The Language of Colour
Reds, pinks, oranges and yellows - all the colours associated with sunshine. These colours also create a warm and welcoming atmosphere in the home. Colours from this side of the colour wheel will make a large room appear smaller, or brighten a room that does not receive much sunlight. When planning a warm colour scheme a point to remember is the closer your chosen colour is to a 'warm' primary red or yellow the stronger it is. It is difficult to live with large amounts of these colours and it is wise to choose a softer colour e.g. pink, peach or primrose and utilise stronger colours as accents in your scheme.
The opposite side of the colour wheel consists of greens, blue-greens and blues. The colours of shady forests and cool water or azure skies. If you want your scheme to have a cool calm atmosphere then select these colours. Cool colours appear further away than warm colours and make a small room appear more spacious. Take care when using cool colours in a room facing away from daylight, the scheme may appear too bleak. In a room where there is a lot of natural light most cool colours will be fine without the room appearing too cold.
If you want to give a room a brighter appearance use a contrasting colour scheme, these are opposite each other on the colour wheel, for example red and green or blue and orange. These are known as complementary colours because they intensify each other and the scheme is vibrant. However, do not use contrasting colours in equal amounts because they will compete with each other, so choose one colour as the dominant colour.
You can choose two, three or even four colours that lie side by side on the colour wheel and be confident that they will combine well in your scheme because they are closely related. Examples of harmonious colours are: pink, apricot, peach and gold or clear blues, blue-green, aqua and green. There is a common theme between one colour and the next so they work together well.
These are pure colours that have been lightened with a large amount of white. Examples are: red lightened with white = pink, pure yellow would become lemon and orange would become apricot. Pastels are known as ice-cream colours and are always fashionable because they are pretty and have a fresh look. Pastels blend nicely with lighter ranges of muted colours and both with modern and traditional style interiors. Any pastel colour will coordinate with another, even opposites on the colour wheel because they all contain the common element of white.
Subtle and Muted colours
Pure colours darkened by adding grey or black are known as 'shades' or 'muted' colours. There are also more subtle colours made up of a mixture of two or more pure colours, for example orange with a small amount of blue. Other examples of colours in this range are mustard yellow, plum, mulberry or blackberry. Muted colours have a cosy feel of autumn about them and because they contain an element of black look striking teamed with black accents. To prevent a scheme appearing too heavy it is advisable to add accents of brighter colours.
Neutrals range from white to creams, beiges, tans and browns or from pale silver grey to black. These colours are great for creating an overall neutral scheme or combining with more definite colours. Inspiration for these colours comes from natures earth colours and they are easy to live with and are a perfect background for featured items of furniture or pictures.
When choosing a colour scheme it is important to consider the range of tones. Tone describes the lightness or darkness of a colour - pink, red and maroon = light, medium and dark tones. A scheme that contains only light and dark tones can look disjointed so it is important to include some mid-tones to make the colour scheme flow. By using a range of tones in your chosen colours a room scheme becomes more satisfying to the eye.
Small touches of bright and contrasting colours can bring a scheme together. Most colour schemes, especially if they are based on neutrals will benefit from the use of an accent colour. A scheme that is monochrome (predominantly one colour) will benefit from a few accents for added interest. These can be selected by using the colour wheel, select a colour from the side opposite the dominant colour in your scheme. If a scheme is based on pattern printed in several colours it is more effective to select one colour and go for a brighter or more intense version of that colour.