How To Find Your Palette, And Decorate Your Home
The trouble with decorating, particularly now there are so many places with affordable homewares (IKEA, Penneys, Homesense...) is that the amount of delicious items can be overwhelming.
But even practical doesn’t have to be boring; so when it comes to decorating it’s best to choose colours/textures for your walls and main furniture that are easy to live with & will last a life-time. Then use smaller and cheaper accessories to add highlights with trend-led items and pops of colour.
Before you go wild in the aisles, take a step back and consider what you really want for your home:
- What mood do you want to create?
- Who is it for?
- What do you need to make it practical for you: Do you need extra storage for kid's stuff? Clear surfaces for cooking? Washable covers that won’t mind sticky hands?
There’s no point in splashing out on cream furniture that you won’t allow anyone near; and if you buy every cushion you love, your home may end up looking what Americans call ‘a hot mess.’
Where do I start?
Firstly, choose one colour that you love: What do you wear, what do you stare at in magazines, and what do you pin the most? Ignore the extreme trends, and go with something that will last a while. This colour can act as a through line from room to room, and provide a base for building your whole colour scheme.
Next add highlights and lowlights that complement this base, to work for other major parts of decoration (including walls if your base is being used for the bed or sofa.) You might want some very dark or very light (white) hits, but the most natural rooms don’t feel too perfect or styled, so think complementing rather than ‘matchy matchy’: Highlights don’t have to just be lighter/darker tones of the same colour.
Finally, choose an accent colour. As this is best used sparingly, you can be more daring. By sticking to cheaper accessories like cushion covers, you can add or remove based on your mood or the change of seasons; so here’s where you can indulge in the season’s ‘in’ colour, or the bright pink you’d shy away from otherwise. Imagine this as the bright lipstick to brighten a classic make up look! A good rule of thumb is to choose a colour that contrasts the main palette, but it doesn’t have to be the official ‘complementary colour.’
Keep the balance
Whatever look you’re going for, make sure you combine both cool and warm tones. A well-balanced room will have elements of both, but not necessarily in equal quantities. For example, I prefer cool Scandinavian tones, to get light and air into rainy Irish winters; and love balancing clean white walls with warmer tones like gold frames, brown leather, and wooden floor boards to provide extra depth. In general, cool shades are calming, while warm tones can be more exciting (though different shades can have very different effects.)
A simple rule of thumb, is that the more colour, the busier it looks. If you want to create a soothing environment, stick to very pale neutral walls (although this doesn’t have to mean white); and move between shades of light and dark rather than too many primary colours. You can always add interest with one accent colour without overcomplicating the room.
Though it’s easy to get swept away in the magnificence of Pinterest, take the time to look at running themes in what you pin. Colour trends will come and go, but the best homes reflect the personalities of the people who live there (which is why some magazine editorial shots feel a bit dead.) The trick is to blend the colours you like (and not necessarily all the colours you like) into a pleasing combination. Be warned that it’s much harder to remember what you want once you’re surrounded by paint cans or soft furnishings; so make sure you plan ahead.
It’s sometimes easier to choose a feature item like the sofa, or bedding, before you start painting the walls (particularly if you’re going a subtle paint colour); so even if you don’t buy the furniture immediately, try to have something in mind, and be able to picture what you want the whole space to look and feel like. If you’re confused about paints, companies such as Colortrend and Dulux often arrange their paints into complimentary collections, so it’s easier to see what shades work well together. But if in doubt, buy a few sample pots and test colours out in the space they’ll be: Shades look very different on different walls, and even at different times of day; so take time to live with the tester patch before you go wild with the paint roller.