October 1, 2012

Setting the tone in the home

Those subtle hues – cool or warm – are key to creating colours that work


Colour expert Maria Killam says the right mix of hues can transform your home — and make you happier. “The combination of the right colours is what makes you happy every time you walk in the door,” says the Colour Me Happy blogger, adding: “When you get your colours wrong, they bug you every day.” Surprisingly, eye-popping yellows, dramatic purples or bold blues aren’t necessarily the worst colour culprits. Pick the wrong neutral and you’ve got yourself a big decorating no-no.

Every neutral, or subtle shade, has its own unique undertone, either on the warm or cool side of things. This is easy to spot in some cases, like in a warm beige or cool grey, but other times it can be tricky. Tints get layered and mixed so it can be tough to tell or even notice a neutral’s true undertone. Too many undertones or the wrong one can make a room seem off, she says. “That’s my big message to the world – understand undertones,” says Killam, who’ll be expanding on this and more at the upcoming Vancouver Home + Design Show at BC Place, along with several celebrities, including HGTV’s Bryan Baeumler and Jillian Harris.

In her talk at the design show — 10 Ways to Love the Home You’re In, Using Colour — she’ll help people detect and correct mismatched hues. “This includes how to make the best of the finishes you inherited — as well as avoiding some of the biggest mistakes homeowners make when choosing finishes and colour,” she says. Consider the colours you have in your home’s “fixed elements,” she says, like flooring, countertops, appliances and so on. Are they cool tints or warm? How many undertones are there in the space? “Undertones have to work together,” says Killam, adding you shouldn’t have more than two undertones per room.

Once you’ve assessed your home in this way, you’ll be able to start picking out shades that work well together. “Colour is especially important to incorporate with all the neutral greys we’re seeing. Grey all on its own is debilitating,” she says. “It needs colour to make it look its best. And it’s important not to get stuck decorating your entire house from top to bottom in the current, trendy neutral of the moment.” In a pinch, try changing some of the accessories around your home to tie different tones together.

“This sounds obvious and has been said over and over, but the quickest — easiest and cheapest — fix is adding throw pillows to your sofa,” she says. “Three or four pillows in colours that coordinate with your space will instantly freshen it.” The right hues set the tone for your life, she says.

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