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Design solutions: Colour trends and low-VOC paints

Senior design editor Margot Austin gives her expert advice on colour trends, shower curtains, and more!

Q: We’re trying to be more green in our house renovations. Can you recommend some brands of low-emission paint? Mike Carruthers, Kensington, P.E.I.


A: This is a hot topic in the decorating world. Paints that are labelled “eco friendly” or “low emission” have a lower than normal concentration of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs lurk in everything from nail polish remover and furnishings to adhesives and lacquers. These compounds – formaldehyde, toluene, benzene and methane among them – are released into the atmosphere, causing unpleasant odours (hence the term “off-gassing”), and health problems that range in severity from eye irritation to liver damage to cancer. Interestingly, there’s still no legislation in Canada defining what constitutes low, medium or high levels of VOCs in common consumer products. However, in April the Canadian government announced plans to implement regulations similar to those existing in the United States. In the meantime, I recommend you consider the three national paint lines featured above, which have either no or low VOCs.

Q: I’m about to redecorate and am thinking of putting up wallpaper. I like dark, rich colours, but I don’t see them much in magazines like STYLE AT HOME. Are they passé? Is it not a good idea to commit to a dark colour in wallpaper? Rosanna Santilli, Toronto

askusroom.jpgA: I think the reason you haven’t seen the dark colours is actually not because they’re passé but the opposite – the next big thing. If you want to know the upcoming trends in decor, look no further than the fashion runways and racks. Sooner or later those colours find their way into our homes. The deep plum Chrysanthemum wallpaper shown at left, from British company Graham & Brown, is a great example. The line is by the English fashion brand Monsoon, purveyors of what I call a high-end romantic boho look. Amethyst, fig, merlot and sapphire are some of the fashion colours we’ll be seeing in decorating. To make this look work, finish your space with eclectic furnishings. Take inspiration from this photo: combine Moroccan side tables with Granny’s hand-me-downs done up in jewel-tone velvets and shapely plucked-from-around-the-globe accessories. Graham & Brown papers are available through and at The Home Depot.


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