Child’s Play?

Interior Colour Palette Tips

Interior Colour Palette Tips By Tracy Mukherjee

All Images from I Am Nomad on Great Western Road

We often think flamboyant primary colours are resigned to nursery schools, playgrounds and children’s rooms; primary colours are indeed a much-maligned choice for our home interiors. But done correctly, these colour choices can pack a sophisticated punch.  So why should the kids have all the fun?

There are a few different ways of using this palette. To get a professional view on interior colour palette tips, Westender asked the opinions of two experts in the field of home interiors: Claire Johnston of I am Nomad and Kevin Baird of Riverside Decor.   

Subtle yet Sassy

Blue, red and yellow, the building blocks off all other colours. It takes a brave soul to consider these as the main choices in our home.  But it needn’t be top to toe block colours.

Firstly, consider what you want to achieve. You like the colours, the drama and boldness of them, but are you brave enough to go all out with them?

The good news is you don’t need to. It’s perfectly achievable to have décor which features reds, blues and yellows without overdoing it.  Let’s face it, most of us would feel more comfortable with neutral walls as our base canvas.  The rule of thumb is to use only two of the 3 colours in their true tone. Claire suggests trying neutral walls with bright colours in smaller areas: windows, architrave, picture rail, doors.  

Walls needn’t be startling white; warm whites and neutrals work well too. This allows you to work with pops of colour with specific areas catching the eye. By sticking with neutral walls, you can tie in the accent primary colours in your soft furnishings e.g., lamps, cushions, to bring the look together; a statement vase in a vibrant true blue is a great way to bring colour into an existing neutral space. To continue with this toned-down version of the primary colour palette, Claire also agrees that combining natural textures e.g., natural woods, jute rugs, can also look great with splashes of primary colours around a room; bringing a neutral camel candle against a lively blue one continues to blend the palette subtly but with detail around the room. 

Kevin from Riverside agrees. If clients are afraid to use the bolder colours in paint décor around their home, he recommends introducing these colours through the soft furnishings. Small splashes of primaries within artwork, rugs or carpets so long as it’s tied in throughout the room, is every bit as stylish. 

The Bolder Look

A wall doesn’t always have to be neutral, white or muted, however and Riverside Decor has seen a change in the trend towards the “statement” wall. Kevin notes that people can be quite daring using darker blues on full areas, unlike before where it may have been only on one wall. Kevin advises clients to be bold if they have the vision to do so when offering interior colour palette tips. The trend that he sees is still for off whites on ceilings, picture rails and woodwork with a bold colour on the main walls.

Even going for a bolder look, don’t use all three colours in their true tones. Using a combination of two but adding a more muted tone of the third, ensures you don’t end up with your home looking like an Andy Warhol painting. Try teaming a wall in one colour such as blue with furnishings in another say a red sofa, whilst keeping floor and woodwork neutral.  By carrying small flashes of the bolder wall colour in small, selective pieces, lamps, vases, candles, the colour scheme is tied in throughout the room. When adding a third colour, the shade can be slightly muted to soften the overall colour palette.  So, in a room with two main colours of a blue wall with a red sofa, subtle tones of mustard, lemon candles or vases can be a good way to avoid that modern art/geometric vibe.

Finer Details

In considering using primary colours in interior decor, Claire feels it’s a progression for people.  Primaries can be a bit overwhelming, and people do have aversions to different colours. In I am Nomad the interiors boutique specifically sets colours together that at first customers might not have considered e.g., pinks and lemons. Softer tones really can feature in the primary palette home. Using terracotta and pink tones of red, powder blue and navy tones of blue, and lemon and mustard tones of yellow can help moderate the look. Using toned down turquoises and oranges can also bring warmth as third colours. Kevin has noted the trend towards using yellows and blues has grown in popularity and adds that these can often be towards the muted darker shades of mustard and dark blues.  Yellow tones can be uplifting and fresh in a room and we certainly all needed uplifting this past year! Used in dining rooms, even hallways, yellows have brightened our homes over this ever so dark year in a time where our homes have been our whole world.

When it comes to paint finishes, the chalk finish on walls is still the trend.  Kevin does advise that woodwork be done in a more durable finish. If you want a painted piece or area to stand out, a glossier texture will pull the eye to it. Why not try painting an unloved wooden chair in a glossy red to catch the eye? This is a lovely idea in a dining space against natural floors and white walls. A classic primary blue door against white walls is incredibly eye catching and gives a Mediterranean feel to a room.

Kevin uses the analogy of a letter box; would a letter box stand out if it had a flat red finish?

The bonus of the primary colour palette is that it really doesn’t need to be a renovation job. It allows you to keep a room neutral with pops of highlighted colour.  Claire notes it’s a great way to give a room a facelift quickly and affordably. A few clever choices of colour, be it a blue painted door and coordinating rug, carried through to red lamps and cushions with a flash of mustard candles sprinkled throughout the room and voila, your living room is transformed in a day.

Helpful Interior Colour Palette Tips

  • Consider using two principal colours on larger pieces, a wall, woodwork, sofas, storage. Carry these colours into specific pieces throughout the room.
  • Combine this with a neutral natural palette e.g., the other walls, floors, rug.
  • Bring the 3rd primary colour in using a toned up or toned-down version e.g., for red, an orange or a pink.  Use this colour for specific smaller accessories around the room.
  • If brave enough go big on the walls with a toned-down primary, carrying true tones on selected pieces of furnishings and soft furnishings.


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