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How to Choose a Timeless Interior Colour Palette

How to Choose a Timeless Interior Colour Palette

White on white interiors are a thing of the past - colour in interior design is here to stay! But choosing colour can be intimidating and challenging, especially when you've had white or cream walls in your home for a decade. So we’ve put together a guide to choosing interior colour that you'll love and live with for years.

The Basics

PRIMARY COLOUR
Red, blue and yellow. Primary colours can’t be made by mixing colours together.

SECONDARY COLOUR
Green, orange and purple. Secondary colours can be made by mixing primary colours.

TERTIARY COLOUR
Six shades that can be made by mixing primary and secondary colours together. You can then add black, grey or white to change the tone, tint or shade.

TONE
Refers to the brightness or deepness of a colour. Mixing grey to the colour will affect its tone.

TINT
Refers to a shade of colour. Adding white to a colour will change the tint.

SHADE
Refers to the lightness or darkness of a colour. The term is also used when referring to similar colours such as ‘shades of green’ or a ‘darker shade of blue’. Mixing black to a colour will alter the shade.

Things to Know about Colour

First, you need to understand the properties of each colour. Warm colours are shades of red, orange and yellow, but also include neutrals like brown, tan and beige. Cool colours are blue, green and purple (although purple can also be a warm tone), and neutrals such as grey.

   Weave House  Dulux colour of the year

Michael Dansk  Lumi Kello

BOTTOM LEFT: Warm tones - Home of Michael Dansk
BOTTOM RIGHT: Warm tones - The home of Lumi Kello

The choice of warm or cool colours will affect the feel of your room. Warm colours tend to bring an upbeat and welcoming feel so they’re best used in entertaining spaces such as living, dining and kitchen. Cool colours are more subdued and calming and are lovely in bedrooms, offices and bathrooms.

Weave House Dominic Pandolfini house

Amanda Henderson  Dune House

TOP RIGHT: Cool tones - Dominic Pandolfini House
BOTTOM RIGHT: Cool Tones - Dune House, Perth

Regardless of whether they are warm or cool, light colours are airy and generally make rooms feel larger and brighter. Dark colours are sophisticated and make rooms feel intimate.

If you need inspiration for your palette, you could think about the kind of atmosphere you want to create and select colours to help you achieve this. The below graph illustrates the psychological associations with colours: 

Psychology of Colour

How to Choose your Interior Colour Palette

No matter what your personal aesthetic, the 60-30-10 rule will help make sure that your colour palette stays balanced. Here’s how it works: first, choose one colour to be your dominant shade. Often, this is a neutral or subdued hue that can be used liberally without feeling overwhelming – this is often your wall colour. Next will be your secondary colour, which is typically a strong colour that takes up about 30 percent of the space – think upholstery, rugs and window treatments. Finally, your accent colour is your boldest shade that makes up the remaining 10 percent; cushions, accessories and art.

 Green Box Apartment

Green Box Apartment by Ester Bruzkus Architecture uses 60 (white)/30 (ochre)/10 (mulberry) in this stunning apartment in Berlin.

Paris House  Madrid House

LEFT: Paris Apartment by Marcante Testa 60 (white)/30 (blush)/10 (cobalt)
RIGHT: Madrid Apartment by Beatriz Ales Atelier 60 (white)/30 (pink)/10 (lime) - and how fabulous is that navy floor!

Schemes

There are two main colour schemes used in interior design: complementary and
analogous. Complementary schemes use a base colour (a neutral) and two shades on the opposite side of the colour wheel as the secondary and accent colour. This can include combinations like blue and orange, yellow and purple or red and green. Complementary is the most commonly used scheme in interior design as the contrasting colours create quite an impact. But only use these colours in small doses (30-10) or you risk your room feeling chaotic and distracting.

Greg Natal home

Greg Natal is known for his unique use of colour. We love how a base of white and mint is strongly contrasted with burnt orange and blue.  

Dulux colour of the year

Bree Leech is the Queen of Colour! She expertly uses a base of white and sage, contrasted with warm tones of pink and orange. 

Analogous schemes, on the other hand, feature one central colour, paired with its neighbouring colours on the colour wheel. For example, red, orange and yellow or red, purple and blue. You can always use different shades of the same colour to create visual variety, and use the 60-30-10 rule to keep your proportions in check. If you’re not a fan of vibrant hues, you can also do an analogous colour scheme using neutrals, known as a monochromatic colour scheme. Mix black, white and grey, or white, cream and beige together to create a sleek, modern look.

Laminex + YSG House

Laminex + YSG house uses layers of warm peach to create this striking kitchen.

Hecker Residence   Hecker Residence

Moody blues and greys in Hecker Residence by Paul Hecker 

The analogous scheme can be a tricky but the result is often more striking and
contemporary that the complementary scheme. The stunning, colour-saturated rooms you often see in magazines use this scheme with aplomb. We are a huge fan of it at Gingerfinch HQ.

TIP

Before you settle on an interior palette for one room, consider how the colour transitions throughout your home. Create ‘colour stepping stones’ to tie the shades from room to room. This will give your home a cohesive and curated feel.

BUT - Don’t get too hung up on the colour wheel or trends. Make sure your colour selection is in line with your personal tastes – you’ll have to live with it for years, remember!

Budge over Dover  Budge over Dover  

Header and above images: Budge Over Dover house by YSG Studio