One of the most critical choices to make when creating a new space or giving an old one a facelift, is the selection of a colour palette. As with design in general, there are no rules, but getting the tonal balance right is essential for any colour scheme to work.

From House and Home magazine: keeping it fresh.

From House and Home magazine: keeping it fresh.

I’m a huge champion of playing with colour, experiencing colour that energizes, calms,  inspires and makes you smile. What is the point of living or working in a space that doesn’t make you feel great, empowered and “you”? If your room is small, you don’t need to reject rich deep colour, but there are a few tricks to how you use it and where so that you don’t feel the walls closing in on you (unless that is your intention).

Neutral palette with draperies and cabinetry lending a grounding darker hue.

Neutral palette with draperies and case goods grounding in darker accents.

And you don’t have to avoid white or lighter tints if designing a very large, open space although you’ll want to break up a pale background to make the space feel comfortable.

I prepare individual colour palettes as I would brand a business. Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 6.07.53 PMI think about a selection of hues, tints and tones that describe the person’s personality and the functionality of the space. Begin by asking yourself where and when you feel most comfortable in your own skin. Walking through a forest? Walking the concrete pathways of a big city? In your red sports car? Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 6.08.33 PMWhen you wear that amazing blue dress or slip on those red violet shoes? Often colours that suit us best and in which we feel most comfortable work best in our personal spaces. Before considering fabric patterns or deciding on a high contrast or soothing monotone design scheme, consider your reaction to colours. We associate colours with places, people and feelings.

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Saturated, rich hues here are designed to highlight the sectional.

It’s how we use colour, the exact shades and tints, clear or muted, rich or almost transparent, that makes the difference between a room that feels flat and one that has dimension and interest.

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Still blue and yellow hues, but subtle and closer in tone so the walls and sectional are equally highlighted.

Generally, bright clear colours used in a high contrast design scheme trigger action and energy, whereas a subdued, sensitive analogous colour scheme will provide a calming environment.

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Logic underpins the combining of patterns based on a colour theme. I love combining patterns and solids in soft furnishings because they bring interest and dimension to a space and it’s their common elements and hues that allow them to read well together.


Colour, along with light, play a huge part in creating mood and atmosphere. The most basic criteria to consider when selecting a palette, after what you naturally prefer, is what the space is used for and by whom. Neutrals are colours too. Neutral tones often provide a much needed  ground for more vibrant colours. On walls, architectural elements and large furniture pieces, neutrals give the eye a break and bridge more saturated, rich colours. Or the reverse, where they define the shape of a room dramatically, allowing neutral elements to have a colourful background. Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 5.13.42 PMDepending on whether you opt for a cool or warm colour palette, the right neutral needs to be used so it doesn’t fight with the rest of the room. If you are dealing with structures in a space that are not changeable, care needs to be taken to coordinate soft furnishings, paint and paper, and furniture with those elements. The colours you choose will either cause the non-changeable elements to fade into the room (analogous colour scheme) or stand out (higher contrast, perhaps triadic or opposition colour schemes).

Many people prefer a white kitchen because we associate white with cleanliness, but an amazing array of colourful tiles and countertops allow us to personalize the space while highlighting the white. Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 6.12.19 PMImagine a bright, light filled room with fresh greens and calming blues, or a cozy, warm corner that invites you to curl up with a book. Or, as pictured here, a red walled kitchen that is warm and welcoming. And, lest you think all ceilings must be white, shake it up a bit with a softer shade of the wall colour or another hue to bring contrast, height or mood into the room. I found my signature wall, baseboard and moulding recipe and have stuck to it for years: a soft, pale complex warm hue for the walls with creamy baseboard and upper moulding in a tint that subtly tips to that hue. As the two colours have the tiniest of tone separation between them,  the accent trim colour reads as a white giving a crisp, finished look.