ROOM COLOUR – a conversation with author Belinda Corani
Why did you write the book?
I wrote this book because I wanted a simple way for clients and developers to lift all their own room colour ideas out of their heads and into their homes and properties – preferably in a tried and tested way.
Over the years I’ve been asked so many times about my own room colour ideas, how I choose my colours, how to decide how many colours to use and which shades to go for. So I decided it would be good to write this information down to be able to give this information to anyone that asks – builders, developers and future and past clients; just to have an idea of how to go about using colour for their homes, developments and offices. It’s not exhaustive – in fact I have a new list of colours to add to it for the next version. It’s never ending!
So what you want people to get out of the book?
What I’m hoping people will get out of the book is a method; a clear method for them to follow with ease. I wanted to make it very much like a textbook. Something they can work through, something that they can keep on their shelves and refer to it, no matter what property they are living in or decorating.
It’s a beginner’s guide. It’s not for those that want to know about pigments and historical colour although I do touch on those things to give some context to the colours you are seeing. Paint is visual – although it’s actually quite mood changing and therapeutic as well – but the first thing you notice in a room is the colour. I’m hoping this book will make people think about colour in a more accepting way.
Have we all become too beige?!
We have, but I think that is a sign of the times. I mean you only have to look in ‘home magazines’ out today to see that most of the rooms are painted in a whole range of neutral colours and people have added in colour with cushions or throws.
Sometimes you need large expanses of colour, whether that is a bright blue or a very pale green… an expanse of colour on walls is very uplifting, not to mention very individual and unique.
I happen to think that most people would try a colour on their walls if they weren’t so afraid of what their friends and family would say. I often say to clients ‘if you want to try a colour let’s try it, we can always paint over it. It is just paint after all!’
That often makes them feel a lot better and it allows them to be creative, if you like, so they can show their true colours.
Tell me about your room colour ideas and the palettes in the book….
This was the most creative part of the book, understandably. Digging into my archives to find my tried and trusted colour schemes was a real flash back to my past. I’d forgotten so many fabulous schemes that I dreamt up! When you’re thinking of room colour ideas and all that that entails, it’s easy it become overwhelmed and confused. I wanted to make the process simpler.
In the book, I show you a photograph of a particular room colour, followed by an explanation of that colour and how it is shown in the photograph. Below that are two palettes that you can use, using that base colour, just in case you need inspirational help when choosing your scheme.
I’ve tried to incorporate one ‘lighter’ palette scheme with the specific colour and one ‘darker’ one if you’re feeling moodier! Some colours work better with a lighter palette of course, but it’s a good idea to take a look at a darker tones for something with a bit more depth.
The further beauty of these palettes is that you don’t have to use them all. You can use all four colours or just two. You can always mix and match and add on any extra colours that you need to. I’ve tried to make it as easy as possible.
Can you just get the electronic version instead of cluttering up your bookcase?
Yes that was an idea that I thought might be helpful to people, especially those that don’t have that much space for that matter. Those space limited people may well want the electronic version but if you do want the hard copy then Amazon will print this for you. You can pick up other decorating things from my Resource page as well, should you need them.
I just hope this book makes it as easy for everyone else as it is for me to order paint. It’s something that I arrange for some of my decorators now and I also order paint in for clients when they are undertaking minor repairs or touch ups around the house.
It’s definitely something I wanted to mention in the book to make it easy for people to order paint – rather than make the dreaded trip to the DIY shop or local paint shop. Getting the colour mixed up, paying in the shop and then carting the whole lot out to the car can be a bind – far better to have it delivered to your home or clients house ahead of time along with any other bits you need.
You talk about daylight quite a bit in the book..
Yes and that’s because it is crucial when choosing a paint colour. Your eye naturally tells you when a colour looks and works well in a room but it’s nice to know that it’s your eye working with the natural source of light. And that’s why I devote a section to it. It’s to help you understand what daylight does.
Most don’t realise it, but it is something that most designers, if not all designers, look at when they are looking at paint colour for a room. Most people do consider daylight, but don’t use it as a method when they are choosing paint colour for the home.
They put paint on the wall and then look at it in different light but few know the effects that light during certain times of the day can affect the paint you have on the walls and woodwork. When you’re looking at room colour ideas for your own home, you need to sample, then let the paint dry and see it settle into the different lights throughout the day. Paint behaves quite differently from the morning to the night.
So much so that you have produced idea sheets for people to make the daylight choices easier..
Yes! This is because I know that people have little time and if they can just see what direction their room is facing (and by that, I mean what direction the light is coming into a room via the window), then they could just look down a list of colours and get the right one for them without even thinking about it.
So, if you decided on painting your room a green – an olive green shall we say. And you have a window in this room that is facing north east, then you can look down the chart and find the exact make of paint and colour that you can use. In this case, it’s Wild Olive by Fired Earth.
That’s the beauty of it. Property developers can use it as well as family households. The work is done for you. Who has time to deliberate over this shade and that tint? – so if your room faces south east and you really want a pale yellow room – this cheat sheet will tell you what colour – it’ll tell you what brand and colour to go for.
Then you can go and order it and not waste time pouring over paint charts. No one has time for this, least of all builders, decorators, developers or busy parents!
The same for woodwork?
Yes, even more so – woodwork is always forgotten about. Incredible really as it frames so much of the house and has to withstand knocks and grazes. Actually, painting woodwork is one of my pet loves. You see it a lot in bars and restaurants – often a good use of colour is added onto woodwork to promote brand colours and to help with practicalities. But in residential, not so much. If a client still wants to go for a pale neutral on the woodwork that perfectly acceptable, I’ll use a warm cream – something like Whitening by Little Greene – such a fabulous colour!
‘Whitening’ isn’t white?
No! It’s a warm but light cream – subtle but the colour is there. A really nice colour to use on woodwork – doors, architraves and skirtings.
The thing that most people recognise is that there is such a breadth of colour, even in neutrals – all those tones, shades, tints and hues…where do you start?! HOW do you start!
I’m glad you mentioned all those terms – I can’t keep up with them!
Oh I know! What’s a tone? What’s a shade? How is that different to a tint? – Yes it’s endless isn’t it?! Put simply, from the colour spectrum you can choose a colour – let’s say blue, and then by adding either white or black you make ‘blue’ lighter or darker. Make it darker and you make a ‘shade’ of a colour. Make it lighter and you make it a ‘tint’.
Tones are different as they have had both black and white added to them in the form of GREY. This has ‘toned them down’. Made them grubbier if you see what I mean.
Hues are from the main basic colours. So Lemon is a hue of Yellow. Hues are quite simple really! It’s the tones that freak everyone out!
How on earth did you learn this? What is your background?
Well, I started off as an image consultant many years ago, a stylist if you will, so I am well versed in colour and tone. I took to interiors easily after clients asked me to sort out their homes as well as their wardrobes! It was a natural progression I think. At least it was for me.
Now I manage entire properties – choosing the wardrobe, installing it and managing what goes in it. Funny really!
What is your advice when choosing room colour?
Think bold! For too long, we’ve been told to ‘go neutral’ and ‘play it safe’. Using colour should be a joy and you don’t have to choose searing yellow to make a statement.
Sometimes it’s just making a change of woodwork colour that can make all the difference. Sometimes people start painting their front door and then realise that they don’t want to stop adding colour to their home. I see that a lot. Often it’s children that point the way. Girls choosing green over pink and boys opting for purple over blue.
You just never know what way children are going to go. Adults are far more cautious. They worry about what their friends are going to say!
We see a lot of bright colours on chimney breasts or alcoves. Feature walls etc. Has that trend now ended do you think?
No and it won’t end for most people for some time to come. If you’re going to paint a feature wall, keep it simple. You’ve got to live with this for a protracted period of time, remember, so adding feature walls is something that a) needs to work over many months, b) wear well (in terms of practicality) and c) be something that will blend well with your current furniture, curtains and flooring.
Two feature walls can actually be a winning combination of paint and paper of course. All sorts of wonderful combinations can be created by making that effort to explore all the options.
How about wood panelling with wall paper? Framing the wallpaper been done before but how about reversing that? Paper the walls, use a colour paint on the woodwork and then place artwork on the painted backdrop.
Brand Colour or colour matching – is it ever a good idea?
Colour matching (matching a well known paint colour from an expensive brand and buying that colour in less expensive paint) is a fantastic idea – although paint houses will tell you different!
Never have I had a client, a decorator or another designer walk into one of my projects and comment “I can tell you haven’t used ‘X brand’ of paint”. Colour is colour. There may be variables but by and large, it’s the finish of paint that people notice, not whether you have used an expensive brand.
Having said this, there are paint houses that do paint extremely well. I have become a big fan of Little Greene over the years and I am not on a commission to say that. It’s simply gives good coverage in a wide range of colours and is not expensive.
I have used those ‘one coat only’ paints from most home DIY stores and they are not worth your time and money. They are poorly made and quite frankly you rely on your decorator (or you!) painting quite a thick layer of paint on the walls – and keeping this even – instead of building the colour over two or three coats. So I wouldn’t advise those.
Is there a good time of year to paint?
It’s always a good time for painting but convention says to do it when it’s spring or summer when it’s warmer and the paint will dry faster. There has the added bonus that windows can be opened to reduce the odour of paint, although it’s a smell that I quite like!.
But I wouldn’t discount decorating just after Christmas as often decorators have a slow start to the year as most refurbishments start in the Spring. You can pick up some great bargains from decorators during January.
Do you have any best practices when painting?
One of my pet hates is when people don’t take off window latches, locks, door knobs for cleaning when they are painting. It’s a false economy as it means that they have to protect the ironmongery and miss bits of the woodwork due to masking tape leaving the often dirty and marked door and window furniture looking terrible on newly painted surfaces. It brings the whole result down.
The most important thing for any painting project is protection for the flooring. I may as well emphasise this as it seems that people don’t realise that any kind of refurbishment involves dust and lots of it.
Dust sheets will help but what you really want is a self adhesive floor protector that comes in a roll and your decorator will put down before the paint even enters the room. Moving about and around a room means that work shoes and boots move fabric dust sheets from their place, leaving the floor unprotected and a potential trip hazzard for your workmen.
Something like ‘roll and stroll’ is perfect for the job.
For extra protection for floors (tiles and carpets) Correx can be a good alternative. For wooden staircases and any prolonged building works, wood ply can and should be used. It gives you and the workmen peace of mind when carrying out heavy duty refurbishment. You have to remember that as a designer you need to care just as much about the property as the client does.
How do you feel about painting ceilings a different colour?
I’m all for them! It’s funny how people forget about ceilings but are so concerned with lighting, when the two things work together. Of course you can go for the normal ‘white’ but actually adding a yellow tint can freshen the room and a pink tint can make it warmer – especially in those northern lit rooms.
I was interested to see that there is a Question & Answer section in the book. Why is that there?
Essentially because I saw there was a need for clients to ask me or my decorators certain questions. What is the difference between gloss and eggshell? Why does my bathroom cost the same as my sitting room? All those types of questions.
I could have listed a hundred questions actually but I’ve kept to the most asked questions. My decorators laughed and started adding their own in. It made for a really interesting conversation.
Will you do an updated version?
Yes certainly! There are so many more room colour ideas that I could tell you as well as individual colours to explain, I just ran out of time. Happily anyone is welcome to ask me what colours I would suggest over at the website. Just get in touch!