6 September, 2015

A Conversation About Colour

The best results are achieved when colour choices are brave and deliberate!

This week I thought I’d have a conversation with myself about colour!
We’re always workshopping colour, texture and pattern in the studio, so here are some thoughts and musings from behind the sheer curtain as it were.

Why use colour?
Colour is the ultimate mood maker.

Do you have a favourite colour? 
I love all colours but I didn’t realise until we set up fabric drawers in the studio to sort all our samples by colour that there were certain drawers that were bursting with samples, and others that were not. I naturally gravitate towards denim or navy blues, peachy pinks, celadon greens and rusty terracottas, tobacco leathers, metallic golds and strong multicolours that combine all my favourites. Also black and white when combined with texture help lift these colours into amazing territory.

How does colour influence a mood?
Colour is a mood shifter and can do more for a space than only one single thing on its own in an interior. Whether we realise it or not, we all respond emotionally to colour. A particular hue might remind us of the school jumper we wore to boarding school (not ideal if they weren’t happy days) or the colour of our favourite flower. Our perspective on colour is influenced by our visual memory, what we’ve connected to in the past. That may also explain why people are naturally shy when it comes to experimenting with colour. It can be very unfamiliar territory.

How do you work with colour?
How colours are combined in a room is key. There should be a lead colour that anchors the space that is the predominant colour. To stop the room from feeling too one dimensional, there needs to be additional accent colours that sit in proportion to the main colour. These are often complimentary colours or colours that ‘riff’ off the main one without competing for attention. This is key, you can either inject a colour accent by dropping a chair in an unexpected hue or selecting an artwork with major colour saturation to give the lift you are after. I know many people suggest doing colour accents in throw pillows or art but often I don’t find this goes far enough. The room should have the beginnings of personality before these things are added as the finishing touches.

What is the toughest challenge when it comes to using colour?
It takes time to build up a palette with the right combination of colours. Often we find we might build a scheme around a few key colours and a client will say, I’m not a fan of ‘blue’ or that colour is ‘too strong’. Often what they’re saying is, I didn’t imagine having a green sofa or dark blue ceiling, that’s too unfamiliar. Once you take those things out, you lose the magic. So, having the guts to try something new is the biggest obstacle. What I’ve learned over the years in experimenting over and over with colour is it needs to be stronger than you think for it to really feel like ‘colour’. If you dilute it to the safe zone, it just washes out.

How do you begin your creative process?
If its a furnishing project, more often than not we start with the rug first. This is a key element in the space, and the colour mix is really important. Often we’re sourcing rugs that already exist and we may start with one direction but go completely in another once we find the perfect rug. We then build up all the other elements around the colours in the rug. If we are customising a rug where we hand select the tufts, we do everything in reverse and the rug comes last.

Coming earlier to a project where we are renovating or painting, the concept direction comes first. Is it relaxed boho, modern farmhouse, or avant-garde New York pad. We establish the mood with a colour direction, use that to set the joinery finishes on the right path then come back and finalise the wall colours. So we come at it from all angles during the creative process.

I love the concept phase as that’s the juiciest part of thinking freely. We invariably go through a wobbly middle period where the client considers how challenging our ideas are. If we’re ultimately in sync, we arrive at our destination, colour and ideas intact and ready for action.

What about using colour in large or small spaces? 
The common catch cry is “my space is small, won’t painting it dark make it feel smaller?” or “this room is dark already, won’t painting it dark make it even darker?” Absolutely not is our answer. Going with a design constraint to create an opportunity is the best approach. Small spaces lend themselves to an explosion of colour, pea green powder room anyone? with copper basins? We’ve done it. Its a small controlled space to have a lot of fun. And wrap the colour onto the ceiling too, this prevents the stop/start look. Painting out small spaces gives them personality which helps it punch much higher above its weight and distracts you from realising the space is small. This also goes for dark spaces. Without moving the sun, if the space is already dark, its not going to get any lighter by painting it in a lighter hue. Embracing this ‘limitation’ and creating personality by going dark is the best medicine. If using a strong colour rather than ‘going dark’, you need to bear in mind some colours work better in light or dark conditions.

Can bold colour choices be used in all interior styles?
Not always, selecting colour is about context as much as it is about mood. For instance, strong colours in a beachy location may not feel as appropriate or relaxing when surrounded by ocean colours and muted sandy tones and wispy tea trees. We start with what we’re starting with – the architecture, the history, the context. And we take it from there. If colour can’t be used as strongly, then adding texture is the answer. This lifts colours out of their one dimensional context if you are layering tones.

How do you experiment with colour?
By playing with it and building confidence. It should ultimately be fun.

A graphic black & white dining room by Alberto Pinto.

These tall ceilings are celebrated with this powdery blue. Source unknown

A flat in Paris decorated by Britt Moran & Emiliano Salci of Dimore

A dark ceiling packs a punch in this otherwise neutral room by Tobi Fairley.

Colour doesn’t need to be reserved for paint. Introduce colour through your joinery to give life to a space. Source unknown

Jeff And Lara Sanderson’s Mercer Island home featured in Elle Decor.

A great example of a tonal colour palette. Source unknown

Warm neutrals are offset with a deep jewel tone in the Pierre Yovanovitch designed, Quai Anatole Apartment.

Dirty pastels are used in this space to create a perfect example of colour zoning space. Source unknown

This Kelly Wearstler space introduces colour through pattern and texture.

A strong colour creates the perfect amount of interest in this Kelly Wearstler designed space.

India Mahdavi uses an eclectic mix of furniture is the way this space introduces a colour personality.

A warm grey contrasts the sunflower yellow of this kitchen cabinetry. Source unknown

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