Colour swatches for interior designers

We are often oblivious to the many factors which are involved in creating successful internal spaces. Particularly in terms of the colour palette specified. Interior Designers have many influences, both obvious and complex, which play a key role when deciding on colour.

Before it is experienced on site, notions of colour have already been defined by many external and internal forces. Context of site, landscape and history as well as the initial project brief begin to inform colour and material choices. There are also theories informed by psychology that determine why some colours are more suited to a space than others based on our emotional and sensory reactions to colour. Designers also strive to continue to explore different ways of using and experimenting with colour and use market forces and trends to inform these decisions.

In celebration of International Colour Day on the 21st of March. and to better understand the colour selection process, we sat down with Principal Interior Designer, Charlotte Kennedy and Interior Designer, Giordana Vizzari and discussed how the experience of colour in a space is constructed.

Which factors inform your ultimate decision on colour?

G: Often it’s a combination of things. The brief, the context of the site and the message or purpose of the space amongst many other things. If we are looking to pay homage to the memory of a building or space, that will immediately inform our choice. As does the brief and our client. Often branding or researching into what our client does immediately starts to form a colour palette for us to work from.

C: The function of a space can also dictate what colours we use or if there is colour at all. For example, in an art gallery you would showcase the artwork by limiting the colour in the gallery space. In this context, the emphasis would be on building materials and lighting as the artwork is the focus. Sometimes colour can present itself in other forms naturally. This is done in environments where a direct indoor and outdoor connection is the focal point. In spaces like this the landscape outside will be the colour, and everything else will be secondary to that.

Are there any rules in colour selection?

C: The rules are that there are no rules. A confident designer should never constrain themselves with those sorts of boundaries. There is no right or wrong when it comes to colour. Everyone has their personal preference. I think that providing you specify with purpose and conviction, the design will be successful. There are obvious market forces and trends that can inform what we do but by no means are they rules.

G: As well as trends as Charlotte mentioned, there are also rules of ‘psychology’ that can give meanings to colours, however there is no concrete evidence to suggest that for example ‘blue is always calming’ and ‘red is always stimulating or passionate’ in the context of interior design and using these colours will not necessarily mean the design is successful. By all means, use colour psychology to inform your choice but you shouldn’t be inhibited by it. Another thing to note is that colour isn’t just about paint or furniture. It can present itself in the natural building material, through texture or through plants. It can come from anywhere.

How are colour trends formed?

G: There are a variety of forces at play when you think about colour trends. Many of the suppliers we work with specially employ designers who seek out trends in fashion, art, music, society and culture and develop colour stories or theories that result in a new and edited palette. This means that by the time we see a new or interesting colour popping up as a trend, there has already been a level of influence behind it.

C: Some of our interiors team recently attended a talk by Dulux, who release a new range of colours each season. Dulux explained that they’ll often collaborate with designers in other disciplines such as fashion designers, Karen Walker or Camilla Franks to put a colour palette together that will inspire their own range. Whilst they aren’t architects or Interior designers, these people are well versed in colour, so it makes sense that their ideas and principles can be translated into other forms such as paint.

G: Fabric companies do this also. With Kvadrat Maharam collaborating with designers like Paul Smith and Scholten & Baijings, working with them to develop certain new colour ranges. Without even realising, these designers have some influence on our choices and even though our design concepts dictate the colour palette, we constantly have new trends to inspire us.

What’s an example of your favourite use of colour in architecture and design?

C: Currently Hames Sharley is working on the Scarborough Surf Lifesaving Club. This interior really exemplifies everything we’ve talked about. Using materials that respond to our brief but also including colours that are new and contemporary. A mixture of raw blockwork and exposed copper services juxtaposes well with a pale green feature tile to create an impactful design that is also going to stand the test of time.

G: I am always a fan of architecture that is not afraid to use colour but is very purposeful in its execution. I think a good example of this is the architecture style of Palm Springs in California, USA. Colour used in this particular built environment is well considered and paired perfectly with the clean lines of a lot of the modernist architecture in the area. It also references and compliments its surrounding landscape by picking up all its interesting colours without being overly literal. The use of colour in this area is so successful that it still informs trends in fashion, lifestyle, architecture and interior design today.

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