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How to be brave with colour


Where to start - how to pick colours that are going to work for you and your home.
Start at the beginning which isn't always the paint colour for the walls. Sometimes it is acknowledging that the house (exterior or interior) or specific room looks a bit lacklustre and identifying what you have (and don't plan on getting rid of) and trying to sort out whether there are big changes to make (new carpet, curtains or furniture or in regards to the exterior new roof or new powdercoated windows) or just minor changes to create a new look, a fresh mood or a beneficial change - perhaps because of some problem or perceived niggly thought that the look could be improved.

Perhaps the role of the room has changed which means that a new colour (or colours) may be needed to help it turn from a child's room into a cosy study or from a formal dining room into a fun filled family room. It may be that a room in the house has been overlooked or under used because it feels mean and miserable or cold and unfriendly or too large to be intimate.

Often it pays to collect ideas, samples of colours or fabrics and photos that depict what you would like the space to be like so that you have a dream or definite plan to build upon. A bit of logical thought may be needed to balance the dream also - 'cosy' very rarely means an 'all White look' and in order to make a very bright or sunny room an oasis of calm tranquillity you might not look at reds, oranges or yellow. It is hard to call a red or yellow calm or cool.

This is when the samples of colours start to make their presence felt. If artwork, curtains or furniture are colourful or patterned and they are an integral part of the room then it may be that a neutral will help to tie everything together and allow other smaller co-ordinates to be more colourful without competing with the walls. Luckily there are a huge range of neutrals to choose from – Resene Tea, Resene Spanish White and Resene Pearl Lusta are only a few possibilities.

Some people keep the look of a space really simple and understated then when all the decorating is done they have a slight feeling that all is not well or that it looks a bit bland and often it is colour, texture and pattern that is missing - it is amazing what a few really colourful items can do to the mood within the room. I often encourage people to have summer and winter co-ordinates so they can alter the mood of the room to suit the seasons.

I do love wallpaper as it can create interest, pattern, colour and texture - it is such a simple thing to do and if only one wall is highlighted this way it can be as 'trendy' as you like, for the time you want it to feature and then can be changed to create another wonderful look. There seems to be the misapprehension that feature walls are passe - they aren't at all - they have morphed into another concept - in an open plan room it can make a stunning difference if a wall is defined with colour. It may set off the big screen TV rather well or as a backdrop for the dining room suite so it attracts attention and focus or for a child's room to encourage and stimulate. In a kitchen it can be a stunning splashback or a yummy Smeg refrigerator.

Why use colour? 
Colour changes our perception of space and can be a corrective way of dealing with a space that doesn't work well. Colour is about life and light - so having colour in small or large doses can be very mood enhancing and beneficial in many other ways. Of all the ways to alter our lives and give pleasure it seems to me that colour is the cheapest and most meaningful thing we can add. You only have to watch children at their painting play to see what a thrill they get from using colour. 

Fear of colour and making a mistake.
People do worry a lot about colour, about making a mistake when choosing colour and of course that could be expensive but often they allow other people to influence them (why would you choose the same colours as your best friend when decorating - are you not your own person, with your own likes and dislikes? - the answer is 'of course you are!') so choose for yourself. The best way to ensure you don't make an error of judgement in regards to colour is to look at it at your place with your things and take the time to see what changes of light do to the colour. Take time to choose, trial testpots wisely - don't paint onto already coloured walls as it alters how you see the tested colour. Paint two coats of colour onto A2 card and move it around the room to see what happens to it. It can be mind blowing and a really cheap way of finding out what it is really like.

Knowledge of colour, how it works, what it can do and how to be brave with colour is simple - look at large samples of it, test it in the space that you want to use it in, and if it doesn't make you feel good and enhance the room and your things then don't use it!

Thanks to colour expert, Carolyn Atkinson.

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