So you want to add a splash of colour to brighten up your home. Scared of getting it wrong? Don’t fret: we’ve got some expert advice for you. Just follow these tips and your home will be both bright and beautiful.
London-based design studio Kitesgrove believes decorating with colour is fundamental to any design scheme. It’s a transformative way to introduce character, energy and atmosphere to a home. A carefully considered colour palette is often the starting point for a room’s design. These tips will make you feel equally comfortable with brighter schemes or a more neutral, pared back approach.
Whether colour is on the walls, cabinetry, furniture and accessories, carefully curated design schemes consider where and how you can best apply it to create a welcoming and individual space. Below, Clara Ewart, Kitesgrove’s Head of Design, shares advice for choosing and decorating with colour.
Decorating with colour: firstly, introduce accent colours
Firstly: if you’re not confident with colour, introduce accent colours in smaller areas to brighten up a room. Maybe it’s a trim on a headboard or cushion or a window frame. Alternatively, a favourite piece of painted furniture or a colourful picture frame. These small pops of colour lift a space and you can introduce more as your confidence grows.
Secondly, trust your instincts
Secondly, trusting your instincts is really important when working with colour. You should surround yourself with colours you love and which make you happy – just as you do with your wardrobe.
Decorating with colour: Try different ways of introducing it
Thirdly, you can introduce colour in so many different ways. Paint is an easy and affordable way to update anything from a chair to all the walls. In addition, instead of having to reupholster an entire sofa or order a new pair of curtains, try updating a chair cushion with a bright fabric instead.
Start with a swatch you love
When planning a design scheme for a room, it often helps to start with a colour swatch that you love. Whether paint, fabric or wallpaper, you can let that swatch inspire the rest of the scheme.
Decorating with colour: Consider lighting
Consider the lighting of a room before confirming colours. Wherever possible, try the swatch in situ before making a final decision. This is because different lights and seasons can change its appearance.
Introduce colourful artwork or rugs
Colourful artwork is a brilliant way to add bold, surprising shades of colour to a room. Artwork can often be the starting point for a scheme, setting the colour palette and atmosphere without taking the room over. Similarly, rugs can pull different colours in a room together as well as bring inviting texture underfoot.
Decorating with colour: Brighten up entertainment spaces
Don’t be afraid to choose bright, bold hues in rooms which you often use for entertaining. The joyous burst of colour will add to the ambience and enjoyment of the space. You can also break up walls of bright colour with artworks and mirrors to soften the impact of the hue.
Make your hallways and cloakrooms bright
Hallways and cloakrooms are great spaces to introduce colour if you want to keep the rest of the house more neutral. People won’t linger in those spaces for long, but the colour will have a strong impact as they arrive. Conversely, keep bedrooms in serene and calm palettes to help you wind down for sleep.
Decorating with colour: Mix dark and light versions
A simple trick for a colour combination is to use a darker and a lighter version of the same hue on the walls and woodwork or cabinetry in a room. It brings visual interest but is really easy to work with and gives an overall cohesive feel.
Try multi-coloured pieces
Multi-coloured pieces may seem overpowering at first but actually these can be really versatile and easy to work with. This is because you can combine them with almost any colour.
Decorating with colour: Take inspo from nature
We love taking inspiration from nature and often use greens and blues as the basis of our schemes for an inviting space. We also try to bring the outdoors in with plants and an array of natural materials. Green shades are wonderful to work with – they are almost as versatile as neutrals.
Try a shot of colour
Many people prefer calmer palettes but also like to introduce a shot of colour. We often achieve a serene but characterful space by keeping the walls and majority of the furniture relatively neutral. We then introduce one statement piece of furniture in a bright and confident hue. It breaks the space up and brings so much character, but is very easy to live with.
When choosing colours for a room, Clara advises embracing colour theory. This is the psychology behind the effect that different colours can have on the mind when used in specific settings:
Decorating with colour: Feeling blue
Blue is popular in interior design, due to its calming, tranquil tones. Deep rich dark blue is a popular choice for productive rooms such as kitchens and home offices. Choose the softer, paler tones for bedrooms and sitting rooms to achieve a relaxed and soothing setting.
In the pink
Pink and purple are warm, inviting shades, used to create timeless interiors. Shades can vary hugely from blush to electric pink and lavender to deep violet. You can either use the varying tones to make a strong impact through bold accessories in a sitting room or bathroom or as a backdrop for a warm, comforting space such as a pretty pastel bedroom.
Decorating with colour: Seeing red
Red evokes passion and energy. Bright shades work well for kitchens and dining rooms while darker tones would give a bedroom a warm and moody feel. Red accessories and furniture will add vibrance and energy to a space.
Yellow and orange
Yellow and orange evoke happiness – the bright sunshine tones provide a cheerful energy and optimism. Desaturated shades also work well on bedroom walls, or creating an impact in a living room on upholstered furniture, accessories and artwork.
Decorating with colour: Gorgeous green
Green is reflective of nature, plants and also has an organic appeal. Deep rich or pale leafy green shades will deliver a sense of calm and warmth into a room, thereby making it a perfect tone for a sitting room, bedroom or family kitchen. The colour symbolises renewal and growth, a popular choice for any room in the house on the walls, on furniture or as accessories. Green plants are also a great way to add more colour to the room and introduce a new energy and life.
White represents purity and cleanliness as well as new beginnings. Shades of white make the perfect timeless backdrop for any room and you can easily add colour through furniture, art and accessories. There are so many shades of white, we like to pick shades with an undertone of pink or yellow for a softer, more forgiving look.
Decorating with colour: Neutral tones
Neutrals, including off white, black, brown and grey, are vital to any palette because of their versatile nature. So use shades of grey and brown as a calming backdrop for a bold stand-out piece of furniture, and add some dark drama with black.
A move away from neutrals in 2023
Yvonne Drury, co-founder of MissPrint, says: “We are going to see a move away from cool greys to warmer, bolder and richer tones. True blues and mustard yellow mixed with burnished earth tones can look great together. Colour blocking will also come through as a bold way to inject some colour into a room or combining a mix of patterns and prints.
“Green is the key colour here. From the dark and deep Hunters Green to the calm and relaxing tones of Soft Sage Green, there should be a shade of green for every interior space. Nature-inspired prints, featuring foliage and plants are also key to this trend. It is all about bringing the outside in, with the intention of helping us focus on wellbeing, mindfulness and feeling calmer.”
Don’t be afraid to be bold when decorating with colour
Ann Marie Cousins, founder of AMC Design, says: “Don’t be afraid to be bold with colour! One of the best ways to do this is with complementary colours (where they sit opposite each other on the wheel). For example, violet and yellow or orange and blue. Because this can make for an eye-catching room with maximum impact. A great starting point for this is colour blocking. So try painting your walls two different colours, or opt for your walls to be one colour. Then your furniture, such as a sofa and armchair, to be the other colour.”
Decorating with colour is all about balance
Justyna Korczynska, senior designer at Crown, says: “Working with bold, dark colours should be all about balance. Always make sure you incorporate neutral and pale features into the room, whether that’s through furniture, accessories or other paint colours, that will light up the space. If you’re painting the walls in a deep green shade, make sure you paint the ceiling in a crisp white and opt for light wooden flooring or carpet. Keep the majority of the furniture neutral and add a few brighter pops with soft furnishings or decorative accessories.”
“I don’t think any colours should be avoided for specific rooms. Because I really believe that any colour can work in any area of the home and you should apply the same principles for decorating a bathroom or kitchen as you would any room. I would also always advise taking into account the basics before you start. For example, what atmosphere do you want – airy or cosy, playful or sophisticated?
Use colour to help achieve a certain atmosphere
“Your choice of a soft or bright colour can help achieve a certain atmosphere. So do you want to make a room look more spacious, or to visually bring walls inwards? The paler the colour the more it will reflect light, but the deeper the more it will absorb. So how much natural light does the room get, and is the light warm or cool? Because you can use warm or cool colours to balance out your natural light. Taking these factors into account, and of course choosing tones that you are naturally attracted to, will ensure you achieve the look and personality you want all around the home.”
Lastly, combine colours in your interiors scheme
“When working with neutrals, it’s a good idea to combine colours in your interiors scheme to keep the space from looking cold. Tones of grey, for example, work particularly well with chalky pinks and lavender. Try something a little different by painting the walls in a neutral colour such as Crown’s Flour Dust, with a muted pastel like Crown’s Soft Ash on the ceiling so the colour visually spills onto the neutral walls below. Combining different depths of tone is also very effective, like bright coral or deep terracotta with a soft and pale blue. After you’ve finished decorating, bring the scheme together using coloured accessories like pillows and throws, or even painted furniture and ceramics.”
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