Colour theory


Colour is a powerful communication tool and can also affect the the mood of a room. Here’s a guide to getting it right.

Colour as part of the interior design lexicon is an important factor of the design, décor and final finish of a room. I believe that most people are scared of colour, mostly they are scared of getting it wrong.

Colour is a powerful communi-cation tool and can also affect the mood of people within a room. If we stop to consider what each colour represents, and the way that colours work together, we can make informed design decisions. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who published his Theory of Colours in 1810, was one of the first pioneers of colour theory; he believed that different colours could communicate different qualities and impact us psychologically, affecting our emotions and thoughts.

There are also many studies which show that different colours have different effects on us when used in interiors. Obviously you don’t have to use deep tones and hues, but can opt for gentle tones of the colours which will give you similar effects. Listed below are some of the emotions and feelings that colours have been shown to elicit:

Yellow: Warm, exciting and happy (increases happiness), optimism.

Blue: Deep, peaceful and supernatural, it has been shown to bring down blood pressure.

Green: Peace, stillness and nature. It creates a calm and relaxing atmosphere in your home.

White: Harmony, silence, cleanliness and freshness.

Black: Grief, dark and unknown, when used in moderation it can create elegant and bold aspects for your home.

Red: Glowing confidence and alive, often said to boost your energy. Resonant and stimulating, often used in dining rooms and kitchens as it is said to increase appetite.

Orange: Radiant, healthy and serious. The warmth of the sun, a cosy and relaxed colour for rooms, especially when used with grey.

Brown: Natural, earth, security and stability, a neutral colour.

Grey: The new beige, a neutral colour which works well with an accent colour.

Pink: Often seen as a feminine colour, but in general has been shown to be soothing and comfortable. It mixes well with grey and has recently been a colour de jour, with Dulux announcing its 2018 colour of the year: ‘Heart Wood’ which is a deep warm pink.

▲ Calm and earthy palette

▲ Little Greene’s Little Book of Colour

▲ Pastel tones create an inviting atmosphere

▲ Warm tones in the master suite

▲ Understated palette from Little Greene

People perceive and respond to colours differently. This is often cultural, for instance white in China denotes death, while red is life and luck. Here in the UK, black is funereal, white is used for nuptials.

Consequently, choosing colour for your home is fraught with complex issues and choices that we often do not know how to deal with. Below is a short list of advice for selecting colour for your home:


1. Light / white ceilings will reflect the light back into a room. Dark ceilings will bring the ceiling down and make a room cosy.

2. Look at the tones and hues that you select. Woodwork can be a tone of the wall either lighter or darker, or the same colour.

3. White is a colour, but don’t just use it because you are scared to make a bolder, perhaps more suitable decision.

4. You don’t have to decorate the whole room in one colour. Consider painting alcoves in a deeper colour than the rest of the room, or having an accent colour on one wall. Accent walls haven’t gone away – yet!

5. Look at the colours in the rest of house and try to keep a flow between each room, rather than a sudden jump from shocking colour to shocking colour.

6. You can add colour to a room with curated art, cushions, throws, rugs, plants, china and upholstered items of furniture.

7. Don’t be scared to use colour!

8. When in doubt, seek advice from an Interior Decorator.

▲ La Foret wallpaper by Christopher Farr

▲ Peonies wallpaper by Christopher Farr

▲ Energetic orange accents in the kitchen