Paul Massey

One of Bri­tain’s lead­ing in­te­ri­ors pho­tog­ra­phers ex­plains why neu­tral colours are so in­spir­ing

Living Etc - - DESIGN / PROFILE -

Paul mas­tered the art of work­ing with white while turn­ing his homes in both Lon­don and Corn­wall into oases of calm. Here, he praises the dec­o­ra­tive power of pure white.

A colour­ful rug in­spired my epiphany to use white.

Years ago, when I was a celebrity pho­tog­ra­pher on a news­pa­per, I spent three-months’ salary on a Ralph Lau­ren tar­tan rug. I brought it home, put it down and it looked aw­ful – it had too much colour for me. So I went the op­po­site ex­treme and for many years painted ev­ery­thing white. Floors to walls to ceil­ing, all white.

Sub­tle greys balance out all-white schemes.

White looks much bet­ter with a con­trast colour – grey lends a soft, calm­ness to white. By go­ing to photo ex­hi­bi­tions and walk­ing round the Na­tional Gallery, I re­alised how good paint­ings and photos look against grey. It doesn’t over­whelm the other colours in the pic­tures.

A neu­tral pal­ette of­fers op­por­tu­ni­ties for ac­ces­sories.

I think of it as a can­vas to layer tex­ture on to, through fur­ni­ture, tex­tiles and light­ing. Shots of metal – beaten cop­per, vin­tage tin – rough things up and stop the look from be­ing too clin­i­cal.

White isn’t just for walls.

I like the feel of bleached-out tim­ber, but it’s hard to find old wood that doesn’t have a yel­low tinge to it. So I bring old pieces back to life with a bit of DIY magic. For cup­boards, I layer a light shade, such as Far­row & Ball’s Skim­ming Stone, over a darker shade and sand through to give it lovely worn patina. My lat­est dis­cov­ery is An­nie Sloan chalk paint; usu­ally, you strip fur­ni­ture of its var­nish and sand it back, but with this, you can just paint straight on.

White makes any space feel big­ger.

Keep­ing the ceil­ing and floor as light as pos­si­ble and paint­ing all the walls white will mean even the small­est room feels twice as big. Paint­ing ar­chi­traves and skirt­ing in a grey­ish white re­ally makes ev­ery­thing else in the room ping – a bit like the ef­fect of wash­ing the win­dows and sud­denly ev­ery­thing looks clear and bright.

Rough-luxe tex­tures lend warmth to white.

I love rough Pol­ish linen on cush­ions for win­ter and a softer linen for sum­mer; I like to hunt out vin­tage so­fas, which are of­ten much more af­ford­able than modern ver­sions – and re-cover them in wool or linen. I like bed­ding from The Linen Press too. One of my favourite home ac­ces­sories, the Rope rug by Plan­ta­tion Rug Com­pany, has the feel of a big knit jumper. Dec­o­rat­ing with a neu­tral can­vas makes things stand out and lends a room grav­i­tas.

For more info, visit paul­massey.me

CLOCK­WISE FROM THIS PIC­TURE Mar­morino wall­pa­per, £68 per roll; and cur­tains in Mar­quisette silk, from £126 per m, both De­sign­ers Guild; Ar­dassa mo­saic tiles (also seen in cutouts), £376 per sq m, Tri­cia Guild for Bisazza; Wave bed, from £995,...

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT The Rope rug, from £200, Plan­ta­tion Rug Com­pany; cop­per fit­tings add a rough-luxe touch to Paul’s home in Lon­don; enamel lamp shade, £45, Labour and Wait; and Heavy Metal pen­dant; £135, Buster + Punch at Heal’s; Paul’s pre­ferred...

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