Mad About . . .

Anatomy of a Beautiful Room

6th February 2023
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Well we had a weekend of the sitting room feeling lovely and done and spacious and now it’s about to be filled with the kitchen as work starts at the back of the house. This week the upstairs bathroom will be finished so we can decommission the mould-filled shower room downstairs and start to plan that. The utility room has already been ripped out – the requisite leak from the roof terrace upstairs discovered and will be dealt with and the illegal boiler will be removed, replaced and relocated at the end of the week. So the kitchen will move into the back of the sitting room as we commence six weeks of camping. Which means this week we are going to look at one room in more detail rather than several.

And here it is:

image by @mariavous

image by @mariavous 

This dropped on the feed of the ex Elle Decoration writer Amy Moorea Wong, who now lives in Vietnam and posts a delicous range of interior shots that often follow a theme. This came at the tail end of her lilac phase. Now at first glance you might think it’s too bright, there are too many colours and too much going on but let’s look at it in detail and also remember that you can take parts of it. No-one should copy a room wholesale (they do but they shouldn’t) as your size, light and features will all vary.

Now if I wasn’t heaving boxes around and converting my desk into a makeshift cooking area I would isolate these colours for you and show you how they all fit together. But you’re going to just have to look at them yourselves to see that they are all, in fact, from the same muted palette. The key is the mustard yellow table top, the soft red base and the dark emerald and chocolate chairs. This is essentially a spectrum of pink and yellow taken to extremes with the blue rug acting as the disrupter.

Now how, you may ask, do you make sure it’s all coming from the same palette and that’s often about using the same paint company for a whole scheme. All the Farrow & Ball colours have a dollop of grey in them. All the Little Greene and Paint & Paper are slightly muddier shades so you can mix a red with a pink and a blue and it will all work. The danger is if you pick most of the colours from here and then throw in a clean pastel Dulux. That might jar. Unless you really know what you are doing and feel supremely confident. I’m guessing most of us want a little handholding when using this many colours.

The easy option, when using a varied palette like this might have been to keep the walls to an off white shade and while that would have worked (a bit more Jonathan Adler in feel) it would have looked quite different – more modern – if that’s your thing. By picking a plaster pink the other colours all lead off it. Personally I would have gone a shade or two paler but that’s the point – you get to look at this and work out how you could apply it.

Otherwise the colours all work indvidually with the walls – red and pink, green and pink, mustard and pink, tonal burgundy and pink, and blue and pink – all classic combinations. The key is that they have all been used and built out. So you could pick, one, two or even three to build your own room.

If this feels too much, I would hazard a guess that it’s because it’s a series of plain colours – aka colourblocking – which is more intense. Choosing and using a fabric that incorporated all them at once would feel much less bold because it would be in smaller quantities.

And that’s another way to approach a scheme. Find a piece of fabric that you adore, really adore, and pull out all the colours within it. Then apply the 60, 30, 10 rules. Sixty percent of one colour on the largest area – walls and floor (here the natural wooden floor tones). Then go to 30 per cent for the next colour – here the designer has played with tones of one colour within that 30 per cent so you have the pale pink sofa, the burgundy sideboard and the red table. Like I said it takes confidence but, hopefully, breaking it down like this allows you to see how it can work for you.

Lastly the 10 per cent is the green and blue of the chair and rug  – again same spectrum but broken into two distinct colours.

If you’re still unsure then think of it as an outfit. Your largest piece of clothing – trousers, skirt or dress. Then you will add a top – even two if it’s a cold day (!) and maybe a scarf. Finally you will need shoes, a bag and perhaps a pair of earrings. Rather than ordering in paint and fabric samples and finding it hard to see how they will work in a large scale room why not play with your wardrobe. Lay clothes on the bed and start mixing and matching and see where you get to. At the very least you might have a new outfit to wear next time you go out.

I hope that has helped. I’m off to wrap glasses and continuing the ever moving game of moving boxes from one place to another. Hopefully on Wednesday I will be able to show you the nearly finished bathroom and the plans for the shower room.


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  • contexto 24th February 2023 at 4:29 am

    Sorry but I don’t find this room as beautiful as you say. Everything in the room doesn’t fit together and looks messy.

  • Kate 23rd February 2023 at 8:23 am

    Esta habitación no me parece muy tranquila, no me sentiría a gusto con tanto eclecticismo, sobre todo por la falta de un tema de color común, demasiado caos. Creo que tiene que gustarte.

  • CC 9th February 2023 at 7:36 am

    To me, this room looks clever but not comfortable.

  • Saphia 8th February 2023 at 10:02 pm

    Love the colour lesson. I’m a neutral kinda gal but I love how this image made me feel, especially now you have explained how this combo of block colours have been. Happy box moving.

  • Jean Garcia 8th February 2023 at 10:17 am

    I think the room looks perfect as it is in the photograph. The touch of color adds a bit of joy to the otherwise a little boring room (in my opinion). Thank you for sharing these lovely ideas and congratulations on your excellent good taste.

  • Lou 7th February 2023 at 10:39 pm

    For my eye, the parts that clang are the white, white ceiling and what seems to be a whole window wall of blinding whiteness. If that was quietened down with some warmer tones then I could rest easy.

  • Chris 7th February 2023 at 10:31 am

    I love this room, it works. I would never have chosen these colours because I would have thought that they wouldn’t. Strangely what seems to draw it all together is the two colours in the vase , it works so well on top of the table.

  • Vanessa 7th February 2023 at 1:38 am

    This strikes me as a lovely room that’s been ruined by the tones on that table. It might be designer and fashionable but it just doesn’t work at all here.

  • Suzanne 6th February 2023 at 2:04 pm

    A great lesson, I think, but I just don’t see it. I love colour, and I get the point about a fabric with all dis colours, but big blocks like this just don’t work for me. Good luck with the box shuffle this week. ❄️🇨🇦❄️

  • Miriam 6th February 2023 at 1:44 pm

    This is a really interesting room – it challenges me to like it as on first glance I can’t see the harmony and the blue feels off. But then without the blue it feels too tonal to me! And if i mentally remove any other colour it also doesn’t quite work! I think I’m going to keep coming back to this image – I like that it’s asking me questions.

  • Lenore Taylor 6th February 2023 at 11:19 am

    Sorry, I don’t see it. The only thing I like about this room is the wall colour. Oh, and the cornices. Cheers from Canada!

  • Lorna 6th February 2023 at 10:56 am

    I believe that designer furniture is more durable and sustainable than mass-produced furniture, which makes it a more responsible and ecological option.

  • Lucy 6th February 2023 at 8:49 am

    I love your explanation of how the room makes sense. I miss this kind of talk on the podcast too. You and Sophie are brilliant at it!

  • Maire Doran 6th February 2023 at 8:49 am

    I feel like this started off well – the walls, floor, cabinets, light fitting then someone else moved in with their own stuff!!

  • Joanna Pearson 6th February 2023 at 8:02 am

    I really like this room. I think the unsung bare floorboards really play their part too. Thank you for sharing Kate & for picking a room that you can really unpick ( if you get my drift ) .

  • Nikki 6th February 2023 at 7:59 am

    I think I can see this working for all of these colours together bar the yellow table top and vase, which just seemed to jar and are not of the same shade range as the others.

    • Tracy 6th February 2023 at 9:16 am

      Agree with you, (even tho I love mustard yellow). Agree also with Kate’s suggestion of sightly paler walls as here they just look too beige to me.
      But like she says, take what works for you!

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