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Interior Design Concepts - Colour Interior Design Concepts - Colour 






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Colour can drastically affect your mood, so it is important to always bear this in mind when embarking on interior design projects. I am sure you will already have a favourite colour or group of colours, so build these into your overall scheme. Using colours that you know lift your spirits will make your colour choice work for you.

There are no hard and fast rules about choosing colours. Create your own sense of harmony by creating your own colour spectrum. It really is not wise to go for a colour purely because it is in vogue at the moment - you will soon live to regret it!

Where to begin

Begin by considering the colour of all the elements in the room, not just the flat surfaces. It may well be that you already have many items of furniture, accessories or soft furnishings that you will have to incorporate into the scheme, so these will have to form the bones of your plan. If you are starting totally from scratch, then so much the better, you have a clean palette to start with!

When using a large expanse of colour, remember that it will always appear darker and stronger than you imagine from having seen just a small fabric swatch or colour sample. This is particularly true of paint colours or wallpapers.

TIP: Buy a small sample pot and paint a large section on a piece of scrap plasterboard or something similar. Move it around the room and look at it at different times of the day. You will be amazed at how different the colour will appear in natural and artificial light. The depth of colour will also vary depending on the surface to which is applied and the amount of light it receives. If in doubt, always go for a shade lighter.

If you want more than one paint colour on the walls, then its is best not to go for a contrast, stick with the same colour but in a different shade, making it lighter or darker. A slightly ‘muddy’ look in paint colours is particularly popular at the moment. Farrow & Ball, Sanderson and The Paint Library offer a really unusual and comprehensive selection.

TIP: A trick that many decorators use is to chose one colour and paint the ceiling in the lightest shade, the walls in the next shade darker, the dado darker still and the woodwork in the darkest shade using a flat oil based paint for the greatest effect.

Curtains, floor and wall coverings

If you choose a dark colour for your curtains and are thinking of placing them against a pale wall, you will need to be aware that they will make a very strong statement. I feel that it is far better to tone down the colour of the curtains or deepen the colour on the walls slightly to avoid too strong a contrast.

When looking for floor coverings, there are lots of different options to choose from. Sisal and its modern day derivatives will always be popular, although they do not give the comfort and luxurious feel of a woollen carpet. The colour continuity and harmony you get from using the same coloured carpet throughout the whole house is well worth considering but you would be well advised to choose a neutral tone that is easy to live with! It also allows for greater flexibility in choosing the individual colour schemes for each room.

TIP: If you decide on carpeting, request a large sample piece from your supplier rather than the 10 cms square usually provided by the manufacturer. The same rule applies with carpets as with fabric and paint, too strong a shade will be overpowering when seen ‘en mass’, so go a shade lighter.

TIP: If you are re-furbishing an entire room and have the luxury of starting from scratch, then leave the paint colour or wallpaper design until last. This tends to make the fundamental choices of fabric, floor covering and accessories a lot easier.

Pattern and colour in the textiles you use, or perhaps in one very special article like a piece of ceramic or a painting, could form the bones of the colour scheme with wall colour used to tone down the overall palette.

Strong colours

It is best to steer clear of strong colours on the walls in rooms that you use very frequently. Go for paler tones, creams, grey-greens, blue-greys and ivories. Hall and staircases however are often neglected in terms of interesting colour schemes, but they are important as they make a first impression on entering the house and they serve the purpose of linking individual rooms creating an overall feel to the house. As we spend little time in them, merely passing through, then they can take a stronger shade. Hallways and staircases always get a lot of traffic and can quickly become shabby if you have not thought long-term of how your floor and wall coverings are going to stand up to a lot of wear and tear.

TIP: If you would like to experiment with using dark colours on walls, you would be well advised to restrict their use to rooms that are only used after dark.

Dining rooms in particular, can benefit from a darker colour scheme. To have a formal dining room that is rarely used is a luxury today. How about turning your little used dining room into a dining room come library. If you have the room, you could fit in a small sofa or comfy armchair. Your darker colour scheme could well include dark green, navy blue and deep red, colours that we typically associate with libraries. Blue is usually accepted as a cold colour, but the rich, dark blue shown in the example at the top of the page has been teamed with cream and the resulting affect, used in a master bedroom, is anything but cold. The two-tone tasselled trimming and cord bring the two colours together.

This very traditional drawing room has dark oak furniture. The owner chose a variety of different textures and patterns on the fabrics and fitted a deep velvet pile woollen carpet to match. It is a room that is predominantly used in the evening, as it faces east and gets little natural sunlight, other than first thing in the morning. The lighting consists of central chandeliers, matching wall lights, a picture light over the fireplace and various table lamps.


TIP: A trick that many interior designers use is to insert one red article in a room, no matter how small to serve as a focal point.

However, beware of using red as the dominating colour in a room. It is a very strong, aggressive colour and therefore difficult to live with, but one small and imposing red object, be it a chair or a vase of flowers, can give the room an amazing ‘lift’.

The strong red in this lambrequin and cushion is best used in small quantities. In this case, the roman blind picks out the colour of the stripes in the main fabric. The row of double piping on the blind has been cut on the straight so that the stripes run in perfect lines down the lambrequin and across the roman blind.

Next steps

If you still feel totally at a loss when it comes to colour, then a trip to KA International might help, or alternatively, purchase their catalogue if you are unable to visit one of their stores. They have very wisely broken their range of fabrics, furnishings, trimmings and accessories into five definite colourways, blue, red, neutral, green and yellow, with a separate selection of fabrics for children. Study their ranges of fabrics paying particular attention to how they have co-ordinated their colours within each particular colour block. Using this as a basis, you will have a fair idea of which colours appeal to you most!


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  Last modified: May 12, 2008