Anatomy of a Beautiful Room – Mad About The House

Well we had a weekend of the sitting room feeling lovely and done and spacious and now it’s about to be filled with the kitchen as work starts at the back of the house. This week the upstairs bathroom will be finished so we can decommission the mould-filled shower room downstairs and start to plan that. The utility room has already been ripped out – the requisite leak from the roof terrace upstairs discovered and will be dealt with and the illegal boiler will be removed, replaced and relocated at the end of the week. So the kitchen will move into the back of the sitting room as we commence six weeks of camping. Which means this week we are going to look at one room in more detail rather than several.

And here it is:

image by @mariavous

image by @mariavous 

This dropped on the feed of the ex Elle Decoration writer Amy Moorea Wong, who now lives in Vietnam and posts a delicous range of interior shots that often follow a theme. This came at the tail end of her lilac phase. Now at first glance you might think it’s too bright, there are too many colours and too much going on but let’s look at it in detail and also remember that you can take parts of it. No-one should copy a room wholesale (they do but they shouldn’t) as your size, light and features will all vary.

Now if I wasn’t heaving boxes around and converting my desk into a makeshift cooking area I would isolate these colours for you and show you how they all fit together. But you’re going to just have to look at them yourselves to see that they are all, in fact, from the same muted palette. The key is the mustard yellow table top, the soft red base and the dark emerald and chocolate chairs. This is essentially a spectrum of pink and yellow taken to extremes with the blue rug acting as the disrupter.

Now how, you may ask, do you make sure it’s all coming from the same palette and that’s often about using the same paint company for a whole scheme. All the Farrow & Ball colours have a dollop of grey in them. All the Little Greene and Paint & Paper are slightly muddier shades so you can mix a red with a pink and a blue and it will all work. The danger is if you pick most of the colours from here and then throw in a clean pastel Dulux. That might jar. Unless you really know what you are doing and feel supremely confident. I’m guessing most of us want a little handholding when using this many colours.

The easy option, when using a varied palette like this might have been to keep the walls to an off white shade and while that would have worked (a bit more Jonathan Adler in feel) it would have looked quite different – more modern – if that’s your thing. By picking a plaster pink the other colours all lead off it. Personally I would have gone a shade or two paler but that’s the point – you get to look at this and work out how you could apply it.

Otherwise the colours all work indvidually with the walls – red and pink, green and pink, mustard and pink, tonal burgundy and pink, and blue and pink – all classic combinations. The key is that they have all been used and built out. So you could pick, one, two or even three to build your own room.

If this feels too much, I would hazard a guess that it’s because it’s a series of plain colours – aka colourblocking – which is more intense. Choosing and using a fabric that incorporated all them at once would feel much less bold because it would be in smaller quantities.

And that’s another way to approach a scheme. Find a piece of fabric that you adore, really adore, and pull out all the colours within it. Then apply the 60, 30, 10 rules. Sixty percent of one colour on the largest area – walls and floor (here the natural wooden floor tones). Then go to 30 per cent for the next colour – here the designer has played with tones of one colour within that 30 per cent so you have the pale pink sofa, the burgundy sideboard and the red table. Like I said it takes confidence but, hopefully, breaking it down like this allows you to see how it can work for you.

Lastly the 10 per cent is the green and blue of the chair and rug  – again same spectrum but broken into two distinct colours.

If you’re still unsure then think of it as an outfit. Your largest piece of clothing – trousers, skirt or dress. Then you will add a top – even two if it’s a cold day (!) and maybe a scarf. Finally you will need shoes, a bag and perhaps a pair of earrings. Rather than ordering in paint and fabric samples and finding it hard to see how they will work in a large scale room why not play with your wardrobe. Lay clothes on the bed and start mixing and matching and see where you get to. At the very least you might have a new outfit to wear next time you go out.

I hope that has helped. I’m off to wrap glasses and continuing the ever moving game of moving boxes from one place to another. Hopefully on Wednesday I will be able to show you the nearly finished bathroom and the plans for the shower room.


Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.

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