Lifestyled by Paula Joye

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October 2nd, 2012

Decorating With Colour.


When we visited Lousie Bell from Table Tonic’s house (if you missed it, that was silly, here it is: Making Colour Cool (Part One) ) one of things we loved the most was how she uses colour in all spaces of her life – home, wardrobe, food.

So who better to ask for the best Do’s, Don’ts, Never’s for making colour work in your world and how to take  it from looking circus to feeling cool.

WARNING: This post will make you want to redecorate and shop. A lot.

What are your do’s & don’ts for decorating with colour?
DO: Use the 60-30-10 rule: Take a look at some rooms in magazines or on blogs/websites. You’ll notice that the rooms you like the most are almost invariably divided into percentages of 60-30-10. Why this works isn’t entirely clear, but it seems to be a ratio that pleases the human eye greatly. So when decorating a particular room, divide the colours into percentages: 60% of a dominant colour, 30% of a secondary colour, 10% of an “accent” colour. Translated to a room setting, it typically means: 60% of the room’s colour is the walls, 30% of the room’s colour is the upholstery and 10% of the room’s colour is, say, an accent piece or a floral arrangement. 

DON’T: While a mixture of colours can be beautiful, too many or the wrong shades together can be disastrous. Follow a tried and true colour scheme (monochromatic/complementary), and stick with the 60-30-10 rule to create the perfect palette. Don’t assume that a colour that looks great on someone else’s walls will work on yours. Your friend’s bedroom may be the perfect shade of blue… for her house. But as much as you love how it looks on her walls, it may not look the same on yours. Some rooms receive more light than others, or are narrower or have higher ceilings. All of these factors and more can affect the way a single colour of paint looks on different walls.

DO: Take your cue from Mother Nature (a great colourist!) – Choose darker colours for the floor (ground), medium values of colour for the walls (trees and mountains) and light values of colour for the ceiling (sky). If you divide your colours from dark to light as you decorate “vertically” in the room, you’ll get an interior that looks good every time. 

Do you have a particular colour palette you like to work with?
I tend to gravitate towards “clean” colours more than anything else – pure yellow/turquoise/pink/green as opposed to muted or dull/dirty colours like olive green, terracotta or mustard.

Do you feel certain colours create different moods within a space?
Yes! Our house has splashes of yellow in the main area and the vibe is definitely a happy one. Our bedroom is mainly blues and turquoises, which I always find calming to walk into.

What colours do you feel are on trend this season?
I would find it hard to single out one (or even a few), but colour in general is where it’s at right now. Although many houses lend themselves to whites and beiges, the introduction of colour (the brighter the better!) instantly brings it up to date and on trend. 

What’s your advice for avoiding an overload of colour in your home? Or is there no such thing?
My advice to the bulk of people would be stick to one colour, or a colour “family” (blues/greens, yellows/oranges etc). Neutrals (beiges/whites/metallics) don’t count. But I don’t see anything wrong with having different “accent” colours in each room, even visually adjacent ones. 

Are there any colours you recommend avoiding in certain areas of the home?
No, not at all. And on that note, Mr Tonic and I are psyching up for a pink kitchen when we renovate our 1950s house… 

Can you suggest simple ways to incorporate colour into living spaces?
Vases, cushions, even books in certain colours are all great ways to start introducing colour. Our Table Tonic Moroccan Leather Pouffes are a perfect way to add a solid hit of colour into any room! My advice is to always try and tie a few (at least two or three is ideal) things in the room together with colour – paintings, cushions, rugs… Designer Mark McCauley, author of Color Therapy at Home: Real Life Solutions for Adding Color to Your Life, suggests you choose a colour scheme from the largest pattern in the space. “If you’ve got patterned upholstery, an Oriental rug or large piece of artwork, pluck colours you like from the pattern. For a neutral wall paint colour, look to the pattern’s whites and beiges”.

What are the biggest mistakes people make with colour in their home?
1. They paint first. You can buy paint in every colour under the sun. In fact, you can have paint mixed in any imaginable colour you might want. Choose fabrics, carpet, and upholstery first.

2. They choose paint from a paint chip. A small chip of a paint sample might look great in the paint store. But a whole wall of it might be overpowering. When you’ve decided on a colour, buy a sample pot and paint a small area to see how the colour looks in natural light. If you don’t want to mess up the walls, paint a piece of cardboard and tape it on the walls in the room where you plan to use the colour.

3. They decide on colours in a shop. Never buy fabric, flooring, or paint on your first visit. Ask for samples of paint and carpet and swatches of fabric so you can see what they look like in your home. Check them out in natural light and in the evening with lamps.

4. They make their favourite colour the main colour. If you love turquoise, you don’t have to choose it for your walls. Instead, choose a more subtle shade to provide a background that will let items in your favorite colour really “pop.”

What’s your advice for creating a cohesive look between your home’s style and your favourite colours? Which one is more important to pay homage to?
There’s no reason your favourite colours can’t work with your home’s style (and the two are very often mutual). Even if your home has a coastal vibe for example and your favourite colour is pink, blending the two is ultimately revealing your personality. But I do think settling on a style or vibe should always come first – what kind of look are you trying to achieve (retro, minimal, beachy, glam etc)? From there, the colours will guide you, to a degree.

What’s your advice for working different textures and patterns into your home?
Different patterns and textures will always look harmonious if the colour (or colour family) is considered. On our (beige corduroy) sofa, we have green chevron Ikat cushions, tropical palm tree cushions, chocolate and beige zebra print cushions and a cream/charcoal Moroccan Berber rug (all from Table Tonic). Although there is a lot going on, the green/beige/brown holds it together and also ties it in with the garden, visible through the large windows.

The Shop.

Louise recently opened her first ever retail space which has extended her online offering. The shop itself is an explosion of fabulousness – you need to visit multiple times to see everything in it – here’s a snap shot.

Table Tonic –  Shop 6, 20 Avalon Parade, Avalon NSW. Open Tuesday – Saturday, 10a.m – 4p.m.; 0414 508 473.

Photographer: Erin O’Sullivan

  • Anna

    Ooh! She has my sofa! I hope having this in common makes me a little stylish.


    Thanks for the warning! You are ABSOLUTELY right – the post has made me want to shop like MAD! :) Gorgeous snaps!

  • Claire

    Is that painted polished concrete in the living room? It looks amazing!

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