What colour do I paint my walls?

We’ve become accustomed to seeing confident use of colour in public spaces (see our previous post) and this seems to be filtering through to our homes as the positive effects of colour become more recognised and sought after.  We’ll explain a few points to take note of when deciding on wall colours for your home and look at examples of colour tones that are well suited to our British climate.

 

We interpret colour in relation to other colours

Colour hardly ever exists in isolation from other colours.  Let’s take an example from nature – a walk outdoors offers a variety of colours from vibrant greens, to blue skies and grey clouds, to name a few. Our eye understands each colour in relation to the surrounding colours.  So in the picture below, the blue sky seems to be a bit greyer next to the heavy dark clouds.

 A photo taken on one of Audrey's coastal walks in Portmarnock, Co. Dublin

A photo taken on one of Audrey's coastal walks in Portmarnock, Co. Dublin

 

This concept is important to understand and apply to interior design; choose your wall colours in relation to the floors, furniture and lighting.  So if you’ve got pale white floor tiles in your kitchen and dark grey kitchen units, a warmer neutral colour on the walls could help balance the colour palette in the space.

 Warm neutral wall paint at Marriott Road, Barnet EN5

Warm neutral wall paint at Marriott Road, Barnet EN5

 

Colour temperatures, colour tones and colour families

The language surrounding paint colours is particularly rich and elaborate. With branded colour names like “Lead White” or “Elephant’s Breath” and descriptions such as “off-white with green tones”, how many people can actually visualise what these labels mean? Understanding the vocabulary used to describe colour can be helpful in identifying shades and how they interact with each other.  

Colour temperature is based on the notion that blue feels cool and red feels warm.  So, for example, a white colour with a hint of blue feels cool in contrast with a white colour with a touch of red which feels warm. 

As you can see above, the variation in colour is subtle, especially when seen in small portions on a screen.  However, applied to a large wall surface, this simple concept can have a lot to do with the way you feel in a space.

 Warm white paint colour on the walls at  Middleway, London NW11

Warm white paint colour on the walls at Middleway, London NW11

 

In technical terms, a colour tone is a colour which is mixed with grey to produce a more muted colour.  So if we looked at a purple colour and a purple tone, we’d find that the purple tone is more complex, with a grey colour mixed in that makes it less vibrant.

 

 Feature wall in a purple grey tone at  Buckler Court, London N7

Feature wall in a purple grey tone at Buckler Court, London N7

 

We like to think of a colour family as a series of shades of any one paint colour, from light to dark.  For example, a purple colour could be mixed with various quantities of black and white to create a number of purple grey tones, all belonging to the same colour family.

 
 A colour scheme of 2 colours from the same colour family, at Marriott Road, Barnet EN5

A colour scheme of 2 colours from the same colour family, at Marriott Road, Barnet EN5

 

Colour schemes suited to OUR BRITISH climate

The use of colour in different geographic locations around the world is influenced by two main considerations - the natural lighting conditions and the cultural significance attributed to various colours.

Our British climate rarely provides consistent beaming sunlight, instead we are accustomed to daylight that is filtered through cloud coverage.  Because of this, bright wall colours can sometimes feel too saturated or child-like against the diluted grey tones found in the clouds and the filtered light.  We tend to favour softer, more muted colour tones, diluted with greys, as these compliment our natural surroundings.  As seen above, neutral tones with hints of purple work well in this hallway; purple is made from red and blue, resulting in a warm yet crisp colour scheme.

 Neutral grey wall colour with contrasting zesty yellow upholstery at Thorpewood Avenue, London SE26

Neutral grey wall colour with contrasting zesty yellow upholstery at Thorpewood Avenue, London SE26

Tones of aqua/teal greens can work beautifully in large proportions and especially when complimented with natural wood flooring or dark wood furniture.  This is because green and red/browns are complimentary colours, found opposite each other on the colour wheel.

 Green tone wall colour at  Lisburne Road, London NW3

Green tone wall colour at Lisburne Road, London NW3

We hope you've enjoyed reading this blog post as much as we've enjoyed writing it!  The topic of interior colour schemes may seem vast and complex at times, but hopefully these colour theory concepts will give you a better understanding of how to select wall colours for your home.