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Does colour really count? Emily Peck from Achica Living guest blogs...

Freelance journalist Emily Peck takes a closer look at jewel-like colours fit for a queen

Tricia Guild’s book ‘A Certain Style, Colour, Pattern and Space: An innovative approach’ is adorned with such vibrant colour, the front cover alone makes me smile. Every page is a delight too, with bold palettes used in each of her designs for New York City lofts to French Chateaus…

Browsing through Tricia Guild’s stunning book got me thinking about the psychology of colour and the part it plays in our homes and in our general wellbeing. It’s a no brainer that waking up to see that spring has sprung and your garden is filled with freshly bloomed flowers is uplifting after a long cold winter, right? But then, using the wrong colour inside our homes - painting the bedroom walls a ghastly oyster pink, for example - can make us feel uneasy.

But does colour really affect how we feel and exactly how do these colours change our mood? Is there any evidence? I recently interviewed designer and self-confessed ‘colourholic’ Laura Slack of Places and Spaces www.placesandspaces.comwho made an interesting observation:

‘When someone comes into my shop and are choosing furniture it’s fascinating to see that they pick something in a shade of the colour they’re wearing,’ she said. ‘I think it’s so ingrained in our lives that we all respond to colour whether we realise it or not.’

Tricia Guild has an innovative approach and her designs are packed with juicy bursts of vibrant colour and pattern to inspire and stimulate. ‘Colour, a subject that I find totally fascinating, adds its own vocabulary with shades of the same palette, tones of neutrals, contrasts, accents, texture and much more, lending personality and vitality,’ she says.

The beauty of Tricia’s approach is that, as well as using bold colour in modern settings, she brings traditional properties to life with bright, contrasting colours too, which work with, rather against, the architecture. In her book, she notes that strong colour is not often used in period properties anymore: ‘It’s easy to feel overawed by original features such as old paneling and plasterwork and think we should somehow ‘respect’ them by not using too much colour,’ she states. ‘And yet there is actually a long tradition of using very bright colour in such places. In particular, Georgian houses in Ireland and Greek Revival houses in the southern states of America.’   


In this French country chateau (pictured ) Tricia Guild uses pink silk damask, gold-printed flowers, turquoise velvet and lilac stripes in ways that pick up and accentuate the original charm of the building.


As well as using plain fabrics, she mixes colour in pattern and luxury materials to add further interest, with crystal pendants hanging from the lights to send glittering rainbows into every corner. ‘In this room, the curtains are upholstered using the three key colours that will be continued elsewhere: a shimmering pink silk velvet for the button-back armchair and different silks and satins for the seats and backs of a pair of junkshop antique chairs,’ she states. ‘Pretty beaded cushions in lime and turquoise complete the scene. Though contrasting shades, they are all the same tonal range in terms of intensity, which helps them sit together well.’

Another industry insider with a deep interest in this subject is Louise Smith, the global colour expert at Dulux. 

 BLUE has the power to soothe, so it’s not surprising that it’s a popular for bedrooms. It’s also said to extend our sense of time and increase productivity, so it’s an excellent colour for offices. But not every blue shade is positive; when applied to large areas, deep blue can appear cold.’

Interestingly, YELLOW has become the most dominant trend colour for 2010/11 and its popularity looks set to continue during these difficult financial times due to its warm and cheery nature.

‘As the most visible colour in the spectrum, strong yellows can be too intense for large areas so use sparingly,’ says Louise.

‘It works well in small bathrooms. GREEN is said to alleviate negative feelings and stress, which is why many theatres have a ‘green room’ - a place that helps performers control anxiety and remember their lines, while shades of RED can make surfaces look nearer, so if you want to feel cosy in a large space with high ceilings, using red makes perfect sense. Bauhaus painter and designer Johannes Itten (1888-1967) discovered: People estimated that the temperature in a room painted red was some 6 degrees centigrade higher than the temperature in a blue room, when in reality, the temperature was exactly the same.’ 


Either way, juicy colour is certainly a smokin’ hot trend this year and played an important part at London Design Week 2011: picture ‘a tempting bag of Haribo sweets, not New Wave’ the trendsetters told me. My teenage ‘goth years’ have long gone and these days I’m all for embracing colour - no doubt I’ll be taking all this on board, with Tricia Guild’s book to hand, when I redecorate this summer….  

Tricia Guild’s latest book A Certain Style: Colour, Pattern and Space, An innovative approach is published by Quadrille (£40, hardback)


Emily Peck  www.emilypeck.co.uk is a freelance journalist who has written for a range of lifestyle magazines including Woman&Home, Stuff, Channel 4 Homes, Ideal Home, Real Homes and Grand Designs. She’s also Editor of the ACHICA Living blog, which brings you ideas and inspiration for your home, garden and lifestyle www.achicaliving.com


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