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How to Choose Paint Colours for Your Home

The decorative paints industry is booming and there has never been more choice when it comes to colours. For the DIY designer, settling on the right colour for a room can be a daunting task.

In this article, I’ll answer some common questions, including where to begin with colour, how to use neutrals and accents, and how many colours to consider using in a room.

Let’s get started.

Where do you begin with choosing paint colours?

When people design a room, they often make the mistake of basing the scheme solely around a wall colour. In fact, you should choose your other textures first. So, for me, it’s always a linen. Whatever tone that linen is, is the tone that you base your paint colour on. It’s the foundation that you build out from.

How do you identify the tone of a colour?

When you look at a Dulux colour chart, whichever colour you’re looking at, there will be adeeper, darker colour at the bottom of that row. That’s the base tone. So, if you’re looking at a beige and it’s in the orange or brown section, you know it has an orange or brown base tone. A grey might have a purple, green or blue undertone, and so on. Always pay attention to that base colour because it’s what you’ll see when the paint is on the walls.

How do you choose the right colour?

Once you know what tone you need to base your paint on, it’s a case of trial and error. Don’t stop until you get the right colour because, like taste, if it’s off, it will throw every other piece in the room.

This point is crucial and it’s where people fall down. A wall is probably the biggest expanse in a room. Its colour will dominate the mood, so close your eyes and try to imagine how it should be. If you want brightness and space, choose the brightest of whites. If you want warmth, bring the shades right down, and if you want to make a space appear smaller, go for blacks or navy blues.

How does light affect the look of a colour?

A paint colour can take on a tremendous variety of tones and depths depending on the amount and type of light coming into the room. So, you should always see what a colour looks like on different walls and at different times of day before committing to it.

Make sure you look at the ACTUAL paint against a wall and not an image of the colour on a chart. Paint all your options onto a board that you can hold up against your textures and the walls of the room.

What are neutral tones?

Neutral tones are shades of cream, sand, beige, white, grey, black, and of course my favourite, taupe. There are thousands of options, ranging from true neutrals that also have a neutral undertone, to neutrals with a base tone of blue, brown, purple or green, for example.

If you want to really grasp just how varied neutral undertones can be, you can do a little test. Take the whitest of whites and lay other shades of white against it. You’ll notice how pink, blue, grey or yellow each shade will look against the ‘pure’ version of white.

How do you use neutral tones?

For me, neutrals provide the perfect backdrop against which to live your life. They are timeless, versatile, practical and harmonious. I base everything in a room on neutrals in different colours, textures and woods. The interest and mood of a space comes from layering and choosing fabrics that really enhance each other, or even shock each other. So, when it comes to wall colour, neutrals are my staple.

How do you use accent colours?

I add colour with plants, glass, art and possibly a cushion or a fabric — things that are moveable. Aside from looking beautiful, it means you can easily alter your style by changing the accessories.

The punch of an accent colour on a neutral palate can shift the entire look and feel of a room. You can create subtle, chic dimensions; warmth; or playfulness and drama, depending on your choice of treatment. So, it’s essential that you opt for a colour that you love and that you and your family can live with and enjoy.

How do you choose an accent colour?

Your wardroom is a great place to start when it comes to choosing an accent colour. Think about the colours that you and other members of your household gravitate towards. Find out which colours you have a mutual love for.

Don’t forget the base tone of your scheme will inform your accent colour. If you have a neutral with a back tone that is also neutral, you can use any colour as an accent. If, however, you have a neutral scheme that has a green tone to it, you might bring in a moss green, olive or black.

How many colours can you use in a room?

For my style, any more than two colours is too many. The balance becomes lost as the colours fight for attention.

Think of how you dress. Less is more when it comes to colour. If you wear a patterned top,you wear plain trousers. Take oriental clothing or design, for example.  You will have one dominant colour, perhaps two, and everything else is neutral. The result is balanced and sophisticated.

There is one exception, however. If you have an all-white room, you can bring in as many colours as you like. It creates a very modern look. If you imagine a Damian Hurst spot painting, it works because the colours aren’t competing with the white background.

What if I’m not sure?

The most difficult part of design is putting the schemes together, but your gut is never wrong. I’ve watched so many people lay colours out that simply don’t work. They return to the scheme day after day, questioning it and wondering if it’s right. If you can’t decide, it’s wrong. Take it away from the board. It may take four of five attempts to get the right scheme if you’re not a professional, but that’s OK. Keep trying new combinations. Always bring yourself back to what the space is about and what the colour needs to be to make it work.

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