer couldn’t be further from the truth.
Used alongside reflective silvers, gilt, gloss white etc, black takes on a life of its own.
Best for: sophisticated Living Rooms, dramatic bedrooms
Combine with: Green and white for a striking scheme, or with fuschia for a touch of the irreverent.
Grey is the only colour that has no psychological properties. It can be associated with hibernation as, when the world turns grey, we think of Winter. In its way this can evoke strangely cosy feelings within a home.
Best for: All rooms in the house
Combine with: Any accent colour, white for a refined look, and charcoal for a dramatic, urban look.
One of my favourite colours to decorate with is charcoal. The grey palette has been (and will continue to be) massively on trend and is a great alternative for those who are stuck in the ‘beige trap’ to launch into an updated look without fear.
While a neutral colour, grey emphasizes accent colours put with it more so than a beige backdrop. Using charcoal on a feature wall can be very elegant, assuming the surface is flat and framed well (ie crisp white woodwork and ceiling).
Beige is warm and soft and has associations with the earth. It offers a perfect foil for most schemes to bring balance and stability. Having been over-used it can look dated.
Best for: A backdop in most situations.
Combine with Pale grey tones for an updated look.
Once the mood and appropriate colour palette has been ascertained, put together a mood board of all the elements in the design to ensure the whole balances well and produces the wow factor you desire.My top tip for ensuring that a strong colour scheme works well is to add neutral elements back into the scheme.
If the eye is working hard taking in a vibrant colour it will need somewhere to ‘rest’ within the room and the neutral components will provide this. Using a common colour to link rooms will help your home to ‘flow and this can be particularly important with floorings.