What colour should I paint my walls?
8 min read
Published 28 Apr 2020
As you can imagine, this is a question I get asked a lot. You might have recently moved into your new home, or maybe you feel like you need a change. We’re all spending a lot more time staring at our walls during the current situation, and paint is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to really make a room feel like your own. Painting your room can have a big impact on your mood, so it’s a natural starting point for any makeover.
But what colour should you choose? There are literally thousands of paint shades out there, and no one wants to choose one, take the time to decorate, and then hate the end result. To avoid that happening, I’ve put together a guide with lots of ways to help you narrow down the perfect shade for you.
Which colours are you drawn to? Have a look around your home - are there a few colours that keep popping up, in say a cushion, or a rug, or a bedspread? Or even in the artwork on your walls, or your coffee mugs? You’ve probably unconsciously bought some things for your home that have a few colours in common, because you find them attractive and they sit well with you. This is a good place to start choosing colour, as it’s something you’ve done instinctively and naturally. Say you have a few items with mustard yellow in them - you don’t have to use that mustard yellow throughout your home, but you could use versions or shades of that colour in different rooms to visually link them.
From top to bottom: Little Greene Yellow Pink 46, Light Gold 53, Mortlake Yellow 265, Oak Apple 63, Stone Pale Cool 65, First Light 49
The second place I would look for inspiration is inside your wardrobe. If you open it up, unless you exclusively wear black for work and play, then there will be some colour in there. I would look at the range of colours you have, and see if there are any colours that you’ve bought more of. You might just feel comfortable in the enveloping feel of navy blue, or you might be happiest wearing red. These colours can be your starting point - you might not want dark navy walls, but some navy in your colour scheme would work well for you. You might prefer to go for a brighter blue for example, so I would choose one which works well with navy as it will have the same undertones and feel comfortable to you.
From top to bottom: Little Greene Royal Navy 257, Woad 251, Hicks Blue 208, Juniper Ash 115, Pale Wedgwood 249, Delicate Blue 248
Another good place to look for inspiration is the architecture and period style of your home. If you live in a 1960s maisonette, then the muted olive greens and ochres from the Mid Century period would work well with your home, and invoke the spirit of the period whilst still feeling modern. Or if you live in a Victorian terrace, the dark reds, greens and blues used typically during that period could compliment the tall ceilings and large windows. Lots of paint manufacturers (such as Farrow & Ball and Little Greene) have guides on their colour cards or websites to indicate which colours were used in which period, and these can be really helpful. I’m not suggesting that if you live in a Georgian house that you can only paint it in authentically Georgian colours, but seeking out colours which would have been used to decorate the house when it was built is a good way to narrow down the choices. Whilst you’re looking, you might just come across a paint shade that you fall in love with.
From top to bottom: Little Greene Marine Blue 95, Canton 94, Olive Colour 72, Knightsbridge 215, Heat 24, Marigold 209
Something that people are increasingly talking about is colour psychology. At a basic level, we generally feel a certain emotion when we look at a colour. Some of this is cultural, and some of it is our centuries old response to our environment. For example, red is a confident, stimulating colour and we associate it with danger, but also excitement. It’s the colour of stop signs as it stands out amongst other colours, and it’s also the colour we choose for a bright lipstick when we want to feel confident and say ‘look at me’. As red is a stimulant, it’s a good colour to paint a dining room (it encourages feelings of hunger), but could also be used in the hallway as it’s warm and inviting.
Blue invokes the opposite feeling - it makes us feel calm and safe. Lots of businesses use blue for their logos as it represents loyalty and stability - have you looked at my logo?. When asked, most of us say that our favourite colour is blue, which might be because it’s the colour of a perfect sky. But when I speak to clients about using blue on their walls, they worry that it will make their rooms feel cold. This can be avoided by choosing a blue with warm undertones - i.e. it has some red or yellow in it.
I chose this shade of blue because it has a strong green undertone, which keeps the room feeling warm and welcoming
|Green, as you might expect, has a calming effect on us because it’s the colour of nature. Depending on the shade you choose, it can be energising (think lime green), harmonious (forest green) or relaxing (a soothing pale green). Green is great for all living spaces, and can be used in the living room, bathroom, bedroom or home office.|
I chose this calming soft green colour for the walls of this room to create a space where you can sit and think
When you start mixing colours together (or use the ones that the paint companies have handily mixed for us) you can create exactly the feeling you’d like in your space. Perhaps you don’t like bright pink (maybe it feels too brash or girly) but a dusky pink could be perfect for your bedroom?
Which brings me on to what I think is the most important thing to consider when choosing colour - how you use the room and how you’d like to feel when in it. One of the first questions I ask my clients during a consultation is ‘how would you like the room to feel?’ If you use the room for relaxing, such as a living room, then choose a colour which feels calm and cosy to you. This is why I think darker colours such as teals and navy blues work so well in a living room. If the room is a kitchen or open plan space it needs to feel inviting but also stimulating, as this is the room we prepare meals and eat our breakfast in. Some form of uplifting yellow would look great and bring a touch of sunshine in.
One final thing to mention which has a huge impact on colour, is the light coming into the room.
Light has a dramatic effect on the way we see colour, in fact the colours we see aren’t in the objects we’re looking at all, but in the light which is reflected back from them to our eyes. You’ve probably noticed that a colour will change as the daylight shifts throughout the day, and the direction the light is coming from (e.g. West, East, South, North) also affects it. South facing rooms will make colours look more yellow, whilst North facing rooms tend to make colours flatter and cooler. East facing rooms get the strong morning light so can take stronger colours, and West facing rooms will have less light in the morning but strong yellow light in the afternoon, so need cooler colours to balance this.
The type of light which is shone on the paint will also greatly change the way we see the colour. This becomes really important when decorating a room - have you ever chosen a paint colour in the DIY store and then got it home and it looks completely different? It’s because the lighting in the shop is mostly artificial, and tends to be bright so we can see what we’re doing. Shop lighting is harsher on colour and will often make it looked washed out, whereas the light in your home is a lot more gentle and will allow you to see the depth or strength of a colour, giving you a truer representation of the shade. But, if you are going to be using your room mostly in the evening (like a living room) then I suggest looking at your chosen colour with the lamps switched on, to see if you still like it.
I chose a pink paint colour with a blue undertone for this kitchen, which balances the yellow light coming from in the South West facing windows
Everyone has a personal response to colour, and one person’s perfect colour would irritate another - there are no right or wrong ways to decorate a room. It’s important to think about shades which you really like, and to try not to get too confused by pictures of gorgeous rooms from Instagram or Pinterest (or by helpful suggestions from our friends and family). As I often say to my clients, it’s your home and you need to enjoy living there.
Welcome to the design blog, where you'll see posts about anything from the projects we are working on, to the latest fabric and wallpaper collections, and all things interiors related. We love colour, pattern, architecture and old buildings, and we love to share our finds with you.
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New National Trust wallpapers
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More pattern joy!
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New colours from Fenwick & Tilbrook
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Out of this world lighting
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Whipping up a storm
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A responsibly made lamp
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Corduroy is cool again
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Colourful, wonderful boucle fabric
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28 Apr 2022
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Morris & Co. X Ben Pentreath
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New fabric collection from Prestigious Textiles
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New reeded glass pendants from Mullan Lighitng
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Little Greene and Bert & May join forces
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Dulux colour of the year - Bright Skies
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It's all about soft yellows
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A Fresh Take - Cardiff Life feature
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An enchanting inaugural wallpaper collection from Tom Baker
26 Nov 2020
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A new shady collaboration between Matthew Williamson and Pooky
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Felt covered curtain poles
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Please vote for my blog
11 Aug 2020
|I'm really thrilled to have been nominated for an Amara Interiors Blog Award this year! If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to vote for me, I'm nominated in the Best Interior Designer Blog category, and you can vote for me here.|
Upcoming interiors trends from Love Rugs
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A new fabric collection from Linwood Fabrics
15 Jun 2020
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An easy way to update your kitchen
16 Apr 2020
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Move over boring taps - colour is the new black
13 Mar 2020
|Colour has been taking over our kitchens and bathrooms for a while now (yay!), and has slowly been creeping into sanitaryware and fittings. These perfectly coloured mint green and pastel pink taps from the new Miami Colour Pop Collection from amazing homeware brand Dowsing & Reynolds are spot on and would look gorgeous in any kitchen or bathroom to add a shot of colour without overwhelming with sugary sweetness. You can learn more about this new collection here.|
Who knew a door stop could look this good?
19 Feb 2020
|Door stops are one of those little annoying things that we all need, but are not the prettiest to look at. Now London based Buster & Punch have turned their attention to the problem and transformed the humble door stop into something cool and covetable. They might cost more than your average one from a DIY store, but as you're going to see it every day, why not look at something beautiful? here.|
Wallpaper made of cork?
29 Oct 2019
|Sustainability and concern for our environment are key in the interiors world right now (as they should be). So when I saw that Monkey Puzzle Tree (a brand I admire for their sense of style and creativity) had produced this wallpaper made of cork, I was blown away. Cork is great for so many reasons - it can be harvested every nine years without harming the tree, is grown without the need for pesticides or fertilisers, has excellent sound and heat insulation properties, and is naturally antimicrobial and antifungal. This wallpaper has an A+ rating for emissions so it creates a healthy environment wherever it is hung. Add to this that the design was produced in collaboration with the talented Drew Millward who lives in my home county of West Yorkshire, and that it's called 'Hit The North', I was bound to fall in love with it. You can buy the wallpaper here.|
I'm in Cardiff Life magazine - again!
17 Sep 2019
Now that the summer is officially over and our thoughts turn to cosying up our homes for winter, I'm here to help. If you're in need of some inspiration, you can read all about the interiors trends for Autumn and how to work them into your home in this month's Cardiff Life magazine. Hear what I and other interiors experts have to say on pages 18-22. You can read the digital version of the magazine here.
I've been nominated for an Amara Interiors blog award!
6 Sep 2019
|Exciting news! My little blog (Design Insider) has been nominated for an Amara Interiors Blog award! I'm so chuffed to be included at all, and not expecting to win, but if you enjoy reading my blog posts then please vote for me. I'm nominated for the Best Interior Designer blog category. Voting is open until the 11th of September and you can vote for me here.|
My kitchen project featured on the Artifact Lighting blog!
1 Aug 2019
When I designed the contemporary copper kitchen, I wanted to use some copper elements to add warmth and also to tone in with the pink walls and pale grey units. I found these pendant lights from a company called Artifact Lighting, and they are perfect because they add to the 'warm glow' I wanted to acheive. They also have a vintage look which contrasts nicely with the sleek look of the kitchen units. When the kitchen was finished I sent some pictures to Artifact Lighting, and they liked the kitchen so much they featured it on the blog page of their website.
You can read the blog page here
House of Hackney's first outdoor fabric
26 Jun 2019
One of my favourite interiors brands, House of Hackney, who are known for their daring and quirky prints, have just released a new fabric which is suitable for our door use. They took one of their designs, Palmeral, and reimagined it in a fresh colour palette of off white and green. This colour fast and water resistant fabric can be used for anything from outdoor cushions to furnishing yachts (if you are lucky enough to have one!)
My thoughts on the colour Living Coral in Cardiff Life Magazine
31 May 2019
|Hear what I and my fellow designers have got to say about Pantone's colour of the year, Living Coral, and how to use it, in this month's Cardiff Life magazine. The article is on pages 84-86, and you can read it here. Do you think you could use it in your home?|
Sustainability in furniture design
7 May 2019
|Sustainability is something that is becoming more and more important in interior design - not just where we buy items from and how far they've travelled to get to us, but also the materials that they are made from. Kartell, one of Italy's best known design brands, have just released the world's first piece of furniture made from a bioplastic called Bio-On. It's a fully sustainable version of one of their best selling items - the Componibili modular unit, and it comes in four delicious pastel shades. They may be 100% sustainable, but they are also super cute and bang on trend with this seasons colours. You can buy them here|
The latest trend in shutters
24 Feb 2019
Forget painted shutters - the new style direction for window shutters is bare wood. These full height shutters made from sustainably sourced ash are the newest product from California Shutters, and are set to be big this year.
My new favourite tile!
7 Feb 2019
I was searching for some tiles for a client's splashback recently and came across these beauties from Topps Tiles. There's long been a trend for patterned tiles, with lots of geometric shapes and bold colours going on, but I've begun to see more and more tiles with a pattern in the surface of the tile itself. These ones are a lovely example, and the deep blue colour is just stunning. To get a closer look at them, follow the link below.
Pantone announce their colour of the year 2019
11 Dec 2018
Leading colour experts Pantone have annouced the shade which they think will be the colour of the year for next year - Coral pink. It might look very bright and scary, but it's actually quite easy to use. I wouldn't suggest painting a whole room in it, as that might be a bit overwhelming, but I would use it in small doses, such as on cushions or in artwork, to liven up a shceme. Pantone say that the colour is meant to 'embrace us with warmth and nourishment and provide comfort and bouyancy in our continually shifting envirnoment', which basically means it's a happy, uplifting colour, and might just cheer us all up!
My work featured on Homify
8 Oct 2018
My work has been featured in an article on Homify - one of the leading online ideas platforms for all things interiors. My project is in an article on how to avoid common mistakes when designing a bedroom. The article mentions how important it is to block out light for a good nights sleep - something I addressed by adding blackout lining to the curtains and adding an extra layer of window dressing with the wooden Venetian blinds. To see the article, please use the link below.