Colour theory basics to help you choose hues for your home

Interior colour can be a minefield, but with a little know-how, you can freshen up your home for spring

Is there any facet of interior style more daunting than colour? For many of us, choosing a scheme comes with indecision. I love mint-green but how will it look on all four walls? Will I regret upholstering my couch in navy? Perhaps that nervousness comes from knowing the psychological impact of colour. Deep greens are restful, a reflection of nature. Red evokes everything from anger and danger to passion.

Knowing the basics of colour theory is a great place to start. Make like the interior design experts and consult a colour wheel, the classic design tool designed by Sir Isaac Newton will show you in an instant how your favourite shades sit together. Put simply, the wheel is made up of primary, secondary and tertiary colours, then split into warmer and cooler hues, along with tints (colours with white added), tones (with grey) and shades (with black). A quick glance will soon determine if your colours of choice are complementary or more likely to clash.

The colour wheel

Opposites on the colour wheel attract – try creating a trio of colours using two shades adjacent to your chosen colour’s complementary one.

3 rules to keep in mind:

  1. Light and dark: Darker colours can make a room look smaller, cosier and moodier, whereas lighter shades will do the opposite and are ideal in living spaces.
  2. Perfect ratio: Another useful trick is to split your use of colour using a 60-30-10 percent ratio (the boldest needn’t necessarily be the largest percentage, unless it’s a colour you’re passionate about).
  3. Power of three: Three is the magic number. If you’re stuck, try paring your colour scheme back to a trio of hues – this can be applied to monochromatic looks (using three shades) or more contrasting colours.

Paint by numbers:

“Keep in mind the pieces you don’t want to have to replace,” suggests Amy on how to pick your paint. “They’ll dictate the tones you put on the walls.” The same colours don’t need to be repeated in each room of your home, she adds, but if you do opt for variation, ensure continuity through consistent wall colour, skirting boards and internal doors. Selecting the ideal paint colour might seem overwhelming, but by restricting your choices using your permanent fixtures, such as flooring and kitchen cabinetry, you’ll make the decision much easier. Try using Resene testpots and painting them onto A2 pieces of card with a white border around them. Attach them to the wall, then stand back and observe them from a distance.

Words by: Carrie Bell.

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