Let emerald and purple reign
Eleanor Flegg with the best in design and decoration for your home
Emerald green walls anyone? Deep jewel tones are trending, and not for the first time. Back in the 18th century, the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele discovered that sodium arsenic combined with copper sulphate to create a brilliant emerald green. He called it Scheele's Green and, for the best part of a century, it was used as wall paint and fabric dye. It was massively popular for children's bedrooms.
Unfortunately, Scheele's Green was incredibly toxic. "Children and invalids died from sleeping in their green rooms; a Persian cat locked in an emerald bedroom was discovered covered in pustules," writes Victoria Finlay, author of Colour: A Natural History of the Palette (2003). In the 1980s, the British chemist David Jones suggested that Napoleon Bonaparte, who died in a green bedroom on St Helena, was poisoned by the arsenic in the paint. It's a much disputed theory though.
Modern paints are safety-tested to within an inch of their life so Zoffany's new paint colour - Poison - isn't going to kill you. But it might give you a bit of a fright. Poison is part of Zoffany's new Alchemy of Colour range, which also includes Muddy Amber, Lazuli, and Tiger's Eye. "These are seriously scary colours," says Hayley Curran of Ebony Rose Interiors, one of Ireland's Zoffany specialists. "What I like about the collection is that it's an unknown palette. There's something really original about it."
It's quality stuff, with a level of pigmentation that can't be achieved cheaply. Zoffany paint costs €98 for a five-litre tin of matt emulsion, which is slightly more expensive than the notoriously pricey Farrow & Ball. The range also includes interiors fabrics (from €85 per metre) and wallpapers (from €85 for a 10-metre roll).
The Alchemy of Colour collection looks so on point that it's surprising to learn that these are heritage colours, re-made with modern pigment. Zoffany's palette draws from the archive of Sanderson, a British company that has been selling wallpaper since 1860. Then, in 1950, Sanderson bought the design archives of the legendary Morris & Co. That's a lot of interiors history under one roof. Now, both Zoffany and Sanderson come under the umbrella company, Style Library.
The upshot of all this is that, because the colours have historical roots, they work well in older houses. Curran suggests that you use deep colours on the walls, using an greyish white like Wimborne White by Farrow & Ball to highlight the architraves, mouldings, and skirting boards. "Keep the neutrals on the grey side of white and never use cream with a bejewelled palette," she warns.
"Jewel tones work best as block colours," she says. Choose your fabric carefully too. Velvets and silks have a natural shine that complements deep colours.
"Matt fabrics like cotton don't work so well." For modern houses, her advice is to use jewel colours as accents. "You don't want to darken a light-filled contemporary space by putting deep colours on the walls, but you can give it a bit of personality with accessories." Voyage Maison velvet cushions from Ebony Rose (€45) come in teal and fuchsia and ocean blue; gold-rimmed lanterns in teal glass cost €65. These work well against a pale backdrop. Not cream though. Never cream.
On the high street, the phrase "jewel tones" is used fairly loosely to describe both the classic precious-stone palette along with colours inspired by other aspects of the natural world: fuchsia pink, peacock blue, or Zoffany's vibrant orange Koi Carp (it sounds so much better than goldfish).
The fashion designer Matthew Williamson is the poster boy of bejewelling and his wallpaper range includes such insanities as Turquoise Blue & Gold Azari Wallpaper. Again, Matthew Williamson's wallpapers and fabrics are luxury items. Irish stockists include Kevin Kelly Interiors, where you'd expect to pay around €100 for a 10-metre roll.
If you're on a budget, try Williamson's Butterfly Home range for Debenhams. The Regal Romance range from Penneys includes patterned duvet covers (€20) in tones of amethyst and lapis lazuli, with complementary cushions (from €8) in a shiny fabric that reflects the light. Velvet cushions cost around €10.
Part of the challenge of using jewel tones is all about putting these natural combatants (pink and red; blue and green) in the room together and letting them fight it out. You'd better get used to it. We're going to be seeing plenty in 2018. Clashing is the new black.
Ebony Rose Interiors is in Navan, Co Meath. You'll find details on Facebook (@ebonyroseinteriors). See also debenhams.ie, kevinkellyinteriors.ie, and arthouse.com.