It could be my imagination but there seems to be colour everywhere at the moment – paint colours are bright, wallpapers and fabrics boldly mix colours and patterns and even bathrooms are not exempt with colourful tiles galore and even, dare we say it, coloured bathroom fittings. But the question is, do you want colour (a lot of it or a little of it) in your home and if so, what colours do you like?
We are incredibly led by what is fashionable, and therefore available, and it is easy to feel somewhat apologetic if we don’t like what everyone else is currently raving about. Colour has a very particular impact on our senses – I for example find the mix of light grey and quite a specific pink takes me right back to the eighties. I am not really sure why, it is possibly to do with a friend’s kitchen that I spent time in back then, but no amount of time will shift the sense that the get when I see that combination. These feelings should not be ignored and I genuinely believe that when the right palette of colours is settled on for your home, it can give you a feeling of well-being and happiness that is not to be sniffed at.
Colour in the home comes from a lot of sources. Paint is a big one, but there is also fabric, flooring, artwork, furnishings that all add to the colour mix. Combinations of colours are generally more powerful than single blocks of colour so it is important to consider your scheme as one rather than making individual choices about each element. I would always recommend acquiring actual samples of each item you are considering using – a section of flooring, a tile, as larger sample of fabric that you can get hold of, painted up samples of the paint colours (don’t rely on the paint chart alone) – to see the effect that the combination gives you. I would also look at the items in the room they are intended for as the effect you get will change from room to room. I would also suggest living with your choices for a bit – sometimes the thing you first love is exactly right, sometimes you will have a change of heart and it is much better to rethink the samples than try to alter a finished room.
If you don’t want lots of colour (and many beautiful homes don’t have a lot of colour in them), don’t imagine that the alternative is automatically pure white. There are a lot of different whites and they give a very different feeling to a room from warm to cool, airy to oppressive, modern to traditional. You will also need to look at the combination of materials, even if your palette is all white. A bright blue-tone white (such as brilliant white paint or a bright white glazed tile) will often make other items – fabric, tiles, flooring – appear an off white or even a light pastel shade, which may not be the effect you want. Also remember that when you add any colour to a very white scheme, it will make a strong impression – add a simple green pot plant to a white space and you will see the impact even a bit of natural colour makes. I am always surprised that artists, or gallery owners, often automatically opt for bright white walls – the background to a painting is important to complement any artwork and a quick trip round the first floor at the Fitzwilliam will show just how glorious a strongly painted wall can be behind a painting. I am not saying white is wrong, but it should be chosen as the right colour to sit behind a work of art, and even then, bright white may not be the best choice.
Light, both natural and artificial, has a huge impact on the colours in a space and should be considered when you are designing your scheme. Colours will change in different lights and you may not like a colour so much when a brighter or duller light is on it. It is also a mistake to think that if you have a smaller, darker space, you must automatically use lighter colours. You won’t ever stop the space being less light than other spaces so sometimes it is better to play to this, rather than fight it. A dark cosy room can be lovely, particularly if it is contrasted with a lighter, brighter space close by.
If you are a bit unsure about how much colour you want, a general rule of thumb is that it is easy to add colour but once you have committed to a strongly coloured floor, wall of tiles or pair of curtains, it can be a bit painful to decide it is all a bit much once the work is done. Whilst I would urge you generally to have confidence in your own choices with decorating, if you feel that a scheme may be too strong for you to live with, I would listen to that instinct and tone down the expensive/hard to change elements of it. The cushions on the sofa will be much easier to change than the sofa itself, so if you have doubts, be bolder with the accessories than the core pieces. Also remember, that paint is relatively easier and cheaper to change so if you are going to be experimental, paint is your friend.
The final thing I would say about colour is that we all respond to it differently. There is no right or wrong and if you find a colour, or better still a combination of colours, that makes your heart flutter with joy, then that is right for you, no matter what other people say – and whatever you do, don’t give up the search for your perfect palette until you get that heart stopping moment – you will know it when it happens.