Colour 101- The Basics

Colour is an enigma. When I studied to become an Interior Decorator, we were told that some people are just naturals when it comes to working with colour while others need training to become good at it. Thankfully, for me, colour has always come naturally.  Now converting inches in to feet, that was something I needed training in (Canadians learned the metric system  in public school). Why dear lord why? But, I digress.

In the Eight years (eight years? Holy Moly) that I have been an interior decorator, I have helped numerous clients with their colour dilemmas. I love colour and I love paint. Paint is the most cost effective and most dramatic way to change a space.

In this post, I’m going to give you the basics on dark vs light colours:

Quite simply, dark colours cozy up a room. This means it can make a small room appear even smaller. That’s not to say you can’t do it. I am a believer that rules are meant to be broken but, sometimes you need a professional eye to pull it off. For example, small room with dark walls, dark floors, facing north (not a lot of natural light) and dark furniture will make the space feel like a cave and to some, claustrophobic. So to play it safe, keep the dark colours for larger spaces.

If you are so lucky to have a large living room/ family room/ master bedroom, etc with  perhaps high ceilings -think Cathedral or 10 feet plus then perhaps you will want to consider a darker colour to make the room appear cozier, smaller.

Take this Family room for instance. The walls are painted a dark grey. However, they have a cream coloured sectional. A dark coloured sectional would have been too heavy in this space. In this angle of the room, I can see wall sconces and two table lamps to brighten the room. They even added a Mirror to make room appear larger and spread light. They even used a light printed rug. The large coffee table is dark wood but they used light accessories.  The Sofa table has a pair of white base lamps. They also used white drapers and painted out the trim in white. I know this room has the higher than normal ceiling height as they have a transom window above the garden doors so the darker wall colour will not make the space close in on  you. Plus it is safe to say that window/door takes up the entire wall and probably receives a great deal of natural light. I’m assuming there is deck out through those doors and most people would not install a deck on the north side of their house. This is a perfect example of a darker wall colour done right.

Let’s talk lighter colours. They are airy, fresh, calming, relaxing. Lighter colours allow you to exhale. They make small spaces appear larger. They can also make larger spaces feel cold.

Here we have a smaller living room with a lighter paint colour. Despite using a lighter paint colour, they grounded the space with  a dark floor. However, they used a rug in a lighter shade to balance everything out. The legs of the furniture are also darker. They opted for leggy furniture as the room is smaller. Skirted furniture can appear too heavy in a small space.   Even the furniture is in pale hues. However this room is anything but boring as we have lots of pattern play going on- from the stripe on the sofa, to the trellis work on the accent chairs to the damask pattern on the window treatments. This is a small room and even though it has at least three windows, I am going to assume this room doesn’t get a lot of natural light throughout most of the day. This room is a perfect example of using lighter hues to achieve that cozy feeling.

Two rooms- dark and light colour schemes, both feeling cozy.

That’s the nitty gritty on dark vs. light.

Next post will discuss how to create flow from one room to another within your home.


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