top of page

This week on The Woof! Living in color while enjoying a restful, serene interior

Are we allowed to emerge from the vanilla-colored world already? For the longest time, it has seemed like any interior that looked elevated, restful and serene, necessarily had to present itself in white and off-white tones. And while it is certainly true that these spaces look wonderfully peace-inducing in a magazine, in real life they can end of feeling a little flat and lacking in soul. Needless to say they’re harder to keep clean. So… can you actually have the cake and eat it too? Because it’s absolutely true that many of us lead very busy lives and aspire to come home to a calm space, our own oasis of peace. This post is about how to live in color AND create a calm restful space.


Here's the thing: achieving a calm and restful space that has that elevated look does not necessarily entail “vanilla”. Living in color means allowing spaces to be personal, full of character and beautiful. And… there's no need to go ultra preppy or jewel tones to achieve this either. (NOTE: This post is not against vanilla, or jewel tones or preppy at all. Every one of these styles has their particular appeal. But this is the space we’re making to talk about elegant, peace-inducing, stylish homes in color.)


So let’s look at how to make this happen:


1)    Two low contrast colors

What do I mean? Highly contrasting colors create a dramatic palette. They’re bold and striking. This all makes the eye and the mind stay busy as it is confronted with these opposing colors at all times. If the colors make each other vibrate, then you may as well have your sunglass and an ibuprofen on hand too.


Then what colors can you use? One way to go is a bright color that isn’t very dark and combine it with a soft neutral or white. As we see in this gorgeous bedroom by the great Rose Uniacke, she only used white and bright yellow. Though the yellow has a lot of life, the level of contrast between it and the backdrop isn’t too strong. In addition to this, the pattern on the walls is bold and big, but very “still”. It doesn’t have a lot of movement. These two factors: color combination and stillness of pattern, allow the mind to be at ease.

Yellow and white bedroom
Design by Rose Uniacke

This next space stays firmly in its two tones of blue, which are not hugely contrasting either. Again, staying within the limits of two colors which do not contrast strongly allows for a calm space in color.

Blue living room
Source: Elle Decor. Designer: Jean-Louis Deniot

This last example shows us a rather dark green combined with a softer sand color. You have to be a dark room-lover for this one, but it is beautifully executed and, just as the above examples, the colors don’t present huge contrast, which is what allows the eye and mind to rest.

Moody and calm living room
Source: Roxanna Jaye

2)    To venture into a wider variety of colors and yet maintain a sense of calm, you will have to consider two things: the 70/20/10 rule, in addition to a variety of colors that stay within the same range of sharpness/richness. Let me explain what I mean.

In design the 70/20/10 rule consists of proportions of the colors you are working with. You need to have one predominant color at a 70% used throughout the room. This main color is complemented by a secondary color that is present in a proportion of about 20%. Finally, the third color is an accent, taking only the remaining 10%. Obviously, this is not an exact science. This rule offers a general guideline that helps one consider general proportions. You can also bring in a fourth color, so that the proportion be more or less 60/20/10/10.


The second aspect you would need to keep in mind in order to achieve that calm-inducing space is that these three colors would need to be on the more muted side of the color spectrum. You can get away with having the accent color being a tad brighter, but the other two should be more muted. Let’s look at the following three images, which I personally love.


The first image using a blue wall would be the 70; the caramel color of the cabinet and the figures in the prints comes in as the 20; and the white from the lamp shades and the backgrounds of the pictures is the 10. All three colors are on the muddier side of the spectrum. None is sharp, bold or particularly bright. Even the white is more of an ivory or off-white.

Library with antiques
Designer: Ros Byam Shaw

The second space depicting a very small office, which could feel oppressive, is instead beautifully fresh and quiet at the same time. The green drenched walls are a little less muddy than the colors in the previous photo, but nevertheless, they wouldn’t qualify as bright. They’re on the softer side. In addition to this, the wooden desk is, again, wood and has its natural organic tonality. The sconces play off the desks color, staying in the range. And, finally, the white lampshade and ceiling are the accent, that are by no means too bold or overpowering. Here, the main color is the green, the secondary color is the brown and the accent is the white. Beautifully proportioned too!

Fresh, calm, inviting home office
Designer: Morgane Sezalory

The last photo is a richer space with more like two accents. The backdrop and the throw dominate and are complemented by the brown and gold elements. The black and white objects serve as accents tying everything together.

Gorgeous, calm family room
Designer: Denise McGaha

All in all, the main idea, is stay within a limited range of colors and no strong contrasts dominating. See? It’s not that hard to live in color and have a peaceful space. I believe I just proved that you can have the cake and eat it too!

Share this post with someone you think might be interested. Thanks!

8 views0 comments


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page