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Eve Mercier’s Design Tips and Tricks: Decorating with Colour

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Tired of always gravitating toward plain old black or white? Inject some colour into your home with expert interior designer Eve Mercier’s Design Tips and Tricks for Decorating with Colour below! 

1. You want to be safe with neutrals. Beware!

Neutrals are “faux-amis”: off-whites, beiges and creams look like they are the easiest tones to use but the wrong combination could end up in your house looking dull and even dirty. Remember that some neutrals like biscuit, sand, tan and camel are yellow in tones, and some like taupe or mushroom contain both grey and brown. Some neutrals have even some bluish and greenish tones. If you mix all these hues together, you will end up in some murky living room.

Play with textures to avoid the “flat beige look”: wood, velvet, linen, silk, bouclé fabric, hand-knotted rugs, etc. Then, add a little bit of something (like you would do to accessorise a dull dress with a piece of statement jewellery) to jazz up your colour palette. I always recommend a little bit of glitz – a touch of bronze or brass, for example – to liven up the scheme.

Diversity of textures and some metallic accents are necessary for a successful neutral palette. 

2. Follow the colour wheel

A small colour wheel is a great reference tool for modifying and intensifying two or more colours. For example, red and green, which are complementary (opposite) colours, are most intense when used together. You may be surprised at how many combinations function beautifully together, and you may even become attracted to entirely new colour palettes.

3. Be careful when buying colour !

Perception of colour is altered by size. Choose one or two tones lighter than the colour you liked on a paint charter to get the effect you want as colour can appear to darken by up to 50% as its viewing area enlarges. Also, think of testing colours on site and at least on two walls (south-facing and north facing) to see the full effect.

4. Accent with colour.

Break a monochromatic beige or grey interior with an accent colour. Try and select a warmer (more toward reds) or cooler (more toward blues) colour to complement your main colour group.

5. Pay Attention to Lighting

  • Remember: natural daylight shows the truest colour
  • Incandescent lighting brings out warm tones and yellows
  • Fluorescent lighting casts a sharp blue tone

Exposure is also very important: north-facing rooms that receive morning light will often benefit from warm colours to take the chill off and make them feel more welcoming. South-facing rooms receive warmer, more golden light as the sun moves around. A room that faces south can feel too warm in the afternoon if decorated in intense, warm colours. Using cooler colours to take the heat off can make an over-sunny room feel comfortable.

A happy yellow colour to warm up a north-facing room.

6. Connect with the outside

By choosing colours that connect with the outside, you make a house feel part of the natural landscape. It also has the effect of making spaces feel larger as the eye is drawn beyond the confines of the room.

A distressed Chai Wan wall just outside Insight school has given Eve the colour palette inspiration for the school pantry nook.

7. Create harmony with colour

In your home, have a thread running through that links one room with the next. Where you can see several rooms at the same time it is particularly important to have a coherent colour palette. Create a visual flow by using the same colour but altering its proportions. Or you can subtly modify its tone or intensity, e.g. a dark shade can give way to lighter ones which in turn give way to greyed ones.

Harmony of greens at a South Hampton house

8. Use colour as a cheat!

I like to paint tricky rooms (awkward angles, sloping ceiling, large beams…) with a very strong colour to create drama and distract the eye from its deficiencies.

An expanse of red in the form of a large painting or a feature wall can create a focal point at one end of a room, diverting attention away from a feature you are not happy with at the other. Saturating a very small space such as a cloakroom in a strong jewel colour looks so dramatic that attention is diverted away from its miniscule proportions.

How to visually enlarge a small peekaboo window with the use of concentric color circles / Office wall at Insight school of Interior Design, Hong Kong.

9. Use fashion as a color inspiration

I like to pick up color combinations that I find particularly beautiful when flicking through fashion magazines and then replicate the fashion palette in my interior projects.

When looking for fabrics and suppliers with a knack for colors I tend to focus on Italian, English, French and Californian suppliers: they always seem to have the best selection.

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A mix of bright bold blue, beiges and a hint of red work beautifully in an interior

10. Get crazy with colour

I like to go a bit crazy with one room on every residential project I design: the cloakroom, the kid’s room, the family room… A house is like a person, it shouldn’t be controlled and restrained all the time! Picking vibrant bold patterns for either fabrics or wallpapers will definitely bring happiness into your home! 


If you’re interested in gaining more interior design tips and tricks, Insight School of Interior Design offers full-time or part-time courses (1-day courses, 3-month certificates or 1-year diplomas). Find out more information here.

Main image sourced via Pinterest, image #2 sourced via Pinterest, image #3 sourced via Pinterest, image #4 sourced via Pinterest

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