Inexpensive and easy to change, it’s one of the most versatile elements in an interior design. The colour on your walls can make a big statement and yet is one of the simplest solutions when you want to update or change your space on a modest budget.
The sheer volume of possibility can be daunting. There are hundreds of paints on the market, and with so much choice it can be hard to know what works and what doesn’t. Does it come down to personal preference or design rules?
The truth is it’s a combination of both. Our take on colour is highly personal – decisions about colours we love and loathe are made early in life, often without our consciously realising. It makes little sense to paint your walls colours you don’t enjoy, however having an understanding of how colour works can go a long way to making sure you create a comfortable space that’s a pleasure to live in.
The most effective way to use colour is to tailor it to the space. Do you use the room more often in the morning or at night? Is it a private space, like an office or a bathroom, or is it a busy family area, like the kitchen or a playroom?
Light has a tremendous impact on colour, so take natural light into consideration. Think about which direction the room faces – the same colour can appear completely different from room to room based on its size, shape and direction.
South-facing rooms tend to be the most versatile because they get the best quality of light. North-facing rooms take more planning as it’s more difficult to make them seem bright.
Bolder dramatic colours tend to work well for less-used spaces such as the hallway. And while white might seem a practical choice to brighten a small, dark bathroom, choosing richer tones will create a more calming, welcoming effect. In spaces without much natural light, lean towards warmer tones or deeper colours that can help foster a sense of intimacy, particularly in a small space.
Paint can also help bring the room’s features forward. Skirting, cornicing, ceilings and floorboards can all be painted and will give a different effect depending on what you choose. Coloured walls with white woodwork gives a classic, traditional look while light or wallpapered walls with dark skirting give a more decorated feel.
In general, dark colours pull walls closer while lighter colours help push them back. You can create the illusion of symmetry in a long, narrow space by painting the furthest wall a dark colour, pulling it forward. In contrast, by using the same or similar colour for walls, skirting and ceiling you can help erase the distinction between walls and ceiling, making the space seem bigger.
01.Choosing your paint
The type of surface you are painting and the kind of finish you are looking to achieve will dictate the kind of paint you choose. When it comes to painting interior walls there are four main types of paint finish:
Matt or flat finish
This kind of paint has the least amount of sheen and creates a rich, chalky feel and great depth of colour. It is also particularly effective for covering uneven or rough surfaces. However, matt finishes are less easily wiped down and so are less suitable for areas such as the kitchen.
Eggshell paints have more gloss that matt paints but still offer a soft finish that is more durable and so better for higher traffic areas.
Semi-gloss paints bounce more light and so work well in smaller spaces. Semi-gloss also works well on woodwork and in areas such as kitchens as it can be easily wiped.
Often reserved for windows, doors and trimming, this has a hard-wearing finish that can be easily cleaned, High-gloss can also be used to create a contemporary interior look but can also highlight flaws on walls.
02.Choosing paint colours
What looks good in store may not translate at home, so narrow your search to a range of colours to test before you make your final decision.
Study the undertones of the colour and compare that against the natural light in your room – cool undertones work in south-facing spaces with lots of natural light, but can feel cold and unwelcoming in rooms that are north-facing.
Use the rest of your room as inspiration to guide you in the right direction. Pulling colours and tones from fabrics, for example, is a simple way to make sure your paint colours will be in harmony with the rest of the space.
Once you’ve selected a handful of colours, it’s time to test them. Instead of painting a patch directly on the wall, try this trick instead: paint each colour onto one or two sheets of A4 paper. That way, you can move it around the room and see how the colour looks in different light and at different times a day. Light has a tremendous impact on our perception of colour, and doing this can help avoid any surprises when you paint the entire room.
The final important consideration is paint finish, and this will vary from room to room. Matt finishes are flat, and hide wall imperfections, while gloss finishes are more dramatic and do a better job at reflecting light. An eggshell finish is smooth and will help to create a seamless finish between walls and woodwork, particularly if you’re painting everything the same colour.
When beginning an interior project it’s important to ensure you have everything you need so that the process runs smoothly and so calculating the right amount of paint for the job is key. Firstly calculate your wall space by multiplying their height by their width. Subtract any window or door space from this number and then multiply your number the coats of paint required.
One litre of average interior paint will cover around 13 square metres, so divide your final number by 13 to find the total amount of paint required. Be sure to check tin or brand website, as different types and finishes of paint can offer different levels of coverage. Remember to buy a little extra paint to allow for touch ups too.