A pop of colour makes a big difference

A wall of built-in storage in this children’s room has been painted a rich teal blue, while the...
A wall of built-in storage in this children’s room has been painted a rich teal blue, while the mustard velvet chair pops against it and the bold rug pulls everything together. Photos: Supplied
Anyone can bring colour into their homes with paint, wallpaper, flowers, plants, pillows or throws, writes Geraldine James in this edited extract from A Pop of Colour.

The book - A Pop of Colour, by Geraldine James, published by Ryland Peters & Small, RRP $49.99
The book - A Pop of Colour, by Geraldine James, published by Ryland Peters & Small, RRP $49.99
Over the past decade, colour trends have been based around a grey palette. This has grown steadily darker, from dark grey to charcoal to almost black, and then expanded to include other dark colours, such as navy and forest green. But colour choice is intensely personal, and if a light, sunny, airy interior raises your mood, don’t slavishly follow fashion and go for a dark grey bedroom with pops of neon. It won’t make you happy.

Bold pops

Pops of contrasting colour are easy to add and make a bold statement in any home.

The good news is that this doesn’t require a big investment in terms of time or money. A single item is all it takes to get the ball rolling — a poster, a lampshade, a cushion/throw pillow or even the cord on a lamp base.

Contrasting pops have perhaps most impact when they are used against a clean white or off-white backdrop, which acts as a cool, calm foil for a blast of bold colour. And once you get bored of your fire engine red cushion/throw pillow or retro orange lampshade, you can swap it for something new and exciting in turquoise or pink or lime green. Of course, colour pops work equally well against a darker or more muted background. Neon leaps out against dark grey or navy walls, as does bright yellow.

A zesty orange covers the walls and trim in this hallway while the retro chair strikes a fun note...
A zesty orange covers the walls and trim in this hallway while the retro chair strikes a fun note, upholstered in a shaggy faux fur in a matching hue. The plant stand is bubblegum pink, which sits next to orange on the colour wheel and harmonises perfectly.
Rich pops

Rich colours do make a bold statement, but use them in small doses and they will bring a sense of glamour and luxury to your home.

Red delivers a punchy, dynamic pop in both light or dark spaces and is also a great mix with other strong colours. Dynamic, extroverted orange is another warm colour and makes an excellent bedfellow with yellow and red, particularly when used as accents. And there are many glorious, regal blues, from cobalt to peacock to teal.

Pastel pops

Pastel colours are very easy to live with and shades of powder blue, shell pink, celadon green, Tiffany blue or primrose yellow are fresh, pretty and extremely restful, especially when teamed with white floorboards and muted walls.

Pastels aren’t just pretty either. A couple of sugared almond shades — dirty pink or duck egg blue — will look sophisticated teamed with pale grey walls or set against a dark backdrop.

A spectrum of greys has been used in this modern monochrome look, but despite the cool shades, a...
A spectrum of greys has been used in this modern monochrome look, but despite the cool shades, a cosy vibe is the end result thanks to the textures of wood, sheepskin and linen.
A pop of tonal colour

Simply put, a tonal, or tone-on-tone, colour scheme means you pick one main colour, then layer in as many different tints and tones of that colour as you desire.

So, for example, if you already have an old blue sofa, you might think about painting the wall behind a darker shade of blue, adding a throw or a couple of cushions/throw pillows that are slightly paler and arranging a couple of similar-coloured vases or books or any other objects on a shelf nearby.

Another way of selecting a slightly wider yet nevertheless harmonious palette is to choose colours that sit near each other on the colour wheel — pale green, blue and grey, for example, or warm pink, red and orange. You’ll still achieve a tonal effect, but it will have slightly more vibrancy.

A pop of wall colour

Feature walls are ideal if you want to make a decorative statement without committing to painting the whole room a punchy shade, which might be overpowering.

First of all, make sure you choose the right wall — the idea is to highlight attractive features such as a period fireplace or an upholstered headboard in the bedroom. If you live in an open-plan space or studio, painting one wall can help define a particular zone.

What colour are the other items in the room — furniture, curtains or blinds, upholstery and so on? You may want to opt for a wall in a darker shade of the same colour family for a sophisticated effect. If your space is already pretty neutral, you can introduce a strong or unexpected shade for an injection of drama.

If you’re considering painting a wall that divides a space, ask yourself whether the colour you like will work well with both rooms.

Sample pots are a must. Buy a roll of wallpaper lining, cut large lengths, give them a couple of coats of paint, then fix to the wall with masking tape or adhesive putty. Live with a colour for a couple of days before making your choice. Finally, I would always suggest you paint the whole wall including the woodwork/trim — doors, window frames, skirting/baseboards and the mantelpiece, if it’s plain wood.

One wall in this room has been painted a soft aquamarine that would be perfect for a coastal home...
One wall in this room has been painted a soft aquamarine that would be perfect for a coastal home. The romantic mood is enhanced by very simple accessories – a bunch of flowers and some pretty vintage dresses.
Colour-blocking pops

Colour-blocking is painting certain areas of a wall or interior, or even putting together two or more different colours in one space.

It may be that you already have architectural features such as skirting boards/baseboards, cornices/crown moulding, picture or dado/chair rails that provide you with natural guidelines. Otherwise, I suggest using masking tape to mark out the areas to be painted (use a spirit level if you do it yourself, as wonky lines will spoil the effect). Don’t forget the ceiling — often described as the fifth wall. If you have a very tall room, painting the ceiling a colour will make the space cozier and more cocooning.

Or you could paint a broad stripe up one wall and extend it on to the ceiling to frame a large bed or a beautiful fireplace.

A pop of multicolour

If you’re a maximalist, go ahead and create a bold interior with multiple pops of colour.

One option is wallpaper or wall art such as stencils or decals. Very large pieces of art in bright and unusual colour combinations or an abstract painting encompassing all the colours of the rainbow can also do the job in one go.

If you’re going your own way and add multiple different pops of colour to one space, bear in mind that you will need some areas of white or another subdued tone to calm down the effect and prevent it from becoming too hectic or unsettling. This is especially true if you’re using mostly primary colours.

Furniture, artwork and cushions can all add pops of bold colour to your room.
Furniture, artwork and cushions can all add pops of bold colour to your room.
ADDING COLOUR

Ten fail-safe ways to bring exuberant, joy-inspiring colour into your home.

Add art. The bigger the better — bold, colourful and life-enhancing.

Update cushions/throw pillows or throws to ring the colour changes.

Introduce lots of living colour. Flowers and plants are nature’s way of seasonally enriching your home.

Redecorate with a rug. Buy the biggest one you can fit into your space in a bold, punchy colour.

Paint a wall. To try out a colour, paint it on to a length of wallpaper lining, stick it to the wall with masking tape, then live with it for a week or so.

Can’t choose one colour? Look for multicoloured wallpaper, cushions/throw pillows, bed covers and throws.

 

Paint a chair or stool. You can find inexpensive pieces at charity shops/thrift
stores, online auctions and flea markets. Give them a facelift using leftover
sample pots or spray paint.

 

Don’t forget lampshades or lamps. They add not only another layer of light
but a pop of colour too.

 

Collect coloured glass or ceramics. For maximum impact, decide on one
colour and stick to it.

 

Use a mirror — again, as big as possible — to bounce all that lovely colour
and light around your interior.

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