Transform Interiors With Colour

Follow our expert advice on how to choose the right interior paint colours for your home

Paint swatches on a wall in a lounge room

Use paint swatches to see what a shade will look like in your room

Forget what you’ve always believed about paint and start bringing your home to life.

When it comes to buying paint for the interior of our homes, most of us look longingly at the bright swatches yet leave with a few tins of off-white. Neutrals work with everything, right?

Interior designer and Taubmans ambassador Shaynna Blaze says no.

‘Neutrals have their place, but on every wall and in every house, the only effect is boring,’ says Shaynna.

‘Creams, beiges and off-whites homogenise the decor and don’t make the most of the beautiful things you have, be it furniture, art or textiles. For a really liveable, comfortable home that makes you feel good every time you open the door, integrating colour is essential.’

We are all naturally attracted to certain colours but fear of making a mistake often stops us applying the shades we love to our walls.

Shaynna says that to create a colourful interior you just need to understand a few simple rules.

Think like a designer

Take the time to learn these three principles of design and you’ll be well on your way to understanding the basics of colour coordination for a fearless approach to trying it at home.

Mood and feeling

‘Mood is the number one consideration when choosing colour,’ says Shaynna.

‘The mood of the room includes the function, the location, where the natural light comes from and where it goes. And also the effect certain colours have on the way the room feels, and how you feel in it.

‘Start with these elements and note how you want the room to feel. Then work with your natural inclination towards certain colours to pick two or three tones of a shade you like.’

Style of the home

Both the architecture of the home and the style of your furnishings come into play during the paint selection process.

Shaynna says, ‘Working against a strong architectural style takes confidence and practice. Work in harmony with it for a pleasing result.

‘Looking to established colour schemes from past eras always works. Bring it all together and up-to-date with pops of a contrasting colour.’

Shaynna says, ‘I think that the colour of this room is really working around the furniture. The timber and shapes have a colonial feel, and this green works with the period and also the narrative, one of adventure and safaris. To stop it looking staid and old-fashioned, the green is yellow-based rather than blue, making it sunnier and more vibrant, and there’s a sense of fun in the art.’

green lounge room with colonial style furniture
This green shade exudes a classic, colonial feel

Flow between rooms

The way the room connects to other rooms and light sources has to be considered.

‘Any room with a door that closes can take an independent colour scheme. But open-plan living spaces, arches, hallways and interlinking spaces need a connection through colour,’ says Shaynna.

What’s outside also impacts on the tone a scheme should take. If your windows look onto greenery, choose a shade with a green undertone.

Selecting the right paint swatch 

Worrying that what’s in the tin will look different on the wall is a realistic concern, but advances in colour technology have taken much of the guesswork out of the selection process.

When colours were made of natural pigments, choice was limited. Now, the base colour can be altered and adjusted by fractional margins to create an exact tone.

‘It’s the undertones that have left people undone in the past. A colour changes dramatically depending on the underlying tint,’ says Shaynna.

‘The new colour cards from Taubmans were designed with exactly this in mind and are grouped in base tones, so each shade with the same base will blend harmoniously.’

The colour of the paint will look different again under overhead or lamp light. Incandescent and halogen lights will warm up reds and yellows while muting blues and greens.

Fluorescent and cool-toned energy saving bulbs enhance blues and green tones but flatten reds and yellows.

Keep in mind this also applies to the undertone, not just the surface colour. Test your colour in artificial light by painting a large canvas.

colour wheel
A colour wheel can help you make a decision on what shade to choose
 

Use a colour wheel 

You might not have seen one since school, but a basic colour wheel is invaluable for a beginner to understand the interplay of colour. Think about:

  • Contrasting colours sit on opposite sides of the wheel and while these colours complement each other, like the purple and yellow of an iris flower, they also make a dramatic statement. Used on large areas, the effect is energising and stimulating.
  • Tonal colours sit next to and near each other on the colour wheel, making them harmonious. Working within a tonal scheme creates a look and feel that enhances tranquillity and restfulness.

Test colours online 

Experimenting with the colour on the wall is no longer necessary, as so many online tools give you the ability to see how different treatments work. Most paint companies also have colour specialists who are available to advise and inspire.

Shaynna advises taking the furnishings into account when picking out an accent colour from an artwork. ‘If you have an amazing piece of art, the wall colour should be the tone of a dominant colour in the art.

‘In both photos, the art stands out as the main feature, but the way the furniture works with it makes the difference. A bold wall would force distinctive and bright furniture like the sofa forward, making it compete with the art and both would end up losing.

‘If what is paired with the artwork is neutral, like the timber table and white accents, the wall can be strong because the furniture isn’t competing.’

Casual dining room with a purple wall
Contrasting colours can work together if matched up correctly


Even with exactly the same setting, the colour of the wall can make a dramatic difference, according to Shaynna.

‘The strong grey wall works to bring all the bright elements together without any overwhelming the other. The art stands out, the room looks coordinated without being too overdone and the bold colours are calmed.’

With a neutral background, the effect is lost and confused and the eye can’t identify where to rest.

‘It doesn’t look unified and the reds and yellows take on too much strength and dominate, when the intention of these bright additions is to highlight and make a point of contrast,’ says Shaynna.

lounge room with neutral walls and red artwork The room looks coordinated without being overbearing
 

Wall colour ideas

Turquoise 

Shaynna says, ‘This turquoise blue is great for a dining area or any space that you want to use to bring people together. It’s a happy and uplifting colour and most people respond well to this shade. It sidesteps the very restful qualities of some blues and instead has a strength that stimulates conversation and upbeat engagement.’

turquoise walls in dining room with white artwork and furniture
This turquoise shade is uplifting and stimulating

Mint green 

Shaynna says, ‘For me, the light mint green that’s used here is a great example of matching the colour to the architecture. This beautiful room with the high ceilings and decorative plasterwork harks back to another era and the effect is well resolved by the colour choice. It also works because the room opens out onto a garden area that casts a green hue.’

Dining room with light mint green walls and white furniture
Use a green shade in a room which looks out onto a garden

Dark blue 

Shaynna says, ‘I know that dark blue may be the last colour most people would choose for a nursery, but it works in this room for a number of reasons. This shade is very restful and helps create a dark environment both day and night for a baby to sleep.

And a small room like a nursery can be made to look bigger by making the walls disappear with a dark shade.’

Nursery with dark blue walls and white furniture
A dark shade in a nursery can make the walls seem to disappear and therefore extend the space 

Red

Shaynna says, ‘Red is not a colour that’s usually recommended for bedrooms as it’s too forceful and energetic, but it works here because the red, which is really more of a raspberry, has a grey undertone. The grey base means it can be matched with neutrals and even pastels, so the whole effect is calmed down while retaining the romantic and passionate qualities of red.’ 

Bedroom with red walls, red wallpaper and white ceiling Red works best if the shade has a neutral base, which will calm it down

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