How to: Choose colour for your home

Style at Home

How to: Choose colour for your home

Haven’t we all agonized over how to choose colour, especially when it comes to our homes? Choosing apple red nail polish is one thing, but when it comes to our homes, we often second-guess our every step. Should we go for greens everywhere? Incorporate our favourite aqua blue? Or shun punchy colours for tried-and-true neutrals? We asked these Canadian designers for their top tips and opinions on how to choose colour.

What’s your favourite inspirational book on colour?

“Nature, fashion and travel books.”
Bruce Wilkin, interior designer and principal of Bruce Wilkin Design, based in Victoria

“Designers Guild Colour book is the best.”
Debbie Travis, Montreal-based designer and TV host

“Anything by Trisha Guild or Farrow & Ball.”
Kate Thornley-Hall, Toronto-based interior designer and the founder of Source UK

At Home with White: I’m very into white right now – a little bit English, a little bit Swedish and very serene. Mark Hampton on Decorating: He was such a brilliant man. I love this read. It includes several chapters devoted to individual colours and their suggested uses – and his famous watercolour illustrations. The House in Good Taste by Elsie DeWolfe: Reading this tome, first penned in 1919, it’s surprising how little has changed when it comes to decorating with colour.”
Margot Austin, Style at Home’s Senior Design Editor

What’s the new neutral?

“Benjamin Moore November Rain OC-50 and Wickham Gray HC-171; Farrow & Ball Skimming Stone 241; ICI White Wing 50GY 83/010”
-Margot Austin

-Debbie Travis

“Black, white and grey.”
-Bruce Wilkin

“Greys (especially warm greys) feel more new than browns and camels.”
-Virginia Johnson

“I have an allergy to the idea of neutrals. White is my favourite non-colour, I suppose. I just decorated a London flat with completely white walls in every room. The flat is full of light and huge windows and the white is perfect. I didn’t choose white because it is a "neutral" or because of any design rule. I just like it and I design spaces the way I like them to look.”
–Kate Thornley-Hall

What’s your advice for the colour shy?

“All white - the absence of colour – is as effective as the presence of 
– Bruce Wilkin

“Take a chance.”
-Kate Thornley-Hall

“White walls are never a mistake, and you can start with colour and pattern in the fabrics. Make a little collection of fabric swatches in something that is harmonious and cover one chair and a couple of pillows. Get some colourful lamps and hang some paintings or photographs up on the wall. You can start slowly.”
- Virginia Johnson

“It’s only paint.”
– Debbie Travis

“Shift into neutral. After all, neutrals are still colours. But be sure to vary the shades you use and have fun mixing several textures in your rooms to keep things interesting.”
- Margot Austin

What’s a common colour mistake?

“Going halfway and using colour in a muted way.”
-Kate Thornley-Hall

“Listening to your friends opinions rather than trusting your own eye. Choosing neutrals with the wrong undertones. Choosing a bright white when an off-white would be better (almost always). Choosing a bold wall colour but neglecting to tie it into the whole room scheme.”
– Margot Austin

A palette should have no more than four main colours in a room – yes or no?

“It depends on the look. A more calming space would require very harmonious soft colours. If you want something bolder, lots of colours can work together.”
– Virginia Johnson

“Break the rules.”
– Debbie Travis

“Like the saying ‘before you leave, look in the mirror and take one thing off,” same for paint colours - start with a handful of chips for consideration and then pare your choices down until the palette feels comfortable.”
–Bruce Wilkin

“Rules – I hate rules and can't abide by them.”
-Kate Thornley-Hall

“No, because I hate pronouncements like this. They make people so afraid they might get it wrong that they don’t do anything at all.”
–Margot Austin

“Three or five odd numbers work better, although it is not the colours you use but how you balance them.”
-Scott Yetman

A feature wall in a bold colour or print – overdone or keep it coming?

“Keep it coming.”
–Debbie Travis

“Big mistake”
-Bruce Wilkin

“On the verge of being overdone but I do love it, especially when its a wild exciting colour and to use it all over would make you crazy.”
-Kate Thornley-Hall

“I rarely do feature walls with changing a colour or print. I prefer the architectural detailing to prevail, so I say overdone.”
-Scott Yetman

“Keep it coming, but change it up. The excitement of a statement like this is in the element of surprise – and the whole point of doing only one wall is that it’s easy to change – so change it.”
- Margot Austin

Bright kitchen cabinetry – a mistake or worth the risk?

“If you love the colour go for it. You could love it for 20 years.”
-Virginia Johnson

“Cabinets are expensive and you will have them for a long time - make
 sure you can live with a bold colour for a long time. Put the colour in the 
splash tile or maybe on the island cabinetry.”
Bruce Wilkin

“A big mistake – too dominant, especially in open-concept spaces. Also, it could negatively affect resale value – that could cost you thousands!”
– Margot Austin

“Could be great [but] it’s a call to be made in situ.”
–Scott Yetman

What are some of the most common colour myths?

“That you need colour to create a warm home. Even though I love colour, because I work with it every day I get overwhelmed by it and need white. My walls are white and this allows me to have lots of colourful paintings and objects and lamps and books without it looking too cluttered.”
-Virginia Johnson

Myth: Dark colours and patterns should not be used in small rooms.
Myth: Dark colours are over powering. This is why I designed a paint palette of 400 colours divided into four moods – Cheerful, dramatic, calm and nostalgic. First choose a mood, and then choose a colour.”
-Debbie Travis

“That colour has gender”
-Bruce Wilkin

“Blue is for boys, pink is for girls.
Red and pink clash.
Blue and green should never be seen.
White is easy.
White is a cop out.
White is boring.”
-Margot Austin


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How to: Choose colour for your home