Experimenting with colour

We live surrounded by colours, shades and light and sometimes we don’t even notice how it influences our mood. Yet designers have to notice this science and apply it for the benefit of their clients.

Leading Architecture & Design quizzed paint suppliers about the latest trends in colour and found out that grey, purple and inky blue are ‘in’, there is still a place for white in our colour-rich world and more attention is constantly being paid to the effects that certain colours have on us.

Q Who has a bigger sway in the choice of colour, the client or the designer? And is this the way it should be?

Simon Fraser, Midas Earthcote: Most of our projects are collaborative. Midas Earthcote is able to provide excellent advice on colour selection, and having been colour consultants for over a decade, we have the benefit of much hindsight and a good working knowledge of what works and what doesn’t.

But having said this, a lot of what we have learned along the way has been a direct result of working with designers and architects with unusual ideas, who like to experiment and try different approaches. Some clients have very definite ideas about the direction they want to go in, and that can be very helpful. It can lead to a wonderful result. But colour is both very personal and also, such an integral part of design.

I don’t think colour and texture should be chosen in isolation of the design. Our most successful and startling projects are those where we were able to plan things with the architect from the word go. For instance, the fireplace featured in the Kalk Bay home (above) was part of the build and the idea actually started with the thought of a gilt patina on cast concrete.

Another example is the exterior (right), where we used cement paint the colour of gingerbread, to create a seamlessness with the antique teak woodwork. It wouldn’t have been quite the same if the house were painted in a flat acrylic, and it might have looked ridiculous in a pale, light colour.

A third example where paint and architecture work well in an integrated way, is the concrete staircase and the wall behind it (over the page). The staircase was finished in a highly polished, jet black Pandomo liquid stucco, which makes it kick out as a statement. The wall behind it, done in two tones of waxy, matt, Worn Leather, helps to soften the look and create a foil for the architectural lines of the stairs.

Shannon Prestia, Versus Paints: The designer has the bigger choice of colour and that is the way it should be as they are paid to give the client advice on what is going to look good in the space provided. They should also be up to date with the trendiest colours and should have experience in what colours to use to maximise space and create different ambiences in certain rooms. For example, certain colours can make a room appear smaller or warmer depending on how they are used.

Q Much has been written and said about the role of colour, but apart from traditional African architecture and interiors, white and off-white have long been favourites for middle and upper class interiors. Is this changing?

Midas Earthcote: Whites are classic. They allow other interior elements to be the primary focus – paintings, carpets, beautiful pieces of furniture and so on. I don’t think that the appeal of a white interior will ever vanish. However, for the past decade or so, the appeal of neutrals and naturals has been huge. Stones and taupes, for instance, which immediately conjure up a rustic interior feel and help to strengthen the idea of a connection with the earth and an earthy aesthetic, have been incredibly popular. Earthcote has pushed this trend and created some innovative textures which make an earthy ambience work even better. For instance, paints such as Wallpaper Paint which have the texture of linen, Stone Paint, which is crushed rock containing particles of Mica, and, at the top of the pile, Interior Stucco, which is the Rolls Royce of rustic interior finishes. We’ve seen entire interiors done in Stucco and the effect is very luxurious.

On the subject of whites, I would say that people are re-thinking how they are using whites. What we are seeing a lot of lately, is the sparing use of acid brights as part of an all-white interior. People who would never have considered living with colour, are now looking to find a place for it. Acid greens and yellows are cropping up as statement walls in all-white interiors. This approach can be very effective. I recently saw the very beautiful interior of the furniture designer, Haldane Martin’s home, which is an almost all-white space, with a deep blue backdrop behind the bed in the main bedroom and an apple green wall in the kitchen. Using colour in this way makes it possible for clients to change the picture frequently, and play a bit. It’s not a big investment decision. Speaking of green, Midas Earthcote is now offering more environmentally friendly paint options.
Enviro Lite is our selection of specially formulated water-based primers and finishing coats that contain zero glycol, APEO, lead, ammonia and formaldehyde. These products contain significantly reduced levels of VOC’s and they can be custom mixed in your choice of colour.

The successful use of white is an art. Earthcote has dozens of different shades of white in our acrylics range. Combining them effectively requires a good eye and an understanding of how the other interior elements will work in conjunction with the wall colour. We’re also finding a lot of clients wanting to experiment with whites in different textures, contrasting rough and smooth, gloss and matt. Lately, greys have become like the ‘new whites’. Ultra-pale dove greys and misty blue-greys are very soft and are almost as versatile as white because they’re ‘not a colour’. Like whites, they’re very easy and undemanding on the eye.

Another trend worth mentioning is the shift away from using white on exteriors. We’re seeing a lot of instances where clients are choosing incredibly rich dark tones of chocolate, slate and black, or even deep reds and pinks, on exteriors, and then inside, the palette goes much lighter. Using rich colours on exteriors is an excellent way to refresh a period building. We did Cecile & Boyd’s Victorian mansion in charcoal and chocolate Earthcote textured coatings. That made a big statement and it gives renewed stature to the magnificent architecture. The exterior of the Grand Daddy Hotel in Long Street (right), is another case in point.

Versus Paints: This is changing – people are becoming a lot more adventurous with colour and hardly ever go for a whole house done it just white anymore. There is still a place for it, but the use of colour adds a whole new dimension to the house and is a great interior design tool used to add interest in the home.

Q As our knowledge increases on syndromes such as ADD and ADHD, do you believe that colour can be used as more than just a décor tool?

Midas Earthcote: Definitely. Think about the way hospitals have changed their approach to interior colour over the past decade – they’re using muted pastels and clean pastels, which are calming and restorative. High energy creative business environments, like ad agencies for instance, often use zingy colour to stimulate energy levels and intellectual processes. It’s a proven fact that yellow stimulates intellectual thought. If you’re in a pale blue interior, you’ll probably feel calmer and more relaxed. Speaking of ADD and ADHD, in the 80s, children’s environments were painted almost exclusively in primary colours. But I think it’s an accepted fact that bright reds and yellows can make children feel over-stimulated and we’re seeing crèches and schools going for neutrals, naturals and pastels, which help to keep the mood calm. If you want a serene, relaxed feeling in your home, pale blues and lavender leaf greens are a great way to achieve that (above).

Versus Paints: Colour can definitely be used as more than a décor tool. For instance, we know that pastels like a pale blue can be very calming, so for ADD or ADHD children you would rather use this colour than a bright red, for example, as red can be quite energising and aggressive depending on how it is used. A lot of studies have been done of the affects of colour and I believe it is always a good idea to decide what kind of mood you want in the room before you choose the colour – then do some research to see if the colour you are choosing will give the desired effect.

Q Colour trends are constantly changing – what is “in” for the rest of the year and 2010?

Midas Earthcote: Inky blues – like the colour of ballpoint pen blue – are becoming very popular. Yellow is a mega trend. Fuschia pink has made a comeback and apple green is also very current. Designers and interior professionals have been experimenting a lot with blacks and golds and high gloss enamel paints are being used in interesting ways – such as alternating stripes of gloss and matt – on feature walls.

Versus Paints: From my experience, the more neutral colours are always big – but for the more adventurous clientele purples and greys are quite big this year. Bearing in mind that it is all shades from the very bright purple to the more lavender shades, and a nice warm grey to complement it.


* Midas Earthcote on 021-421-8980 or www.earthcote.co.za
* Versus Paints on 011-885-3136 or www.versuspaint.co.za