You know, of course, the saying that for every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction? Actually maybe I only know that because I have a 15yo studying physics GCSE, but, that aside, it’s happening in interior design at the moment.
Over the last few years we have become much more confident as a nation with colour. Yes, we have always been good at wallpaper in that classic English country way, but colour on walls and furniture was not generally regarded as the norm. We chose, instead, safe colours, which we reassured ourselves were classic and, therefore, designed to last. Then came grey. Now, love it or hate it, I think grey marked a move towards more confident colour choices generally. Once we had ditched the cream in favour of one of 500 shades of grey, suddenly we were open to all the colours.
Dark grey (aka Down Pipe) was swiftly followed by navy blue, forest green and latterly burgundy and chocolate. Then came millennial pink – now widely regarded as a neutral in its own right. DFS announced that sales of yellow sofas were up 595 per cent (summer 2018). Pale pink and dark green became one of the most ubiquitous colour combinations on instagram (guilty as charged) and suddenly our walls were swathed in shades from mustard to cobalt, terracotta and emerald and we didn’t stop at the walls. Ceilings got in on the act too (guilty again but I’m not the only one) as well as woodwork.
That traditional patterned sofa didn’t sit against a tasteful pale wall as they had in the past, but made a statement against a bright colour, with more patterns and colours layered over in the cushions.
But then came the reaction. On the other side of the coin there is a quiet step back towards the pale neutrals. They are warm and calm and less flamboyant than their bright cousins. There are, as you might expect, two schools of thought: one that all that colour is a reaction to the austerity of the grey years, the other than when the outside world is so busy and stressy that we need a calm retreat to come home to.
Or course it doesn’t matter which side of the fence you sit on. I tend to perch on the top with a leg either side. We don’t need to fight about it as there is no right or wrong, but today I wanted to look at some of those restful neutrals. They’re not for everyone. But nor is all that colour. The key is to look at the rooms featured here and gauge your reaction.
Don’t look for opinions on taste but measure, instead, your heart rate. Is it relaxed or racing? Stimulated or stifled? Inspiring or irritating? That is always the key factor in determining the right colour for a room. The next step is to decide if the reaction you have had is the appropriate one for that room. No point setting the heart racing before you climb into bed to read your book and a sitting room meant for relaxing needs a colour scheme that evokes those feelings not one that’s going to energise you.
These rooms are all gorgeous and quiet and pale. Even these two bedrooms from Pearl Lowe’s house (which I didn’t include in her house tour last week) are light colours with dark accents. The two top rooms, from The Modern House, are painted in a soft chalky white with lots of natural wood and, crucially, plants and I’m going to be talking more about biophilic design in the next few weeks – in other words connecting our interiors to the nature outside to improve our well-being.
And where else do you find all versions of pink and green than outside in the garden? No wonder it’s so popular at the moment. Of course you have to find the right versions of each shade for you. There will be no neon or emerald for me but the pale, blousey pink of a peony teamed with dark forest wins me round every time.
These next two rooms are from a new development at Holland Park Villas and while magnolia became known as builder’s beige for a reason, these spaces are far from the bland spaces of the 80s. Dark wood and plants sit alongside lots of textures and textiles to create rooms that feel restful and luxurious.
Be generous with your curtain material, add darker shades of chocolate, terracotta and saffron to your pale background to give it a bit of welly, and if the views from your windows aren’t green then bring some greenery in in pots or vases.
This room might be too modern for many of you and some will find it dull, but this is about your reaction to a space remember. I’m not sure about the wooden shutters, but look instead at the curving furniture which looks comfortable and inviting and see if how it makes you feel.
Now, no post on pale neutrals would be complete without a visit to Bianca Hall’s north London home. She was painting pale pink walls before most of us had heard of millennial. She was in and out of navy blue while the rest of us were just contemplating grey and she created these two rooms last year. She has recently been showing her instagram followers all the different colours she used before she found these soothing colours and it’s fascinating to see (I have highlighted her instagram if you don’t already follow).
This sideboard, before you ask was a plain cupboard from Ikea that she hacked by adding the panels. So brilliantly has she done it that a visiting houses editor from a glossy magazine remarked: “Jonathan Adler I presume,” on seeing it.
She doesn’t blog that often – too busy painting – but there is a tutorial on the sideboard here should you wish to try something similar. And, once again, although it’s completely different to my own house I find these pale walls with the pink chair and natural rug very calming and restful.
So where do you stand on this subject? All the colour or all the pales? Join the debate below.