Thursday 22 February 2018

In living colour - expert advice on colours for your home

From the 'now' shades to how they affect our moods, meadhbh Mcgrath gets expert advice on using colour in the home

Farrow & Ball Salon Drab
Farrow & Ball Salon Drab
Photo by Ikea

Choosing a new colour palette for your home can be a daunting task and now there are more options available than ever before. We're traditionally very conservative about colour, as the palest shades of grey and brown have dominated Irish homes in recent years. However, getting colour confident can have a real impact on our mood as well as our decor. We spoke to colour psychologist Adele Roche of Colortrend, interior designer Arlene McIntyre of Ventura Designs, and Charlotte Crosby, Head of Creative at Farrow & Ball, who shared their top tips on how to revive your home for spring.

Goodbye to grey

This season, we are set to call time on our love affair with grey. "Fifty shades of grey are finally being warmed up with pops of fresh colours to bring rooms to life," says colour psychologist Arlene Roche. She tips lilac-greys, chartreuse, fresh garden greens and shades of blush as the top colour trends for spring.

Rich yet refreshing hues are big for 2016, and there are plenty of ways to incorporate a statement shade, whether splashed on a wall or using accessories to add a chic pop of colour to a more neutral space.

Farrow & Ball paint expert Charlotte Crosby recommends introducing some strength of colour to the home with bold earth tones, whether an organic green like Yeabridge Green or a rich chocolate brown like Salon Drab, both by Farrow & Ball (€75 for 2.5 litres, for stockists see

Of course, relaxed neutrals and pastels will remain popular as people continue to look for spaces that feel soft and familiar. "The colours we will want to use in our homes this spring represent different aspects of our lives and the way we choose to live them," Charlotte explains. "Delicate neutrals will continue to grow in popularity as we look to our homes as places of sanctuary from the stresses of modern-day living."

However, don't be tempted to cover every room in the same shade. "I've seen countless people paint their entire house in a colour they like - then end up hating it," says Arlene. "I've always advised clients to layer in their favourite colour rather than overloading it. Less is more!"

Where to use them

In rooms with lots of natural light, colours can fade, so interior designer Arlene McIntyre suggests using softer-toned paints, fabrics, rugs and flooring. Although some may hesitate to choose blush pink because of its association with femininity, Adele says the shade works well in many areas around the home, on walls and soft furnishings. Create a serene yet sophisticated look by pairing with dramatic greys and mixed metals. "It's about getting the right balance of light and dark," she says.

Open-plan living, kitchen and dining areas can prove tricky, but Adele tackles these spaces by dividing them into zones and using varying shades from the same colour family. Feature walls can be very useful here, and allow you to experiment with more striking colours."Over the past few years we've seen a real trend emerging as people become more confident with using darker colours in everyday rooms such as bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens," says Charlotte.

Deep, indulgent hues of cobalt blue and chocolate brown work best in rooms that don't receive a lot of natural light, as the high saturation of colour suggests exuberance and luxury. Charlotte urges people to embrace the darkness of a small room by choosing a strong colour to add drama and create an intimate feel.

Downstairs bathrooms, cloakrooms or hallways offer the perfect opportunity to be brave and opt for more daring colour without committing to it for larger spaces. "Small spaces can really be brought to life with the use of a statement colour; a cheery colour in a small bathroom or cloakroom is a great way to add surprise and make an otherwise forgotten room more memorable," says Charlotte.

"A dramatic dark shade such as Inchyra Blue in a hallway can instantly make the adjoining rooms seem brighter and bigger, as well as adding real glamour and creating a presence."

Try out the colour in the room before committing. Paint a large poster board or a piece of lining paper and live with it for several days - position it around the room at different times of the day to see how both natural and artificial light affects it. Make sure to look at your options vertically, rather than laying them flat on a table.

How they make you feel

Before making a change, consider the utility of the room. When making colour choices, Adele advises: "Think of what you're doing in that room: are you lying on a couch watching television or are you jumping around the kitchen making dinner for six people in a family? Keep in mind that bright warm colours (reds, oranges, yellows) will stimulate while cool colours (blues, lilacs, greens) will soothe."

Those warm, high-energy colours will keep you motivated, so Adele recommends using them in areas where you need to focus, whether you're working with numbers, reading a book, or preparing a meal. Because of their calming influence, she suggests using shades of blue and green - from delicate pastels to deep teal and cobalt - in areas where you like to relax, such as bedrooms, bathrooms or living areas.

* Colortrend and Ventura Designs are among the exhibitors at House 2016 at the RDS from May 20-22. Visit

The new hues

Pure neutrals: Pair uncomplicated neutrals such as Farrow & Ball's Drop Cloth with natural elements such as raw edged wood, cotton and bamboo, while light distressed wood, silk and marble complement the brand's romantic Peignoir.

Fresh greens: Boost an organic green like Farrow & Ball's Yeabridge Green with earthy fabrics like linen, suede and aged leather, and bring the outside in with terracotta pots filled with big leafy plants. When choosing accessories, this powerful hue works well with delicate shades of white, or go for rich yellows to make a statement.

Bold dark tones: Mixed metals can really make a moody blue like Farrow & Ball's Inchyra Blue or a dark chocolate brown such as the brand's Salon Drab pop. For added luxury, introduce tactile fabrics such as cashmere and velvet.

Blushing pink: Copper was one of the biggest trends of 2015, and Arlene predicts metallics will be increasingly popular this year. The metal tone looks beautiful with blush pink, and the simplest way to introduce it is with home accessories such as lamp bases, handles and knobs, or vases and bowls.

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