Articles - Interior Design

Utilising colour theory in interior design

18th September 2018

Never underestimate the persuasive power of colour! Colours have the ability to change our moods, transform spaces, and reflect our personalities, so don't rush into selecting a palette for your home.

Interior design experts have spent years studying the relationships between colours and their effect on human emotion. For those of you who don’t have time to master the subtle ways of tints and shades, here are few tips and tricks to help you understand colour theory and unlock its secrets!

Contrasting and complementary colours:

It’s all about yin and yang.

If you’re bored of neutrals and monochromatic styles, creating a contrasting colour scheme is a sure-fire way to inject a room with vibrancy and energy whilst keeping it balanced. To add that wow factor to any room, embrace complementary colours that sit on opposite ends of the colour wheel e.g. blue and orange, purple and yellow.   

The key to keeping your contrasting colours from being overwhelming is to maintain the correct proportions. Stick to three main colours and use the time honoured 60-30-10 rule: your base colour should make up 60% of the total scheme, your secondary colour 30% and your third accent colour, just 10%.


Choose carefully. Colours are loaded with symbolic power and studies have shown that they can influence our mood, shifting the ways we think, feel and behave. There is a reason that hospitals tend to be painted in light blues and greens! These cool colours tend to have a calming effect, while orange paint is a favourite in children's wards due to its uplifting quality.

To help you get an idea, here’s a quick rundown of what our favourite colours have to say:

Green – The colour of nature and wealth is said to be the most restful on the eye. Greens are all about a sense of growth, and are a great way to connect a space to the outdoors and project an atmosphere of abundance.

Blue – Said to lower blood pressure, blues are ideal for creating serene and relaxing spaces in the bathroom and bedroom.

Yellow – The colour of joy and sunshine, yellow can brighten up a room and your mood at the same time. It works well with nurseries, bedrooms and living spaces, creating a feeling of expansion.

Red  – Ooh la la, the colour of romance, passion, and heat! A splash of deep red will raise energy levels and can be equally suited to the master bedroom and kitchen.

Dominant and Recessive Colours:

Ever wonder why some colours really POP, whilst others don’t look quite right? It’s not simply a matter of personal preference - it’s science!

It all comes down to understanding dominant and recessive colours. Dominant colours, like primary, secondary and highly saturated pigments, will always be the most powerful and will remain pure when paired against other colours. Recessive colours are softer tones that tend to fade into the background, absorbing the character of the stronger colours around them.

When used well, pairing dominant and recessive colours can be used as an effective tool to create focal points in the room, create the illusion of depth and space, or draw attention to statement pieces. Keeping these colours balanced is also vital to tying a room together visually, and ensuring you don’t have too many dominant colours competing for attention, which can create a sense of stress. Think in terms of foreground and background: furniture, walls or decor that you want to push forward should be dominant, whilst items you wish to blend or push backwards should be recessive.

The Takeaways

If all of this is a tad too technical for you, stick to these key takeaways from scientific studies: Research has shown that pastels like pale green, lilac and blue are likely to elicit a feeling of calm, while bright tones such as orange, yellow and pink have a more upbeat and excitable effect.

While you may be tempted to create a lot of dark contrast with tones like charcoal, studies have shown this can make individuals feel sad, while also making a room appear smaller.

Bold colours are best chosen in areas where you’d like to make an impact, but you don’t necessarily spend all your time around, such as your entrance or powder room.

Colours come in endless varieties, shades and tints, so try not to get overwhelmed and don’t be afraid to experiment and inject your personality into the mix. At the end of the day, your home is where you spend the majority of your time, and what matters most is that you feel great in your surroundings.

See what works, trust your gut and get colourful!