Shift out of neutral
Liven up your space with colour
AFTER years of neutrals dominating living spaces, colour is making a splashy return. It’s showing up in decor magazines, on TV shows, even in model homes, where beige and grey reign to appeal to a wider crowd.
“Thank God. I’ve been trying to keep colour going for years,” says Suzanne Martin, co-owner of Luxurious Living Studio in Ottawa.
Interior designer Jacqueline Ward says colour makes a strong statement in a room, sets the mood and hints at the personality of a home’s owner. Yet many are fearful of colour, choosing neutrals to envelop their spaces.
“While crisp and clean will never go out of style, nothing can brighten a room and transform a space quite like a bold hue,” says Ward, who encourages folks to experiment.
Martin attributes some of the change in attitude to a wealth of TV design shows urging us to be brave with colour. She says the urge to go neutral is influenced by modern design and technology, but it’s important to balance that with texture and warmth for an inviting space.
“We need colour,” Martin says. “It enhances the energy in every space.”
Neutrals are still common for bigticket items such as sofas, says designer Kelly Maiorino. Creating a neutral backdrop will give your space more longevity and allow you to play with colour through accents, she says.
“We are seeing lots of warm greys, creams, whites, pale taupes and charcoal greys being used as a great base,” she says. “Adding bright, bold colour to your space through the use of throw pillows, bedding, art and accessories can be an easy and less expensive way to add colour without making a longterm commitment.”
Designer Penny Southam says many of her clients tend to paint main living and entertaining areas in neutral shades and add a pop of colour with artwork and accessories.
“Especially in contemporary, openconcept spaces, neutral tones keep the feel light and airy,” she says.
Where she is seeing big hits of colour is in kitchen cabinets. “The kitchen has always been the nucleus of the home, but now it screams, ‘Look at me, I’m sexy.’ ”
If bright blue cabinets are too risque for you, bold accessories are an easy way to go. But balance is key, says decorator Laura Boisvert.
“What you do to one side of the room, do to the other. If it’s an open-concept space, you could place red cushions on the sofa and then, on the opposite side of the room, have a red runner on the dining table.”
Another option for the colour beginner is to “go nuts in the powder room,” Boisvert says. “It’s easy to change because it’s so small and such a low risk.”
What really matters is finding a hue that speaks to you, says designer Tanya Collins. “What colours invigorate you, relax you, make you feel happy? You can inject these colours to varying degrees, depending on your level of comfort.” So where do you start? “Look in your closet,” suggests Martin, who says the styles and colours you wear can be your starting point when decorating your home. Or maybe your inspiration comes from a favourite piece of artwork or pillowcase.
“I always tell my clients to choose a colour they love and can live with for at least five years,” says Nolan. “Don’t necessarily follow the trends just because orange is the colour du jour.”
Using colour as accents such as a painted feature wall or area carpet makes it easier to evolve into other colour schemes should your tastes change, she adds. “However, don’t let that stop you from buying a red leather sofa if that is what makes you tick.”
If you already have a colour scheme and you’re looking to update it without changing everything, Nolan recommends introducing another shade to the room. “The best way is to look at the colour wheel and decide if you want a true complement (the colour on the opposite side of the colour wheel) or something a little less conventional.”
She always recommends doing a test patch (many paint makers offer sample sizes) on the wall before buying because the colour will look different from wall to wall as the light changes throughout the day.
And when choosing from a fan deck, she suggests choosing a shade lighter because paint looks more intense on a large area.
If you want to be trendy, what’s on the horizon?
Decorator Kristi Blok predicts further inspiration from next spring’s fashion runways — think sky blue, periwinkle violet, orange and yellow.
“These colours can all be paired beautifully with neutrals so the look isn’t too trendy, but it’s still fun,” Blok says.
Ward sees crimson, chartreuse, tangerine and pastels, deep charcoals, black and milk-chocolate brown coming on strong and says to watch for coloured ceilings, neutral wood tones and salvaged antiques with a fresh pop of colour.
Red appliances and red vinyl chairs add a funky, colourful flair to this kitchen.