Understanding Colour

Understanding Colour.

Deciding what colour scheme to go for in your living space can sometimes be a challenge. It doesn’t seem that long ago that it was either Magnolia or a tint or hint of this or that. Nowadays there are endless possibilities and we seem to be getting braver at experimenting with colour in our homes. We have magazines, lifestyle programmes and the internet bombarding us with different options, which can often make it even more difficult to choose. So by writing this blog we hope it may bring some clarity.


Planning is key to a room scheme, and there are various ways you can start with colour.

Start with the basics. Which way does the room your decorating face? North facing rooms will always be cooler and have a colder white light as opposed to South facing which will have a much warmer light and feel. Adding cool tones to a North facing room will make it feel even cooler, so choosing warm tones for these rooms will enhance these areas. That isn’t to say you can’t choose a blue hue, just bear in mind to choose one with a pink/violet base tones rather than a grey base, and possibly a matt or chalk finish for a softer look. Whereas in a room that receives lots of sunshine these colder blues can look extremely effective as the natural light does all the work of warming the room, and can create a fresh coastal feel.


Next decide if you are an all out colour person, or favour pastel and neutral tones. Colour can give you some stunning room schemes and if you’re brave enough to try it, you can create some living spaces in your home with a real wow factor but there are rules to follow to avoid clashing, gaudy colour choices  (we’ll explore that later on). Bold colour may not be your thing and you may prefer to stick with soothing, calming hues, or if you wavering and would like to try to introduce colour slowly, why not choose a neutral base pallet and enhance with splashes of colour throughout using soft furnishings and accessories.

Other things to consider when choosing colour are; colours of existing furniture (sofas and cabinets), also the feeling or mood the colour will give the room. For example, greens can be equally calming and refreshing depending on tone, yellows brightening and warming, reds rich and hot but can be stark if used incorrectly, and blues fresh and can add depth.



Before we start with the rules, here’s a guide to the jargon:

Hue – another word for colour. Tint- Adding white to a colour. Tone – adding grey to a colour. Shade – adding black to a colour. Value – lightness or darkness of a colour. Cool colours – Greens, Blues, Violets (also called receding colours) Warm colours – Reds, oranges and yellows (also called advancing colours).

So the Rules…..

An interior designer would look at the colour ‘values’ in your room and then choose a hue with the correct value. WHAT??? I hear you cry! We are not all interior designers so just settle on a colour you like and then adapt it to suit your room. You can always adjust that base colour as you go along, don’t feel you have to stick to that exact shade.

So your choices are follows                               

Monochromatic scheme (don’t panic this doesn’t mean black and white). This means using any Shade, Tint or Tone of just one colour. It gives a very safe, simple but cohesive look, and you can’t really make a mistake by sticking with variations of the same colour.             



Complementary scheme. Using two colours directly opposite on a colour wheel (you can find colour wheels online, or come into Meyer & Marsh and take a look at ours!) These colours do not have to be bold or intense but can be elegant, pleasing tints tones or shades of opposing colour. This often adds a pop of colour to a room be it intense or subtle and is often quite eyecatching.


Split complementary (multi coloured schemes). Using two additional colours on each side of the complement. For example, a yellow hue alongside a red violet & a blue violet (violet being the complementary colour in this case). This look is generally more dramatic because of the use of two complementary colours. Sounds a lot of colour? Just look at the shades and tones and go for the less intense hues. If your brave and love colour, go intense!


Related (Analogous). A three to five colour scheme using any shades, tints or tones that are neighbours on the wheel. These colours are classed as harmonious and are safe choices.


Mood Boards.....

Testing out colours before you buy is a great way to make sure you’re making the right decisions. Putting together a Mood Board is a great way of getting a feel for the overall effect you are trying to achieve. Gather pictures, paint samples & swatches of fabrics you may like use, to make sure all textures (remember texture adds depth and interest even in the same colour choices) and colours sit well together. Sometimes a fabric or colour choice you love may leap out of your mood board as just not working, it’s a really easy and effective way to check rather than make an expensive mistake. Always remember that any colour (even pale ones) will look brighter in large doses. An idea when buying paint is to paint large test sections in different areas of the room allow to dry overnight and look at it, at all different times of the day and night to make sure you are happy with the choice.

Make your main colour choice (the walls) the largest swatch, the subordinate colours (furniture, carpets) a little more than half and your accents (curtains, cushions & accessories) approximately one fourth of the largest swatch. View all of these on a neutral background, it will give you a really good idea what works and what doesn’t. Bear in mind patterned fabrics and textures tend to blend when in close proximity to each other, so for example combining red and blue could appear from a distance to look like purple.   


So by using these simple rules and taking a bit of extra time to carefully choose the right combination of colours, be it bold or subtle, it should help you on your way to using colour to get that look you’ve been hoping to achieve for your home.