It can be very daunting choosing a colour scheme for your home. Colour has the ability to transform a home and is a key element in creating atmosphere. The colour of our walls, furniture and soft furnishings are closely aligned with our mood. It can have an immediate effect, with the ability to calm or energise. It is also the area most people struggle with. Below are my simple tips for choosing beautiful colour schemes for your home.
START WITH THE FEEL YOU WISH TO CREATE
I often find clients don’t even know where to start with colour. My most simple piece of advice is to ask what kind of feel they wish to create in their home. And secondly what their favourite colour is. Normally they are the same colour! If you can choose a dominant base colour to start with, then you can build a scheme from there.
If you are stuck then pull together a simple mood board. Pinterest is a great resource for this but don’t spend too long on it. One of the first places to look on Pinterest is Design Seeds, who have created a fantastic set of ready made colour palettes. Alternatively collect together pieces of fabric and wallpaper you like into a tray or shallow box (as below). You’ll soon start to see themes of colours you like. But always start with the mood you want to create and that will give you a direction to work with. Otherwise you can spend hours doing research and end up more confused than ever!
THE COLOUR WHEEL – A USEFUL TOOL FOR BUILDING A SCHEME
Once you have a colour in mind then you can build a scheme with it. That’s when a colour wheel can come in. Put simply a colour wheel provides a visual representation of which colours blend and work well with others. It removes all the guesswork! There are a number of schemes you can build using a colour wheel.
Tonal – a one colour scheme with varying tones
This is where you choose a one colour scheme but have varying tones of it throughout the room. You need these different tones and lots of texture to avoid it feeling flat. Once you’ve selected your basic colour, you can experiment with different tones. A good way to do this is to use one of the Dulux paint chart strips. Also introduce pattern in the schemes too to keep it interesting. This example of a country house bedroom illustrates this perfectly.
I think these schemes work well in country or period homes where you have architectural features you wish to highlight. These compliment those features rather than distracting from them. In this living room the colour and fabrics add a sense of warmth to the room rather than being the star of the room.
Complimentary – contrasting colour schemes
Complimentary colour schemes work really well for bolder schemes with high contrast. These are schemes where the two colours sit opposite each other on the colour wheel. If you use two colours, make sure there is more of one colour than the other. This means they don’t compete with each other and the eye isn’t challenged. Typically one colour is the main shade and the other is the accent. If you use a complimentary scheme consider neutrals too to break up the colours and provide a place for your eye to rest. This complimentary scheme I have just worked on which combines deep pinks with a deep duck egg blue. The blue is the dominant colour with the pink as an accent.
If the contrast of a complimentary scheme feels a little too bold then try this tip. Pick your base colour and then instead of selecting the colour directly opposite choose the colour either side of the contrast colour. I love this teal and mustard yellow colour scheme at Soho Farmhouse which feels so relaxing but still has a sense of warmth.
Harmonious – colours that sit next to each other on the colour wheel
These schemes are generally easy to live with as they come from the same colour family. Start by developing a scheme with two or three colours. I think blue and green schemes always work well together, although I tend to use more muted tones so they blend well. This room I worked on for Justin Van Breda is a good example of this.
When it comes to multiple colours my advice would always be to start with an inspiration or something you love. A picture, a rug or a piece of fabric you love is a great place to start and the hard work of the colour combinations has been done for you! You can then pick the colours from this scheme, selecting a dominant main colour for the walls (or larger items such as curtains or upholstery) and then accents for other items in the room.
UNDERSTAND COLOUR TEMPERATURE
Whether you choose warm or cool colours will have a big effect on your room. Reds, oranges and yellows are warm colours that bring vibrancy, liveliness and intimacy to a space. They are good for dining rooms and halls where you want people to feel welcome but you don’t spend large amounts of time. Blues and greens are the cool colours and will make a room feel calm. Lighter blues and greens create a sense of relaxation, so a great choice for bedrooms and bathrooms.
The size of the room should also be considered in relation to colour temperature. A warm colour in a small space can feel claustrophobic. And cool colours in large rooms can leave a room feeling rather stark.
CHOOSING COLOURS FOR A WHOLE HOUSE
The whole house palette is the trickiest one to achieve. Start by picking the dominant colour for the biggest, more central room. This would normally be your living room or kitchen. Then work from there to build you palette. Generally harmonious schemes work well for connecting rooms. Alternatively introduce a tonal palette, where you stick to one colour and have different tones of it for each room.
Paint and Paper Library and Little Greene paint make this easy for you with their colour scales. Your woodwork should be one colour (usually a white) and helps to unify the rooms. Creating cohesion between rooms is so important to create a sense of continuity. One other trick I think works really well is to have a base of harmonious or tonal shades and have an accent colour that ties together the rooms.
I hope you have enjoyed this article and do contact me if you would like help with your colour schemes. In my next article I will outline specific tips for choosing paint colours. A particular favourite is the Farrow & Ball paint colours. I have also written an article on the top interior design brands I would recommend.