Using Colour, Pattern and Texture

After redesigning the house layout and reorganizing each room, the next task is to start planning the colour schemes. To do this successfully, it helps to understand the basics of colour and how to use pattern and texture to get the full effect. When putting a colour scheme together, a device called the colour wheel can be used to help plan the various decorative effects.

All colours are made by mixing together varying proportions of the three primary colours — red, yellow and blue. Mixing them in pairs creates three new secondary colours, with red and yellow making orange, yellow and blue making green, and blue and red making violet. Imagine these six colours making up segments of a circle in the order red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. Mix adjacent pairs together again, and you create six tertiary colours — red/orange, orange/yellow, yellow/green, green/blue, blue/violet and violet/red. Adding these to the circle gives the basic colour wheel of twelve segments.

There is one more ingredient to add to these colours: colour intensity or tone. By adding different amounts of white or black, you can produce lighter or darker shades of the original colours in almost infinite variety. And you can also, of course, use white, black and varying shades of grey as colours in their own right.

On the wheel, the 12 colours split into two groups. The colours from violet/red round to yellow are known as advancing colours because they appear to make wall and ceiling surfaces look nearer to the viewer than they really are. They make a room seem warm and welcoming, but also smaller. The remaining colours are known as receding colours because they have the opposite visual effect, making a room look cool, and also larger than in reality. Which group is chosen as the basis for a colour scheme depends on the overall effect that is desired in that particular room.

The colour wheel also helps to create colour harmony or contrast. Colours next to or near each other are said to be in colour harmony, giving restful effect. However, too much colour harmony can become visually rather dull; it needs livening up with some elements of colour contrast, which come from using colours at opposite sides of the wheel. Colours exactly opposite each other, such as red and green, arc called complementary.

Colour intensity (tone) can also play tricks on the eye, which can be used to good effect in colour scheming. Deep colours rend to bring walls inwards, and light colours give the illusion of pushing them away from you. A light colour will make a small area seem larger, while a deep colour will do the opposite. You should also hear in mind the proportions of your room.

If you have, for example, a room with a high ceiling, you can create the effect of more harmonious proportions by dividing the walls in half horizontally, and painting the top half and the ceiling in a darker colour. This will make the ceiling appear lower. Following the same principle, a low ceiling can be made to appear higher by painting the top half of the walls in alight colour, which is advantageous in a small room.

Using pattern

Patterns on walls, ceilings and floors add visual interest to a colour scheme either in harmony with the overall effect or to provide contrast example, by having a patterned covering on one wall, and the rest painted. Pattern as well as colour can cheat the eye and alter the apparent dimensions of a room. Wall coverings with a distinct horizontal pattern make walls seem wider and ceilings lower; strong vertical designs such as stripes have the opposite effect. The same applies to patterns on floor coverings, which can make a room look wider or narrower depending on which way the pattern clement runs.

Pattern size has its own contribution10 make. Wall and floor coverings with large pattern motifs make the surface seem to advance and so make the room appear smaller, while tiny motifs have the opposite effect of making the surface appear to recede from the eye. Choosing patterned fabrics for cushions, curtains and drapes or bed linen is an ideal way of enlivening a decor with plain walls and woodwork.

Using texture

Surface texture — in other words, a surface that is not completely smooth —helps to add variety and visual interest to your colour schemes. Wall coverings with a textured or embossed surface generally have a comparatively low relief which helps to soften the decorative effect of the material, while texture paints can be used to create effects that have quite a high relief and consequently look particularly striking when lit from the side. Textured finishes also have another benefit, of helping to disguise slightly irregular wall and ceiling surfaces.