Decorating with colour: how to get it right

a home decorated with colour including an orange sofa and a pastel wall

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.

an elegant living room with blue chairs, lavender blue curtains and neutral furniture
Decorating with colour isn’t as hard as it looks. Photography: Kitesgrove.

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.

a colourful open plan kitchen and living area with an orange sofa and a pink and turquoise painted wall
There are lots of different ways to introduce accent colours. Photography: iStock / Bulgac.

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.

a turquoise bubble candleholder on a white background
Emilia Handblown Bubble Candleholder, Turquoise, £17, Sazy.

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.

a bedroom with a tree, a yellow and orange double bed and a wall decorated with brightly coloured yellow paint
However you feel when you wake up, you’ll be instantly cheered by yellow walls. Photography: iStock / Artjafara.

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.

a selection of different coloured swatches for decorating with colour
Decorating with colour: start with a swatch you love. Photography: iStock / Nicholas Ahonen.

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.

a room decorated with a blue colour on the walls and pink and turquoise chairs in front of a yellow sideboard
Decorating with colour: consider lighting. Photography: iStock / Artjafara.

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.

a green striped rug in a large living room with walls decorated with dark green colour paint
Introducing colourful rugs is a great way to add colour to a room. Sage striped rug, £859 per sq m, Rug Artisan.

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.

an entertainment room featuring a yellow neon sign and blue and pink neon stripes
Make entertainment spaces bright and colourful. Photography: iStock / alvarez.

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.

a hallway to a small bathroom decorated with brightly coloured wallpaper in the shades of the rainbow
Brighten up cloakrooms and hallways with colour, as in this hallway by AMC Design.

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.

a red colour velvet bed with pink decorative floral wallpaper behind it
The Camelia Tulip bed, from £975, Button & Sprung.

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.

an olive green room featuring a yellow freestanding bath with walls decorated with brightly coloured wallpaper
The Bathroom in the Showroom at House of Hackney.

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.

a jade green living room with a green sofa, a large plant, rattan pendant light, rattan rug and walls decorated in jade green paint
If you’re short of interiors inspo, then why not take it from nature? Photography: iStock / Artjafara.

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.

a bedroom decorated in blue and brown colours
“A mix of blue and pale brown hues make for a peaceful bedroom setting.” Photography: Kitesgrove.
a living room with a colourful patterned table
“This colourful patterned table makes a statement in a neutral coloured room.” Photography: Kitesgrove.
a blue living room featuring a large green plant in a rattan basket
“Bold blue interrupts this neutral sitting room, bringing warmth and vigour.” Photography: Kitesgrove.

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.

a green desk with a yellow chair in front of blue painted windows and blue painted walls
“The rich blue paint used on the walls and woodwork of this home office envelope the space making it a calming and productive room. The bright contrast from the green desk and yellow chair add energy to the space.” Photography: Kitesgrove.

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.

a pink circular rug under a round glass dining table with six brown chairs
Fiona Gradation Arch rug, £859 per sq m, Rug Artisan.

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.

a yellow rug, grey chair and red desk in front of white windows
Clara says: “The combination of the vibrant yellow rug and bright red desk sets an energising tone for a productive home office.” Photography: Kitesgrove.
a living room in neutral colours with a dark red armchair
Clara says: “The deep red leather chair brings warmth to this neutral sitting room.” Photography: Kitesgrove.
a bedroom in neutral tones featuring red photo frames and a light red headboard on the bed
Clara says: “The red photo frames and red hue in the headboard add pops of colour to this warm, teal and beige bedroom”. Photography: Kitesgrove.

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.

a bed in a bedroom with yellow striped walls and neutral accessories
Clara says: “The warm yellow classic stripe wallpaper creates a comforting backdrop for a bedroom.” Photography: Kitesgrove.
a brightly coloured artwork in blue, green, orange and yellow colours on a white wall above a green glass table with a yellow lamp on it
Clara says: “The bold yellow hue on the artwork sits well with the bright yellow lamp base and multicoloured shades in the upholstered stool”. Photography: Kitesgrove.
an orange chair in front of a blue wall and a natural sideboard with a natural floor lamp above it
Clara says: “This richly upholstered chair modernises a vintage piece and catches the eye, creating a cosy reading corner.” Photography: Kitesgrove.

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.

an olive green bed with olive green art prints above it in a neutral toned room
Clara says: “The deep green headboard is a subtle contrast to the neutral tones of this tranquil bedroom. We’ve complemented it with the dried botanicals on the wall.” Photography: Kitesgrove.
a teal kitchen bar with brass shelves above it and lots of cocktail accessories on them
Clara says: “The teal shade brings sleek vibes to this kitchen bar, and we’ve accessorised with stylish metallics.” Photography: Kitesgrove.
a green velvet sofa with a wooden plant stand and mirror next to it
Clara says: “A plush green velvet sofa and indoor plants add a fresh energy to this sitting room.” Photography: Kitesgrove.
a green and yellow zig zag rug with a grey sofa and footstool and wooden side tables with plants on in a grey living room
Wilkins Diamond rug, £859 per sq m, Rug Artisan.

Pure white

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.

a white bathroom with double sinks in a white vanity unit and a grey tiled shower over bath
Clara says: “A crisp white bathroom is the perfect sanctuary for escape. We’ve also added tonal variation with marble.” Photography: Kitesgrove.
a marble kitchen featuring an island and lots of shelves with kitchen accessories on them
Clara says: “Chic off-white marble in this kitchen keeps it looking so clean and fresh.” Photography: Kitesgrove.
a white bouclé armchair with a red cushion on it, wooden side table to the left of it and large plant to the right of it
Clara says: “We accessorised this cosy white bedroom chair with a plump red cushion to give it a lift and add texture.” Photography: Kitesgrove.

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 large living room featuring two checked armchairs and a green sofa with a blue fireplace and lots of wooden wall shelves with accessories on them
Clara says: “The neutral backdrop of this sitting room sets the tone for the rich black marble fireplace and upholstered monochrome chairs, anchored by a black and white rug. This neutral setting provides the perfect space for the vibrant green sofa to shine, letting both the bright and dark tones sing.” Photography: Kitesgrove.

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.”

wallpaper in a bright green colour jungle print with pink flowers, behind a white pedestal sink with accessories
Jungle Palm wallpaper, £87, Missprint.

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.”

a colourful living room with a blue sofa, colourful cushions, an orange chair, blue curtains and red walls
A living room styled by AMC Design.

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.”

a living room with a table and chairs and the walls decorated with burgundy and anthracite paint
A room decorated with burgundy Crown paint.

“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.”

a loft conversion bedroom with a double bed and the walls decorated with pastel pink paint
A loft conversion decorated with pastel pink Crown paint.

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.”

a loft conversion bedroom with a double bed and the walls decorated with sage green paint
Lastly, a loft conversion decorated with sage green Crown paint.

So, did you enjoy this feature? Then you’ll also love our feature on patterned wallpaper.

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