Choosing Colour

Example of how different colour's create the mood. Picture from Pinterest
Example of how different colour’s create the mood. Picture from Pinterest

The first hopeful signs of Spring are appearing, daffodils, lambs and occasionally a brief glimpse of sunshine. After spending winter hibernating the first flourish of spring heralds a new sign of life in us too. Spring is a popular time of the year to start decorating. Homeware shops and companies launch their new ranges, inspiring and enticing us to improve our homes.Where do we start? Invariably we start with choosing colour’s. Pouring over paint charts with numerous choices,this is the most difficult decorating decision, if not opting for pure white or magnolia.

Kitchens – We tend to spend more time in the kitchen than other rooms in the house. The kitchen has become the ‘hub’ of most homes where we prepare food, eat, entertain and sometimes work. Colours need to reflect and inspire these activities. A way to create a sense of calm is to use neutrals from the same group of colour’s, greys, blues, and off whites.For example off white cabinets, walls in warm grey and tiles or work top in a deep slate grey or blue grey. By painting the central island or table legs a bold colour it will create the effect of everything around it being larger and lighter. Paint the chairs an accent colour, or in a toning colour.

Colour has been used to define areas, and add depth to the scheme.
Colour has been used to define areas, and add depth to the scheme.

Living Rooms – This must be a comfortable and welcoming space throughout the seasons. Mostly used in the evenings, so check out how your paint colour is effected by both natural and artificial light. Classic colour’s for living rooms are warm stone, as it works well with most other colour’s. It is easy to live with and doesn’t overpower the room. Putty is subtly warming. Off white is versatile and more interesting than pure white.To add interest and a  focal wall, paint one wall a darker shade of the main colour. Or paint a darker colour in an alcove behind shelves. This provides a strong back drop for displays. Or paint the chimney breast, including the sides a different colour, as this adds depth to a room. Don’t forget the colour’s of the adjacent rooms. If a dark colour appears next to a light one it creates a fragmented feel. This can be softened however, by painting the woodwork in a shade of white.

One wall has been painted a darker shade which acts as a contrast.
One wall has been painted a darker shade which acts as a contrast.

Bedrooms – Whether you are going for Romantic, Pretty, Stylish or Simple, this is an intimate space to escape to at the end of a busy day. The colour palette can be light and uplifting to create a fresh morning feel, or warm and snug for the evening. To create a focal point behind the bed, either paint the wall an accent colour or hang wallpaper, which also anchors the scheme. For a peaceful ambiance choose gentle colour’s of nature, soft blues, greens, earthy greys and heather. Painting fitted wardrobes the same colour as the walls creates an illusion of being less intrusive in the room.

Calming, restful colour's in a bedroom.
Calming, restful colour’s in a bedroom.

Bathrooms – Bathrooms are often small and lacking in natural light. The simplest way is to paint the woodwork in a stronger tone of colour to the lighter coloured walls. Try painting the ceiling in a brighter shade of colour. If a darker colour is used on the ceiling it will appear to be lower. Likewise if a lighter colour from the walls is used the ceiling recedes. If you have a small dark bathroom embrace it’s short comings and paint it a strong colour to create a sense of drama. Painting it all in a pure white can look dull, unless bright coloured accessories are introduce,  such as towels. Add texture too with a bath mat and salvaged mirror. Paint the bath panel in a darker tone creates a focal point. Classic colour’s for bathrooms are blues, greens, greys and putty.

Paint the bath sides to create a focal point.
Paint the bath sides to create a focal point. Picture from Pinterest.

Still not sure which shade or tone of your chosen colour? Buy sample pots and paint A4 paper with your chosen colour’s. Stick it to the walls and notice how the light changes the colour during the day and evening, and how it reflects the room size. By painting paper rather than the wall avoids the possibility of the colour’s ‘bleeding’ through your final paint. remember it is much easier to match your paint to the fabric than the other way round. So if changing any soft furnishings choose these first.

Hall, Stairs and Landings

Hall, stairs and landings are often overlooked and viewed as busy thoroughfares, as a means to get from one room to another or out of the house. These areas are often small, cramped or resemble little more than corridors. The hall is the first impression visitors receive when entering the home and an organized, welcoming space sets the tone for the rest of the home.

Storage – before you even consider wall colour, remember the hall needs to provide instant, accessible organized storage for the items you discard as soon as you walk in through the front door, coats, shoes, keys and umbrellas. The space available will obviously dictate your options of course. If there is room, a built in cloaks cupboard is ideal with a shoe rack. This will hide all the clobber. Failing that, a simple coat hook for everyday wear and visitors coats will suffice. Do not overload the rack as this looks untidy and obstructs the thoroughfare. A shoe rack can be placed below the coat rack, which  will contain shoes which have been kicked off and abandoned in the middle of the hall. A bench with storage  will also provide somewhere to sit down to pull on boots and provide much needed storage for hats and gloves etc. An umbrella stand is useful, and there are some lovely tall pots available which will do the job. A table for keys and mail, however small is useful, or perhaps a slimline shelf if space is at a premium. You may have room for a chest of drawers or armoire providing extra storage for over spill from bedrooms or linen storage. Built in slim line shelves for books or baskets filled with items needed from time to time.

Flooring – Hall floors need to be robust to cope with outdoor footwear. Whatever you choose make sure you have a good foot mat to take off the worst of dirt and grime. Hardwearing floor tiles are easy to clean in a pale neutral colour help the space feel bigger and if laying new, ask your tiler to drop the door mat into the tiles. This prevents the foot mat sliding around the hall. Carpet on stairs and landings is still a popular choice, avoiding the excess noise of feet clumping up and down the stairs. Choose a very hardwearing woven carpet preferably with a high wool content to cope with the heavy traffic, and in a colour to blend with the hall flooring. This gives an illusion of space and merges the spaces together for a cohesive look.

Lighting – This needs to be welcoming and not over powering. The lighting needs to be bright on the stairs for safety reasons, but not so bright it flattens any interesting shadows. Create atmosphere with table lamps, wall lights and add a large decorative pendant light.

Mirrors and lighting have been used to light and add interest to the stair well.
Mirrors and lighting have been used to light and add interest to the stair well.

Fabrics and Colour’s – Hall, stairs and landings need to link with other rooms harmoniously, so colour’s and patterns shouldn’t  be too bold. To disguise the ‘corridor’ effect try painting the doors the same colour as the walls. Use a good quality, spongeable, durable paint which will withstand the wear and tear. Add colour and interest with a runner or rug and a blind or curtains.

Accessories – Well chosen accessories make the functional space feel lived in. Pictures or a framed photograph gallery displayed together, or a clock. Use mirrors to reflect the light and create a feeling of space. Mirrors are also good for the last minute face and hair check before going out of the front door. A vase of flowers or a plant too add finishing touches.

One Man’s Rubbish is Another Man’s Treasure

Restoring re-using recycling of interior items and glossary of terminology explained
The importance of re-using, restoring and recycling of interior items and a glossary of terminology explained.


During the last few years there has been a growing popularity in old furniture, some of which used to be classed as old junk, suddenly became trendy to purchase one persons cast offs and either renovate or make something else from it. It is now socially acceptable without the fear of being branded an eco warrior, hard-up (you can’t afford new) or a bo-ho hippy. Thank goodness for that.

Since the 1970’s I have enjoyed delving into people’s skips, visiting junk shops and auctions to acquire pieces of furniture. I have been grateful too, for other peoples cast offs, although I think they were glad to be rid of it, most of which I still own and enjoy. The hours spent repairing, stripping, waxing  or painting, transforming a tired and neglected item into something wonderful has been rewarding, and my home is an eclectic mix of antique, vintage, retro, salvage and a little ‘shabby chic’ thrown in too. I don’t think I have any ‘utility’ pieces at the moment!

However, when items of furniture are restored, up-cycled, re-cycled, re-purposed, per-loved of whatever terminology you use, how are the categories defined?


Antique – Furniture which is 100 years old and older.

Vintage – Apparently,  this is anything older than 20 years old. Or maybe classed as ‘Vintage 1920 or 30’s’ stating the decade in which it was produced.

Utility – Furniture produced in the U.K. during and just after World War Two, which was made to cope with shortages of raw materials.

Salvage – Saved goods from damage or destruction, often restored or made into other useful items (re-purposed).

Shabby Chic–  Items often heavily painted through the years, with many layers showing through time worn areas. Items of furniture are painted and distressed to achieve this appearance.

Retro – Of a certain style in the recent past. This term of classification is somewhat blurred with the vintage classification. Retro to me is 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, or  80’s, a certain style of furniture of that particular decade.  But if ‘vintage’ is classed as anything over 20 years old, then I’m at a loss.

I have recently read scathing remarks from pretentious ( and very successful) people who have slated ‘those who purchase wormy junk finds and just slap paint on them and call the ‘shabby chic’ has no place in our home.’ Items which are repaired, restored, re-used and re-loved is a good thing. It takes a lot of time, skill and work to breathe new life from a once discarded item into something you love. Each piece of furniture is different, and whether  painted, distressed, hand embellished, or used decoupage to decorate it, the item will be unique, a bespoke one off. Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell were two of the first people I know of, who not only painted their furniture, but also the doors and walls of their home ‘Charleston’. There are also local small businesses who will restore furniture on your behalf, tailored to your individual preference.

Vintage oak dressing table with carved detailing limed finish
A solid oak dressing table with carved detailing. Vintage 1930′ or 40’s

What Colour’s Will Your Home Be In 2014? – Trends

Some years ago my sister was looking for Coral coloured cushions. She searched high and low without success. “Coral must be out of fashion”. she complained. The only cushions available were in  the colour’s of that particular year, and Coral wasn’t one of them. The same problem can arise with clothing fashion, as these colour’s too are mirrored with interior colour’s. “Who the hell decides and dictates what colour’s we should be buying anyway?” My sister continued to complain returning home minus the Coral cushions.

There are a few bodies of people who generally decide. Pantone Colour Institute in America, the Colour Futures Team who make paint for Dulux and Global Colour Reseach who produce Mix Magazine.  These companies carry out research around the globe on popular holiday or travel destinations, , artists and entertainment, maybe future sports events, views on world issues. They capture the mood of the world in colours which they believe reflects this. ( In a previous blog   What Colour Are You Today? I discussed this subject.)

Pantone’s chosen colour for 2014 is ‘Wild Orchid’ as a colour with confidence and warmth and encourages creativity and imagination. Some say it reminds them of cheap bubble bath and nail varnish, far too ‘in your face’. It maybe overwhelming to paint all your walls with ‘Wild Orchid’ for your taste and mood of the moment, but it could be added as an accent colour with soft furnishings and accessories teamed with Grey’s (a perennial favourite at the moment) or a splash of green (think of an Orchid plant).  ‘Sea Urchin’ is the chesen colour of Dulux which is harmonious and natural, a softer shade of Teal. This is a far easier colour to live with and has a calming, restful effect. If painting all your walls this one colour is still too much for you, just paint one wall, and paint the corresponding walls in one of Farrow and Balls colour’s of the year Purbeck Stone or Moles Breath. Shades of yellow, whether a bright acid or  ochre hue are also included in the trends and lifts blue and grey colour schemes. These could be introduced with bedding, rugs and wall art.

Remember that light in a room effects the colour, be it natural or artificial. Which direction the room faces – North, South, East or West. What times of the day will the room be used, mostly during the day or evening or both?  What is rooms intended purpose? These factors should all be considered when pouring over paint colour charts. Still not sure, then purchase sample pots of paint and paint onto A4 copier paper and stick them to the walls. Doing this avoids any colour’s bleeding through your final chosen wall colour. Live with these, and notice how the colour changes during the day and night. Does the colour make you feel good or ill?

Experiment with the ‘trend’ colour’s of the year and have some fun with them, including Coral which is now ‘on trend’ too!


Beat the January Blues

Being the twelfth day of Christmas, like most people, I took down my Christmas decorations and packed them away in boxes to be stored in the loft until December.  Surfaces were dusted, the pine needles and debris from the ivy and greenery I had trailed by way of decoration, now dried to a crisp were vacuumed up. The furniture was put back to it’s original position, which had been moved to accommodate the tree. The rain began to fall yet again and everything looked, well gloomy and bare. No fairy lights to brighten the rooms, no majestic tree, no cards from family and friends with warm greetings, only the lone Poinsettia sitting on a table (which amazingly was still going strong)  left to brighten the home. The Christmas cheer had gone.

A friend called round, who had been doing the same job as me, told me that she had popped into a supermarket and bought herself a bouquet of flowers to cheer both herself and her sitting room up. She also admitted that she had left her fairy lights strung around her dresser to switch on when she felt in need of cheer during the year. Well some people like to have fairy lights hung permanently in their bedroom as decoration. My friend also vowed to burn scented candles around the house all year, and not just at Christmas. Sometimes, all it takes is the small things.

Now devoid all the Christmas trimmings, one occasionally realizes how shabby (in an un-chic sort of way) and dull their home looks and embark on painting and decorating projects. If your financial hangover from Christmas is prohibitive to start any major home improvements, just try re-arranging your furniture layout. I recommend that you measure both your room and furniture dimensions and draw a floor plan prior to trying to lift that heavy sofa into a space where it will not fit, however hard you try. Other ways to cheer you and your room is to hang new artwork or paintings, or replace cushion covers. New duvet covers and towels are quick ways too to add  ‘punch’ into your home. The sales are on and there are great bargains and discounts to be bagged. If an item of furniture you are hankering after is not the bargain you had hoped for, think about learning a new skill of re-covering that old chair yourself, or paint an out dated piece of furniture in an accent colour. (An accent colour is a colour which contrasts and lift a rooms colour scheme, i.e. red, pink, blue, green, yellow in a mainly taupe coloured room). Some people decide that it is time to move home instead.

Spare a thought for all those unfortunate people whose homes were flooded and without power during Christmas and the New Year, due to the storms that thrashed the U.K. Now, they have major home improvements to embark upon, once that is, the insurance companies have completed all the ‘red tape.’

The Trouble With Paint……

The trouble with paint is that it doesn’t always do what it says on the tin!

I’m currently working on a kitchen makeover project. My client’s kitchen is basically sound, a good layout for working in, with plenty of storage, which my client uses to full capacity!  The kitchen was originally installed about twenty years ago and consisted of solid oak fronted cupboards and drawer fronts (now fairly dis-coloured), beige/cream wall tiles punctuated randomly with with tiles with pictures on them of onions and saucepans and the like. The worktop was a marbled effect Formica, which had seen much service. The walls were covered with a thick heavy duty anaglypta paper. The flooring is newly laid vinyl in a beige cream tiled pattern. Once the floor had been laid, my client had decided that the rest of the kitchen needed doing.

My brief was to update the kitchen on a very tight budget, with minimum disruption.

The most cost effective and least disruptive solution agreed upon was to paint all the cupboard door and drawers  with an off white specialist cupboard paint, strip the walls of anaglypta paper and painted Farrow and Ball ‘Archive’  to avoid the kitchen looking too cold (the room faces North) and clinical. The tiled splash backs to be replaced with an off white brick style tile and replace the worktop.

The men arrived on site and work commenced. The oak cupboard doors, plinths, kick-boards and shelves were washed down with sugar soap to remove any grease and oil, sanded down thoroughly and the dust removed. The first coat of the specialist ‘one coat cupboard paint’ was applied to the front of one door as a tester. One could clearly see that one coat would certainly not be enough to achieve the desired finish, and a second coat would be required. As this first coat of paint dried, it began to ripple, resembling a distressed paint effect; great if this is what you wanted, but not in this case.

Two solutions were discussed to rectify the problem. Firstly as the cupboards are solid oak they could be given a ‘limed oak’ paint finish using an eggshell paint. This is achieved by painting the surface and then whilst the paint is still wet, wiping off the excess paint with a cloth, whist leaving some of the paint in the wood grain.

The second solution was to apply an oil based undercoat to all the cupboards and then paint a top coat using the ‘one coat’ paint. The undercoat acting as a seal to prevent further chemical reactions and ‘interesting paint effects’.

The latter solution was agreed upon by the client and the crinkled paint scrapped and sanded flat before re-applying the paint. This solution has worked.

TIP: It is probably a good idea to paint the inside of a cupboard door or in a discreet area first rather than somewhere more visible, just in case the paint doesn’t do what it says on the tin!

Unintentional 'Paint Effect'.
Unintentional ‘Paint Effect’.

What Colour Are You Today?

First thing this morning I was feeling a little Grey/Blue, for no apparent reason, (late night perhaps?).  During my morning walk with our family Labrador across the fields, stopping occasionally to gaze at the countryside (and to get my breath back), I noticed the changes in the colours of the landscape. In the warm Autumn sunshine the Golds, Yellows, Burgundy and Reds glowed warmly which gladdened my heart and lifted my spirit to match.

We often describe ourselves or others as colours; being in a ‘Black mood’ or ‘Green with envy’. Personalities as ‘very Beige’ or ‘Red Hot’. Some people even have names as colours. No, I don’t mean as in Brown and White etc. I mean first names – Magenta, Ruby (as in red) Emerald (as in Green). Will their personalities reflect their names I wonder?

Colours and the affect on how we feel subconsciously is quite amazing. That is why in Autumn and Winter we tend to introduce warmer colours to our homes to lift our spirits, add warmth and cosy things up a bit. The comfort factor, especially if it is dull and grey outside for weeks on end and the days are so much shorter Ugh!

Choosing colours for our home will have the same affect on the way we feel, and consideration of light, which direction your room faces whether North, South, East or West, colours can appear to be quite different and produce different results.

South facing rooms are the easiest as they have the most natural day light and most all colours work well in this aspect.

North facing rooms are the hardest, as they have the least amount of natural daylight.  Depending on your desired use and what you are trying to achieve, you can choose to go with the darker shades to create an intimate space which comes to life in the evenings, with mood lighting to add a sense of drama. If a lighter space is required then use lighter coloured paints and colours with warmer tones in them such as creams and yellow based colours.

East – Rooms facing East enjoy the morning sunshine and light. Enhance this light with blue and green based colours and tones. To avoid the room looking cold as the light moves away from the room during the day add a darker tone of the same colour into the room with either paint or furnishings.

West facing rooms receives the afternoon and early evening light, so lighter colours work well. To avoid the room appearing ‘cool’ earlier in the day use warmer tones of colours which includes tones of reds. As the light changes throughout the day the room will have a soft warm glow, making it a lovely space to sit and relax in with a cup of tea or glass of something at the end of a busy day.

So what colour are you today?