Five tips for decorating with colour

Photo by Larry Arnal

01 Commit to a direction
When I do design consultations for homeowners, one of the most common questions I am asked is, “What is a nice colour for a kitchen/master bedroom/bathroom?” I am always quick to explain to clients this is the wrong place to start. Start with the overall mood you would like the space to embody. Is it a relaxing retreat? Is it a hip and funky entertaining space? Is it bohemian? Search for photos on the Internet of rooms that you love and find the common elements. A theme should emerge that will then help inform the overall direction of the room. If you’re stuck on determining this direction, hire a designer for a consultation, or take an online design quiz to help narrow your design identity.

02 Pick your palette from an inspiration piece
Once you have determined your style, let your palette derive from something that will be used in the space. This could be a gorgeous fabric, a great toss cushion or a beautiful piece of art. Pick three colours that exist in the piece and use those colours in other areas of the room. For this project, we went for an aesthetic that was sophisticated, serene and polished. I drew my palette from one of the pillow fabrics we selected, using yellow and shades of grey multiple times in the space. Inspiration for your colour palette could even come from your closet. An awesome blazer or printed shirt can definitely be the jumping off point for a room’s colour scheme.

03 Repeat colour for a harmonious look
Once you have determined your palette and you feel confident it will embody the overall aesthetic you’d love to see in the space, ensure the colour gets repeated a few times for a harmonious look. This trick of repeating a colour at least three times in a space is a technique I learned designing rooms for television shows, where you have a limited amount of screen time to make a big impression. In this space, we repeat yellow in the rugs, custom pillows and ottomans. Grey is repeated in the custom sectional, wall colour and rug.

04 Add something unexpected
In almost all my projects, I utilize a 70-25-5 per cent rule. I use 70 per cent of a main colour (in this case it is grey), 25 per cent of a secondary colour (yellow for this room) and five per cent of a fun pop (teal for this client). Adding this fun pop of colour is like an exclamation point at the end of a sentence, or a red lipstick on a neutral outfit. It adds a bit of vibrancy that is unexpected but feels polished.

05 Don’t underestimate the power of paint
My final tip in regards to successful use of colour in a room is about paint. Paint colour selection can be a very overwhelming decision to make, especially if one is making it without any context, mood direction or commitment to a scheme. But paint can dramatically impact the look of a space, and I always suggest to my clients to consider being bold. For these clients, neutral walls absolutely suited the polished, serene and sophisticated aesthetic we wanted to achieve. But in another context, I would not be afraid to wrap a room in an indigo blue, a warm rust or even a flat black. Paint is a relatively inexpensive way to add a lot of drama to a space, and the beauty is you can test colours with a lower level of commitment, than say, upholstery or art.


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