The art of colour

Image courtesy of Farrow and Ball

Last week was an exciting one, I went to a Farrow and Ball colour event hosted by Brewers Decorator Centre at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland. It’s not often the likes of Patrick O’Donnell, expert colour consultant for the renowned F&B brand comes to the North East, so it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.

The colour talk was fascinating. As an interiors enthusiast, wait, let me correct that… obsessor! being in a room full of creativity surrounded by likeminded women (I think there were three men out of a total 60 or 70 attendees) was inspiring. Patrick claimed to be nervous, but this didn’t come across. What did come across was his natural flair for interior design, focussing predominantly on colour tricks to make the most of any space. Some of the topics covered were pretty basic, such as explaining various colour palettes. However, all with the luxurious Farrow and Ball spin you would expect.

So, here are the top tips from the session..


“Colours, like features, follow the changes of the emotions ,” Pablo Picasso

This wasn’t actually a topic covered at the event, but as it’s a fundamental theory within interior design it only seems right to start with the psychology of colour.

We all know colour plays a vital role in creating a harmonious home. It’s a widely known fact colour can influence mood, create atmosphere, welcome or deter us from a space. We all have that friend or family member with a red boudoir (ooo-er) or blue coastal bathroom, both typical colour options to evoke a sense of passion and relaxation respectively.

Whilst a lot of colour psychology is subjective and deeply personal to each individual, there are some colour effects that have universal meaning. Colours in the red spectrum are known as warm colours and include red, orange and yellow. These colours are synonymous with feelings of warmth and comfort, but also anger. Colours on the blue side of the spectrum are often described as calm, but can also evoke feelings of sadness and coldness.

The power of colour is in fact threaded throughout history, ‘many ancient cultures practiced Chromotherapy – believing strongly in the healing effects of certain colours. For example, yellow was thought to stimulate the nerves and purify the body. Whilst indigo shades were thought to alleviate skin problems.’

‘However, recent research has demonstrated in many cases that the mood-altering effects of colour may only be temporary. A blue room may initially cause feelings of calm, but the effect dissipates after a short period of time.’ (verywellmind, 2019).

If you ask me, this is good news for interior design. I’ve never been a fan of the stereotypical pastel blue bathroom or sunny yellow kitchen. When we take away the rules of colours the world is your rainbow coloured oyster. Show me a blush kitchen or an olive bedroom, both of which can work beautifully by the way, especially when following a few golden tips and tricks.

colour weighting

Colour weighting refers to the depth of a colour. All colours, whether light or dark have a depth. Colour weighting is all about ensuring the colours in your chosen palette are of equal depth. For example, when painting walls a dark, feature colour rather than opting for a contrasting bright white for woodwork, consider neutrals with more depth such as a soft cream or taupe with a warm undertone.

Patrick explained, although it can be tempting to go for a contrasting bright white, investing in a more complementary and less stark neutral will pay off. By creating a subtle line between colours, the illusion of a more streamlined and flowing space can trick the eye into seeing a larger room.

As all colours have a certain depth, colour weighting can be applied to any colour palette – even neutrals have varying depths.

Ceilings as the 5th wall

Most of us are guilty of giving the ceilings in our home little to zero thought when it comes to decorating. A lick of white paint et voila – a ceiling to be proud of. Right? Wrong!

By considering ceilings as the fifth wall, a whole new world of design opportunities awaits. Patrick showed us some statement ceilings which are best reserved for the bravest amongst us – think tented striped wallpaper to create a circus effect for a child’s bedroom.

There are more subtle ways of incorporating the ceiling into an overall aesthetic, and it has real illusionary benefits. Using one colour on all walls plus the ceiling creates a cohesive effect, making a small room look more unified and indeed a larger room look more encapsulated.

Image courtesy of Farrow and Ball

light walls and dark woodwork

“At Farrow and Ball we’re seeing a real shift towards lighter walls, and painted, dark woodwork,” comments Patrick. It’s a fresh way of keeping a room light and airy whilst adding colour in the form of painted skirting boards, cornicing and cupboards etc. This tip is pretty self-explanatory, here are some of my favourite examples..

Image courtesy of Farrow and Ball
Image courtesy of Emily Billings
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