‘You can make a home by what you put on the walls’
Intense research goes into forecasting Dulux’s colour of the year, the hue that supposedly predicts the coming mood. Next year it’s all about Spiced Honey; the thinking behind this warm amber shade is that it’s inviting, timeless and versatile, representing a slightly more outwardlooking, kinder mindset than 2018’s colour, a muted heather that was all about hunkering down at home and hiding from the world’s uncertainty.
Dulux’s accompanying imagery shows off a variety of palettes and unusual ways with colour: Spiced Honey on the ceiling, with pale pink walls, stencilled elements and a soft greige on the woodwork. What’s more interesting is that this multifaceted, imaginative way to use paint is no longer simply the preserve of marketing campaigns: real homeowners are also abandoning the usual rules of coloured walls and white woodwork and ceilings, and doing something a bit different.
“The difference between the beautiful rooms we see in magazines and realising them in our own homes simply lies in the confidence to have a go,” says Marianne Shillingford, Dulux’s creative director. “‘It’s only paint, so I can experiment and have fun with it’ should be your decorating mantra.” She also points out that digital tools, such as Dulux’s Visualiser app, are also making it easier to get an idea of how your room will look in its new livery, without having to lift a paintbrush.
“I think you should be able to take a photo of an empty room, and it should still look interesting. You can make your house a home just by what you put on the walls,” says interior designer Lucinda Sanford.
She suggests a starting point for the uninitiated: “If you’re not that brave, but you know that you don’t want one colour on the walls and white on the skirting, a tone-on-tone scheme is a good first step.” She recommends both Paint & Paper Library and Little Greene, whose paint collections include tonal versions of the same colour, “so the work’s been done for you. You can have, say, Plaster I on the ceiling, Plaster III on the walls and Plaster V on the woodwork.”
Of all the recent paint trends, using anything-but-white on the woodwork is the one that’s taken hold the most strongly. “It normally takes a bit of arm-twisting to persuade people, but it’s become a bit more normal now, so it’s just a case of what people are used to seeing,” says Sanford.
Fellow interior designer Lucy Barlow, of Barlow & Barlow, agrees: “We love to do a painted skirting board, it’s a really fun and cheap update. Dark woodwork gives that industrial look: if you can’t afford Crittall windows, paint the existing window frames black and suddenly you’ve got that warehouse chic.”
Contrasting ceilings are also becoming more popular. There’s a worry that they will make a room seem more closed-in, but Shillingford says the effect is more like a blanket – comforting rather than claustrophobic.
Interior designer Rachel Forster, of Forster Inc, has just painted the ceiling of her home office a dark charcoal grey (a shade called Smithy, from Lakeland Paints) and describes the effect as be- ing “really warm and cosy”. She’s another fan of coloured woodwork, recently painting the window frames in a client’s house’s yellow, then creating a sense of coherence across the rooms by using the same shade on other details, such as yellow hairpin legs on a table. “Proportion is important, though,” she says. “Go for perhaps five per cent in a bright colour, and think of it like the contrasting lining of a suit that you don’t see all the time. If it’s over the top it ends up looking like a nursery.”
Following the broader shift in tastes towards dark, enveloping shades on the walls – first it was grey and indigo, now it’s moving into deep green and aubergine – we’re going the whole hog and covering the ceilings and skirting all the same shade, creating a complete cocoon.
There’s a history behind this seemingly modern way of decorating. “Painting everything the same colour from the ceiling to the skirting boards seems like a scary modern thing to do, but the Georgians were the first to realise the potential of this technique to make rooms appear seamless, elegant and more spacious,” says Shillingford.
“I think we are starting to approach colour in a more subtle way, using interesting techniques rather than bold shades to make a statement,” says architect and designer Shalini Misra. For example, for one project, she painted the skirting boards, and then the same depth above it, in a glossy dark blue, topped with a slim metallic band, with matt walls.
Dulux’s Colour of the Year for 2019, Spiced Honey, is shown here on the ceiling, left; main, graphic colourblocking using paints from Crown – Fairy Dust, Rebel, Splashing Around and Soft Steel