Colour in your Home - don't be afraid of it and no, you don't have to go all out with it!
Updated: Sep 14, 2020
Are the walls of your home fashionably a mid to pale grey, a shade of magnolia or just lacking in any kind of character, colour or punch. Do these colours run through your entire house? If the answer is yes, you are not alone.
Historically, I have been an avid supportive of the more conservative tones. I used to flinch when someone mentioned purchasing a lemon yellow cushion with a bright green lamp. However, enter companies such as Jarapa (stunning recycled glass lamps) and Andrew Martin (exquisite cushions) and the contrast is actually very pleasant!
As a Designer, I spend a lot of time with colour. I often have every tone, tint and shade of sample pots, fabrics, flooring samples and paint books scattered around me. A love of colour and bravery is something I have learnt, discovered and grown into - so this article is to show you that you really can learn it too. We all start that way as children - loving every colour in sight and boldly painting them wherever possible.
Some of my Clients to date have been fabulously open minded when it comes to colour, some have been a little more cautious. Others have been quite uncomfortable venturing into the realms of colour more than they have been used to and I understand this completely.
You want to show off your home by injecting some colour boldness, showing guests your fun personality but you are a little anxious about dipping your toe into the unknown, let alone navigating your way around a paint chart.
Colour is very much a journey and once you understand it and be a little adventurous with it, it absolutely becomes your friend on every level.
Over the years, I have seen so very many articles about introducing and bringing colour into your home and the advice can be too brief, confusing or emotive and frustrating. This article aims to bring all this advice you may or may not have read, together with my experiences and knowledge into some simple steps to get you on your way, confidently bringing more vibrancy into your home as soon as possible!
The Science and Psychology of Colour
Colour is so useful when designing a space. It affects a mood, a behaviour, a lifestyle. It makes a space inviting or exciting. This doesn't mean that all Designers and colour supporting individuals necessarily live with it in garish intensity in every room in their homes and neither should you.
Think of colour like a fine tuned radio. There are frequencies of colour intensity and which one you choose is completely up to you.
Karen Haller's "The Little Book of Colour" is all about the psychology behind colours and the impact they can have on moods, decisions, thoughts, feelings day to day - far more than many of us would realise. Her book is poignant because she explains that no matter what the psychology says about a colour and the feelings it evokes- you, personally, may feel completely different about it. Colour can be emotional to you, which may mean you naturally avoid or are drawn to a particular colour just from some experience or memory in your past which you may be completely unaware of.
Therefore, you may now start to see, that the psychological impact of a colour on how you feel is important when choosing colours to live with on a daily basis and this might possibly be the reason you've avoided it until now.
If you want to do more than just colour your home, Karen's book is a little, beautifully presented gem that will help you to take stock of your relationship with colour and show you how to shake things up a bit for the better.
Most designers would suggest that bold coloured walls are best kept to small or closed off spaces. If you are going to commit to a strong colour -you should go all the way with it, up and over walls and ceilings and skirting boards, architraves, even doors if you really want to make the room feel its largest. You could also choose to paint the ceiling 3-4 shades lighter or use a pale neutral colour with an undertones of the colour you are using so that it retains it's light reflective properties. That way you won't get the feeling of bringing the ceiling down upon yourself or the walls inwards, avoiding that slightly claustrophobic sense that you may have experienced in a dark or deep coloured room.
Skirting boards painted in the same colour as the walls has a wonderful elongating effect and means that they will not be the first thing your guests will instinctively look to when they enter your newly decorated space ( I have put this into practice time and again and it works).
The fantastic designer, Abigail Ahern is a big advocate of dark coloured, bold coloured rooms and committing to all over without contrast. If you are for the more dramatic decor taste you will absolutely love her ideas (www.abigailahern.com).
The design rule to stop too much colour from feeling overwhelming or cluttering a space and maintain a clear flowing feeling is to try to keep to two to three colours of monochromatic (tints tones or shades based on one colour) or analogous (next to each other) colours. Monochromatic and analogous is just how they are placed on a colour wheel, for example orange, red-orange and yellow orange or green and blue green.
The Steps to Colouring your Home
So how to take in all this knowledge and translate it into a beautiful home with just the right dose of colour, to help you feel you really have achieved what you set out to do?
When rethinking a space, decorating a room or deciding on a scheme - after you've fine combed PInterest images and the magazines, before you even get that paintbrush out or adorn your room with very colourful accessories, there are seven useful steps that a good Designer would go through.
Step 1 -Paper and Pen
Get a blank sheet of paper and a pen. (Yes, this is important!)
Step 2 - The Purpose of the Room
What activities that will happen in the room you are going to refresh? Is it for reading? Relaxing or watching television? Eating or entertaining or both? Sleeping? Bathing? - the list could be enormous, so be specific and write it down.
Step 3 - The Mood in the Room
How do you want to feel and what do you need from the room? Do you need to feel energised when you walk into it, or calm? Would you prefer a cosy, warm and comfortable room for the family that allows you to reflect, to feel content or is it a passionate, exciting, chattering, welcoming room with a feeling of space for guests? Is it a productive space which needs a place for everything? Write down all your needs for this room onto the list.
Step 4 - Define your Colour Story
List the colours you absolutely could not live with even if you were held at gun point, you just don't like them and could really never see yourself growing to like them. E.g for me, this is certainly fluorescent yellow wall paint for a living room or a pooh brown tone on wooden furniture. Yes, this is important, list all the colours that are an absolute non starter for you (remember Haller's book about the psychology and emotional attachments to colour. If you want to change your mindset about any colours, Haller will show you a way to iron out this reaction, or, you could use this as a positive way to narrow down your colour palette).
Now list the colours you have a penchant for. Marie Kondo would ask you to describe as "sparking joy". What are your favourites? Write these down, whether or not they may be relevant or practical for the space.
Remember if you don't love the colour you choose, you won't live with it comfortably. Instinct has a big role to play.
(..and if you're still stuck, you could always call a designer for some advice!).
Step 5 - The Marriage
At this point you should be almost there. You have decided:
2. What activities are happening in the room;
3. How you want it to make you and everyone using it, feel;
4. You've identified the colours that absolutely cannot be in it for whatever reason personal
to you and you should have hopefully narrowed down some basic colours that can be in
5. You're marrying up the effects of colour psychology with your preferred colours and
intended activities with a little research or reading.
(POINT TO NOTE)
Do make a note of which direction your room is facing - e.g. north and west facing rooms would benefit from warmer colours or more dramatic colour schemes, south and east facing rooms - the world is your oyster. Warmer colours get warmer in this environment, cool colours work well too).
However, what if you have discovered that based on the psychological principles you would benefit from using more yellow, but you don't particularly love yellow- not that you hate it, but tend only to appreciate it in daffodils for the windowsill now and again). Testing out new colours in a small way can really help.
Go to your local homewares or charity shop and find something for your home that represents the colour you think you need. Literally anything will do, a print, a vase, some flowers, a cup, ornament, a plate - live with it for a week and see how it makes you feel. Walk past it morning, noon and night, see how the light reacts with the colour. Does it look better in the morning light? In the soft evening lights?
(The benefit of using a charity shop for the temporary/permanent accessory is that if you really don't like it and the colour doesn't work for you, you can just re-donate it without feeling the cost but you have still pushed yourself without the whole experience being costly and troublesome- much like a painted wall)!
Step 6 - How Much Colour to use?
Consider how much of that colour you would like to have in the space you are decorating.
If you've decided actually yellow really ticks all your boxes but your partner really wouldn't feel the same, adding colour doesn't necessarily have to be a big commitment and lead to painting all four walls or every room in the house. You can still incorporate it.
Add cushions, a sofa, a vase a piece of art, all with elements of that colour in them. They don't have to be exactly the same shade! Similar is good enough - better in fact because it adds depth to a room. A simple neutral background palette on the walls which perhaps has undertones of the colour you are choosing would be wonderful to present this look.
Reverting to our yellow colour choice example, a white tone with yellow undertones is a great way of adding the colour. So, in some lights you walls would seem whiter and at different times of the day they would delicately show off their yellow tone. Accented with some yellow accessories together with other hints of whites and creams and natural wood colours, breaking up the lightness with some green foliage and a few grounding bits of darker furniture- the perfect summery, soothing scheme and hey presto - you've colour committed without creating an overwhelmingly vibrant room in a colour that would give you a bit of a headache.
Other options to consider:
Add a feature wall in paper or in paint, or choose a paper with yellow in it's pattern on a lighter background;
Photo credit: John Lewis
Use an earthier deeper version of the colour you are looking at which will instantly add a slightly more sophisticated feel to a room;
If you are designing a fun exciting children's nursery or playroom - here you have artistic licence - just be mindful that too much of a bold colour can sometimes be tiring due to its intensity so perhaps just put a bright colour only on the ceiling or in sections/blocks/a feature wall instead of every wall. There is only so long you can feel highly energised - refer to Step 3 above).
Step 7 - Decisions, Decisions
Now you've decided how much or how little you want to add, you have two options:
1. You could turn to an experienced Designer:
They can help guide you to make some final decisions and bring it all together;
A Designer will know where to find what it is you are looking for, to add the right coloured accessories to your home and to suit your budget quickly and efficiently with tried and trusted companies.
If you are not yet in a position to get started yourself, they will know the best paints for your walls and be able to find you a trusted trades person best suited for the job.
A Designer will be able to produce a board and imagery to show you how each of your proposed accessories and wall colours will look together with your existing furnishings before you make any purchases or start painting so you know for sure you will love your new scheme without making any costly mistakes.
2. Linking to other rooms - is there a connecting room (or rooms) already decorated you are happy with, in the line of sight from the room you are about to paint? A room you would like to feel more connected to? Picking up elements from connecting rooms to help the spaces talk to each other always helps with the flow of a home and without being obvious is extremely aesthetically pleasing to the occupants. Link a colour here and there where you can. Just one or two colours will do, using your home accessories.
And finally, to complete this colour injection into your home, remember that when you are working on your room; much like painting at an easel - keep stepping back and really look at the whole picture. The details are absolutely crucial, but keep visualizing so you can see it all coming together seamlessly.
No matter what route you take, the key is to keep it simple and if you get stuck, there is always a Designer (me!) just a telephone call away that can give you the support or confidence boost you need to get colouring up!
Good luck and enjoy the journey!
**If you have read this article and ventured into the more vibrant side of life, please do share and post your pictures and comments with us : firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to see your adventures!**