• Designing a house is like getting dressed in the morning - you may have a lot of different styles in your closet, but you would not try to wear everything at once.

    Kelly Hoppen

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How to avoid mistakes in colour

colour schemesYou never get a second chance to make a first impression. Colour scheme creates the first impression of an interior, which is the strongest. And it is mistakes in colour choice that are most noticeable.

Tip #1. Choose one colour idea for the whole room. If you follow it throughout the designing process, it will be easier to achieve harmony.

When there is no main idea, the room you are designing may visually fall into separate zones which are adjacent to each other, but do not form a single space.

A good colour idea chosen at the initial stage may become the basis of the whole interior design project. If you follow the colour concept elaborated initially, it would allow to coordinate the colour choices for the finishes, furniture, décor, textile design, etc. Then the colour combination will make a strong impression as a whole.

Tip #2. Use colour hues from the same palette.

It is colour that creates the mood of the interior and evokes our feelings and associations. However, different shades of the same colour could make opposite effects. For example, red with a hint of yellow appears lively and full of energy. Grayish shades of red are quieter, more subdued. Reds with addition of black are the deepest and heaviest. And pure red is an unambiguous, vibrant colour.

A bad colour combination may create an atmosphere of instability and anxiety in an interior. For instance, if we used colours from different palettes in the same interior, we would emphasize the difference in the mood they create. The first thing one notices about these colours is not that they are both, say, red, but the fact that they are different reds which do not belong together.

There are several approaches to systematization of colour hues which serve as the basis for creating harmonious colour combinations that make similar impression on most people.

For example, the seasons colour theory divides al colour hues into 4 groups corresponding to each season of the year. All colours of the colour wheel are present in each group. The difference between the groups lies in the shades of the colours. All colours within one group look good together.

seasons theoryAll spring colours have a yellow accent. The mood of this palette is light, joyful and sunny. 

Summer colours have a blue shade. Summer air is often misty, so all these colours look powdery and bleached. This palette creates a dreamy, relaxed mood. 

Autumn colours are deep, juicy, with a hint of red. These are the colours of autumn leaves and crops – earthy and heavy. The mood of this palette is cozy, warm and festive. 

Winter palette includes clear and bright colours. This palette is the only one which has pure colours without additions. It creates a fresh, clean, businesslike and energetic atmosphere.

Also, there are many colour palettes based on the colour wheel theory and established historic associations, which are related not only to interior decoration styles, but rather to the atmosphere they create and the effect they have on human psyche. For example, if we wanted to create a romantic mood, we could use a colour palette based on pale pink matched by other pastel colours – lavender, pale blue, peach. Pale pink naturally attracts attention since it is a shade of red, but it is not that dramatic. Addition of white turns bright and passionate red into a shade that whispers softly of love and friendship.

If we were trying to emphasize the elegance of a room, we could choose a palette based on light yellow. Walls in this colour would create a golden glow in the room.

This way, we could achieve an elegant, rich, tropical, magical, reliable, traditional, professional or any other mood in a room just by using the right palette.

Besides, there are ready-made palettes compiled according to the effect they produce on human psyche and emotions (tranquilizers, stimulators, joyful colours, healing colours, coours of love, etc.). Finally, there are palettes based on narrower popular associations (male palette, English classics, etc.).

Surely, the colour matching techniques are not limited to the theories explained above, and designers have a broader approach to colour combinations. However, if you are creating an interior on your own and you are not ready to face corrections in case of mistakes, it is better to stick to one of the ready-made palettes which were carefully compiled by designers.

Tip #3. When choosing a colour palette for your interior, trust your first instinct.

Although most of us have an established relationship with colour, when we are trying to design an interior it turns out that colour choices are not that easy. We are craving new experience, but an interior is not a dress – we are afraid that the novelty will get old soon.

Besides, the choice of materials for bringing ideas to reality is endless. After all, the dilemma is usually the same: an original colour scheme or a safe beige-brown palette.

My advice is – trust your intuition. We all have inborn or acquired settled colour preferences. Unconsciously we choose the colour palette which evokes pleasant emotions and associations.

Tip #4. Avoid dullness.

Beige-brown colour scheme is a traditional favorite with many people. It has many benefits: creates a welcoming atmosphere, lightens dark corners, softens sharp angles. However, using beige hues, for example, both for walls and furniture in all rooms will make the interior boring.

If you are still determined to go for a neutral colour palette, it is important to pay attention to picking interesting hues, textures, patterns and shapes. For instance, light beige and cashmere textures are strongly associated with expensive, soft, warm and cozy materials.

Tip #5. Mind the lighting.

Lighting plays the key role in perception of colour, the two main issues being the temperature of lighting and its intensiveness. Artificial lighting helps to support the colour temperature of the chosen palette.

Incandescent bulbs provide the warmest light. Halogen bulbs provide light that is closest to daylight, also rather warm. Fluorescent lamps usually give cold light. LEDs may have various colour temperatures, so keep an eye on the label.

When you are choosing the colours for finishes, fabrics, etc. in a shop you are actually seeing them not the way they will look in you home, as the lighting is different. To avoid the worst mistakes, take the following steps:

- Take a look at the samples in daylight or under good halogen lighting.

- All colours reveal their nature in comparison with others. So to identify a nuance in a complex colour, put it next to a similar colour of the same degree of lightness.

- Have a look at the sample against a gray background. Gray is a neutral colour which does not affect perception of other colours and emphasizes their nuances.

- Knowing that the room will have warm artificial lighting, choose finishes and furniture in warm hues. Similarly, if you have cold lighting in mind, it is safer to choose finishes and furniture in cold colour shades.

- Orientation of the windows also matters. For east and north facing rooms warm yellowish colours are a spot on choice. In north facing rooms it is better to avoid greenish colours, as they would create a sad mood. If the room is facing west, warm reddish colours are a good match. And for south facing rooms you would not make a mistake to choose any palette.

- Some colors are chameleons. These are mainly complex cold colours (gray-blue, pink-lilac, lavender, gray-green, ginger-brown, gray-brown, aquamarine). Such colours change depending on the light. It would be wise to avoid them in north facing rooms, since they might change unexpectedly due to lack of proper daylight. In case of north facing rooms it is especially difficult to predict how the chameleon colour would look in reality.

- The intensity of light also affects the way a colour works. In bright light all colours look bleached, and in low light they become darkened and unclear. If the texture of a surface is to be emphasized, the light should not be too strong or too weak. If you are aiming to create a festive mood, bright artificial light is essential to show the beauty of deep intense colours and expensive textures.

Tip #6. Plan the impression.

Colour of clothes may emphasize the silhouette or dissolve it, if the shape needs visual correction. The same goes for interiors: the colour of the floor, walls, ceiling affects the perception of the space as a whole. A colour may emphasize the shape or blur it, or even extend the borders of a room.

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