In this extract from her latest book, Everything, designer Abigail Ahern shares her tips to empower you to be fearless with your decor choices and choose colour schemes with confidence… whatever your style
RICH COLOURS AND INTRIGUING TEXTURES MAKE FOR TWO TANTALISING SCHEMES AT THE HOME OF DESIGNER ABIGAIL AHERN. IMAGES: GRAHAM ATKINS-HUGHES
Colour is the single most transformative, game-changing trick you can perform. Get it right and it lifts your spirits and your energy levels. Get it wrong and it instantly makes you run for the hills! I am so drawn to the notion of surrounding yourself with colours that you love. Colours that aren’t necessarily on trend, hot or cool, but instead resonate with the heart.
1. Start by asking yourself how you want to feel in your space. Calm and relaxed? Lively with a bit of contrast? Snug perhaps? Harmonious? I, for instance, adore deep, inky bottom-of-the-lake hues. Hushed, deeply saturated tones that are intense, timeless and sophisticated. Earthy, deeply complex colours that are impactful as they exaggerate cosiness, giving me a home I never what to leave. BUT place me in a Wes Anderson-esque candyfloss pink interior and I’ll be reaching for the whisky in next to no time!
2. My biggest tip when selecting a colour palette is to make it personal. If you can, try to think outside of the box rather than playing it safe, as your room will be far more tantalising. Playing it safe results in rooms that read as visually flat and uninspiring.
VIBRANT POPS OF COLOUR AT THE FORMER HOME OF INTERIOR DESIGNER SOPHIE ASHBY, FOUNDER OF STUDIO ASHBY. IMAGE: ALEXANDER JAMES, STYLING BY OLIVIA GREGORY
3. Shop your own clothing – it will instantly tell you which colours you gravitate towards. As Coco Chanel so succinctly put it, “The best colour in the world is the one that looks good on you.” Your wardrobe makes a great starting point; if I look at mine it’s peppered with full-on noirs, toffees, pink-brown undertones, with some neutrals – all the same colours that I’ve used throughout my home.
Colour is the single most transformative, game-changing trick you can perform.
4. Once you’ve happened upon a selection you like, try to limit the number of hues in a room – ideally no more than three, possibly four. Repeat these colours throughout, it will give your space extra kudos and make the scheme read as far more cohesive. Echo the colours in rugs, vases and lamps. This will create instant harmony, balance and cohesion.
(LEFT) LARGE EXPANSES OF COLOUR MAKE A STATEMENT AT THE PARIS HOME OF INTERIOR DESIGNER SANDRA BENHAMOU. IMAGE: GAELLE LE BOULICAUT; (RIGHT) BRIGHT BURSTS OF COLOUR ENERGISE THIS DINING SPACE. IMAGE: GRAHAM ATKINS-HUGHES
5. Colours create a visual story, so if your space feels too predictable and too repetitive, fix it by adding in a handful of colours that have nothing to do with the palette. This will infuse the space with life.
Shop your own clothing – it will instantly tell you which colours you gravitate towards.
6. Start by introducing colour in the smallest of ways, like in a vase, a throw, or some candles. It will elevate, uplift and pack a visual punch. The more confident you get, the bigger and bolder you can take it. Until you’ve dabbled you have no idea how life-changing it can really be. It makes you feel, braver, bolder and more kick-ass in your approach to life and to living – promise!
7. You want to create connection between rooms or areas, so as you transition through the space, rooms are not a series of snapshots or a jumbly mess of stuff with a hodge-podge of different colours going on. Start with the room you spend the most time in, like the living room, and then co-ordinate, harmonise and blend out from there. Create simple harmonies between rooms, relating them to one another. You don’t have to make them the same colour, just make sure you are creating this subconscious feeling of continuity.
(LEFT) BOLD COLOURS ARE ANCHORED BY TEXTURAL NEUTRALS AT THE HOME OF INTERIOR STYLIST THEO-BERT POT IN THE NETHERLANDS (RIGHT) EARTHY COLOURS ARE COMPLEMENTED BY NATURAL MATERIALS IN THIS CHARMING LIVING ROOM COME STUDY. IMAGES: GRAHAM ATKINS-HUGHES
8. When choosing colour schemes for your home bear in mind that complementary colour schemes tend to make a room feel more crisp and arresting and analogous ones more relaxing.
Neutrals have magical powers – they can freshen up a space, or dial it down and they always look polished, sophisticated and welcoming.
9. If everything feels too OTT in a space, befriend neutrals. Neutrals have magical powers – they can freshen up a space, or dial it down and they always look polished, sophisticated and welcoming.
10. The biggest way that I can help you when it comes to choosing colour is to advise you to follow your heart. Ditch restrictions, banish hidden voices like ‘Can your small room take a dark hue?’ (Yes it can). ‘Can a south-facing room be painted in a warm hue?’ (Yes it can). Follow your heart and not your head and don’t discuss it with anybody.
Extract taken from Everything: A Maximalist Style Guide by Abigail Ahern, published by Pavilion. Buy it now.
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