Choosing colours for your walls in your home can be tricky enough but once that’s done, you need to choose colours for the furniture, accessories, fittings, etc. And it all needs to go together harmoniously. Nightmare!
Fear not. Let’s go back to basic: let’s review some key principles and then, as usual, follow your guts to go with what YOU like.
- The techy bit 1: Colour wheel
It really is as simple as that. This wheel graphically explains the relationships between colours and within each colour family.
Let’s take the Orange family for instance. The pure colour orange is on the outer ring of the wheel (= hue). As you gradually move down the centre of the wheel, white is added to lighten the colour (= tint), then grey is added to soften it (=tone) or black is added to darken it (=shade).
- The techy bit 2: colour palettes
Once you are armed with this wheel, you can start! A colour palette is a selection of colours to apply in your interior. The wheel helps you determine those palettes. There are 3 common palettes: monochromatic, analogous and complimentary. Once you get more confident with colours, you can explore other colour combinations such as split complimentary, triadic, etc.
Monochromatic: this is simply all segments within a colour family. This palette can be calming and relaxing. You will probably need to balance it with a neutral and do not forget to add textures and patterns to add a bit of rhythm to the room
Analogous: three colour families that are side by side on the wheel. Use one colour as a dominant colour. You can add more nuances by varying tone, tint and shade. Stay coherent by applying the same colours in the right proportions to cushions, curtains, armchairs, flooring, etc. Again, a neutral will balance things out and soften the overall effect.
Complimentary: two diametrically opposite colour families on the wheel. This palette is more vibrant and dramatic. Use one colour as a dominant colour and the other as an accent in accessories and furniture for instance. Subdued tones of complimentary colours will appear softer and more peaceful.
- Psychology of colours
A bit of a pompous title for what effectively everybody knows and feels deep down. Each colour triggers connotations, feelings, emotions and by using them you tap right into these. Each colour has also an energy linked to it:
Red = emotion, passion, appetite, happiness, heat
Orange = warm, autumn, earth, animated, expansive
Yellow = happiness, spring, sun, light, happiness, heat, inspiration
Green = life, nature, relaxing, stability, security, balance
Blue = calming, sky, water, spirit, restful
Violet = passion, spirituality, intimacy
So think of the mood you want to create in a space. If it is a more traditional look, you will go with tones and shades in a colour family to illustrate the age and years gone by. On the other hand, if you want to create a modern vibrant interior, you’ll stick with hues.
- Work with what you currently have
Ok, so all of the above is great and makes complete sense but you also need to work with what you currently have. You are not going to reinvent the wheel here (no pun intended) so make an inventory of all the existing colours you are keeping in the house – on the floor, ceiling, walls, trims, etc. What is their colour? What is their undertone(for instance, is it a pink that seems warm or cool to the eye)? A typical honey wooden floorboard will have a warm undertone for instance. Cool colours on the wheel are your purples, blues, greens and warm colours are the reds, oranges and yellows. Try to create a colour palette that works with the colours you intend to keep for an overall cohesive scheme.
- See the light!
At this point it is important to mention that light is going to have a huge impact on your colour choice. Observe the natural daylight in the room: north facing? Cool light. West facing? Warm light. This will impact how the colour actually appears. My trick: paint directly on the wall or on a large card from your sample pot and observe at different times of the day. You will be surprised. This is also why artificial light can also turn your perfect colour into a monster. Use the same trick and try different light bulbs, opting for warm white temperature options (2700 -3000K).
- Play with colours but don’t forget neutrals
First of all, need I say go with the colours you love?! This is your space, your home, your lifestyle. If you love deep green or if scandi whites are your thing, go for it. There is no right or wrong. So please, listen to yourself and choose colours that really resonate with you. There is a current trend for moody interiors where walls, ceiling, trims are painted the same colour to create a cocoon effect. The space will wrap around because the lines between flooring, walls and ceiling become blurred. Interestingly if you use cool colours the space will tend to recede and you will create an illusion of space. If you use warm colours, the space will visually come forward and close in – making the space appear smaller. This is a great way to achieve a dramatic effect and to make key pieces of furniture take centre stage. But if you don’t feel that bold with colour yet, introduce a neutral colour (white, beige, grey) to balance your palette and soften the overall look. As soon as you introduce a soft contrast with a neutral, you break this intensity and soften, lighten the overall look.
- Define your scheme before you start
A bit of a given but it helps a lot if you can define an overall scheme from the beginning. This means that you will achieve a cohesive look for your interior and any new addition will work with what you will have already created.
- Think textures and patterns too
This is another trick. Textures and patterns add interest, variations, rhythm to a room. If you have a monochromatic palette, these are essential to lift the whole room to another level as you add visual nuances that create depth. Accessories are also a great way to bring colour and texture (copper, ceramic, glass, wool, seagrass, …) into a scheme. You can use your dominant colour on the walls and use touches of the accent colour through your carefully chosen accessories.