COLOUR THEORY: NOTES FROM A TALK BY SIMON HUTCHINSON
This week I had the great pleasure to attend a talk by Simon Hutchinson, Little Greene's Bespoke Colour Consultant, at Relics of Witney. It was so fun to spend time with other people who love interiors and colour as much as I do and there was lots of comparing notes, design ideas, and colour questions. Simon is a delightfully engaging speaker and is obviously both talented and
passionate about his subject. He spoke on colour theory and I thought I would blog my notes from the talk in case it's helpful to anyone. (Disclaimer: anything in here that is nonsense will be down to my misunderstanding!)
Le Corbusier, the Swiss-French architect and designer, talked about two types of colour: dynamic and constructive. Dynamic colours were rich, synthetic pigments which invoked a more emotional response. Constructive colours were natural pigments and earth tones which worked with and enhanced the architecture.
(This pdf is a interesting and helpful overview of Le Corbusier's colour concepts, if you're keen to read more.)
When you're choosing colours for your home, you need to decide if you want to focus on enhancing the architecture and alter the feeling of space or if you want it to be a more emotional experience. (This isn't to say that a bright colour can't enhance architecture or that an earth tone can't be emotional but in general.)
Another thing to think about is receding and advancing colours. Do you want your space to feel bigger or to create a cosy feel? Generally cool colours, such as blues, greens, cool greys, are receding colours meaning that they will make your space feel larger. Warm colours, such as yellows and reds, tend to be advancing colours which will make your space feel warm and snug.
Simon had six main points to think about when it comes to decorating your home.
- Look at the house as a whole
It's important to create a full house palette if you want your home to feel cohesive. That doesn't mean that everything needs to match but it does mean that you'll need a thread running through the home which connects one room to another. One example of this is to use the colour you have on the walls in one room in some furnishings in another. Simon used the analogy of a good album not just being a collection of songs but songs which make sense in reference to each other.
- Colour is relative to what's already there
The same colour on different backgrounds looks very different which is important to think about
when it comes to paint samples (more later) but also with regards to the colours you have in your furnishings.
- Changes in tone
Keep a sense of movement in your home using both light and dark colours. If everything is the same tone, the space can feel quite flat. Simon talked about the perfect kitchen having a light tone, a mid tone, and a dark tone. So if you have dark cabinets, maybe pick a mid toned worktop and a light toned wall colour. Or if you have light cabinets, perhaps go for a dark worktop and a mid toned wall.
Another example was the feeling you get when you walk from a hallway into another room. If the hallway is light and the other room is dark, the other room will feel so much more cosy and impactful because you've come from a light space. And equally, if you move from dark room to a lighter one, the lighter will feel much larger and more airy because of the contrast.
- Work from what you can't change
Pretty much what it says on the tin. If you can't change your carpet, make sure your choices work with the colour of the carpet. If you don't, you'll end up with a space that doesn't make much visual sense.
- Think about your accent wall
If you're going to have an accent wall, make sure you do it correctly and appropriately. Make sure that it has some relevance. Ask yourself, 'Why am I painting this wall in particular?'
- Paint proper samples
Given that colour is relative, if you paint a tiny splodge of a sample of paint onto an already coloured wall, you have very little chance of seeing the real colour of the sample. Paint as big a sample as you can, preferably floor to ceiling and that way you'll be able to see the real colour much better. Simon has a photo of a colour sample he painted in his own home on Instagram.
Finally, Instagram is great for finding interiors that you love but try to adapt what you see and be inspired by it rather creating a carbon copy in your own home. Use inspiration, don't copy.
However, the most important thing is that your house is your home. Think about how the colours you choose are going to make you feel. It doesn't matter if the space is technically perfect, will you want to spend your time there and will you feel comfortable in it?
Enjoy colour and use it!
Follow Simon on Instagram for more colour tips.
For those who want to know more about colour, Simon recommended a book - The Anatomy of Colour by Patrick Baty.* Book review coming soon!