Choosing the paint colour scheme

Before choosing your colour scheme there are several considerations to be taken in account. If you are fortunate enough to be decorating a large, well lit room, with a southerly aspect, you will be free to experiment with almost any colour scheme you may have in mind. On the other hand, if the room is on the small side the use of warm colours will make it look smaller still. The effect can be quite cosy, but also claustrophobic. Aim at increasing the sense of space as much as possible. This involves using dull, cool colours on most of the larger surfaces like walls, ceilings and floors. The sense of space can be further increased if you incorporate the colours used in the small room into a larger, neighbouring room.

This will prevent the small room from seeming to be cut off from the rest of your home. The pattern of the curtains in the small room might well be used for the wallpaper in the next room. If you paint one wall in a darker colour than the others, it will have the effect of opening up the room. Don’t choose a colour that contrasts too strongly with the others. The effect may be to diminish the room size. A room may be dark either because the window is small or because it faces north.

The use of dark colours over large areas of such a room will tend to accentuate the darkness. If the room is used mostly in the evening, find out if the colours you choose will look very different in the shop compared to your home. Shop lighting is deliberately chosen for display purposes, and is usually much brighter than domestic illumination. It is best to concentrate on light colours, as these will brighten the room considerably. If your room is quite high, paint the ceiling in a dark shade. This will have the effect of lowering the ceiling. Don’t use this method if your room is of an average height, as the result will be to ‘lower’ the room to an uncomfortable extent.

Paint Colour,Chromatic intensity

Chromatic intensity refers to the chromatic brilliance of a colour. Adding grey to any colour will lower its intensity. Of the primary colours, red has the highest intensity, followed by yellow, then blue. The intensity of the colours you choose will affect your colour scheme in a number of ways. A room decorated in very intense colours will be highly stimulating-reminiscent of the colours at a funfair. However, you’ll find such strong colours quite unsuitable for a living room and other leisure areas of your house, where you spend a lot of time. Only use intense colours in small doses. Flowers, cushions and ornaments present excellent opportunities for highly colourful temporary displays. Remember that a room decorated totally in low intensity colours can be very dull. The stimulus of stronger colours in small areas of the room is essential. Try to create a balance between the two extremes. For living areas, it’s a good idea to concentrate on gradual colour changes for the walls. For instance, you could start off with a brilliant red and, by adding more and more green, merge gradually into a rich brown. In the same way, you can merge yellow into cream, or blue into steel grey. By adding white or black you can change a colour totally. For example, red can be turned into a restful pink by adding white. The intensity of the colour you choose should be related to the size and shape of the surface to be covered. Warm colours like red, orange and yellow are very dominant particularly in a small room. This can be extremely tiring on the eye. Such colours are best used for highlighting the colour of objects like lampshades and ornaments. Blues and greens are cool, retiring colours. They are good when used as background shades. Objects painted in these colours tend to lose definition. This can be useful in painting ugly but essential-furniture. You would be well advised to avoid the use of contrasting full intensity colours, such as red and green or orange and violet. They can provide initial excitement, but the long term effect will be tiring and dazzling.

The use of colour in the home

A good sense of colour is essential if your interior decor is to be a success. Apart from the technical skills involved in painting and paper hanging, you need to be able to combine colours and patterns for maximum appeal. With a little care you can choose a colour scheme that will add greatly to the beauty and comfort of your home. Before starting to decorate your home, you should spend some time considering various colour schemes. When choosing colours that go well together there are no real hard and fast rules to bear in mind, and there is no such thing as a good or bad colour. People’s reactions to colour vary tremendously, and your feelings about a particular combination of colours might be quite different from someone else’s. The kind of colour scheme you choose will depend very much on the use to which a particular room is to be put. For instance, a good colour scheme for a study might be mainly brown-dark leather chairs with mahogany furniture and woodwork. The walls could be a cream or light chocolate colour, and the carpet a plum colour. Silver ware could be placed around on shelves, or in a glass fronted cupboard. With this sort of colour scheme the effect will be of solid and subdued comfort. This kind of colour scheme is ideal for a room like a study. In rooms where you relax for lengthy periods of time the emphasis should be on cheerful yet unobtrusive colours. Try not to be too influenced by the latest fashion in colours. Many people have followed the latest trends slavishly-often with disastrous results. Your own tastes, combined with careful judgment, are far more important. When discussing colour schemes, the main concern is how to combine different colours successfully. It is here that you will benefit on how to get the most out of your personal preferences.

Colour properties

A very great deal has been written about the theory of colour. Before choosing a colour scheme for a particular room you should know about the basic properties of colour. These are hue, tonal value and chromatic intensity. Hue is the quality which distinguishes one colour from another-red and blue for example. Black, neutral greys, and white have no hue. There are three basic groups of colour primary, secondary and tertiary. The colours in the primary group are red, yellow and blue. By mixing any two of these together you can get orange, green and purple. These are the secondary colours. Tertiary colours are mixtures of primary and secondary colours-adjacent to each other on the colour wheel. They are yellow green, blue green, blue violet, red violet, red orange and yellow orange. Altogether, twelve colours go to make the colour wheel, This will be of considerable help to you when working out possible colour combinations. Tonal value refers to the lightness, or darkness, of a colour. For example, yellow is lighter than all but the palest of violets. Light tones are more reflective than darker colours. This is why dark rooms are made brighter by the use of light coloured paints. On the other hand, rooms with large windows, with plenty of access to sunshine, will remain light and cheerful even with a very dark colour scheme. A colour scheme made up of subtle tone changes will make a room seem larger and play down the appearance of awkward shaped furniture. Such a scheme will give a quiet overall effect. You should pick out something in an opposite shade to the general colour scheme. This will provide a point of interest and prevent the room be,coming boring. Strong tonal contrasts catch the eye. Your furniture wilt stand out where such a colour. scheme is used. A contrast between the walls and curtains will make a room look much smaller. The reason for this is that the different surfaces will be ‘cut up’, or separated. You’ll find that the effect can be pleasantly lively and stimulating. An understanding of tone is one way of making sure that you use colour attractively. Two colours which do not seem to combine satisfactorily may well do so when one of them is lightened or darkened.

Colour schemes

Colour can play an enormous part in ‘pulling together’ or enhancing the cheapest decorative scheme.Some colours always look ‘expensive’, some look cheap in the wrong material or texture. If in doubt, remember that black or white fits almost everywhere. So do, most of creamy-beige colours, from the natural ivory shade of unbleached catlco to the straw of rush baskets. Cheap lamps or china, which usually come in white, and a pale, neutral coloured room make a good background.

If you want an injection of brilliant colours, remember its impact is several times greater when used in group form. Why be content with just a scarlet cushion? Try a scarlet cotton cushion. a huge scarlet plastic ash tray on the nearby coffee table, and a bunch of scarlet, pink and orange paper flowers stuck in a mug beside.

Mirrors always look good, but tend to be expensive. Mirrorboard, on the other hand, is considerably cheaper. You can stick this self-adhesive board-backed mirror on to hardboard or walls, or cut it up into table mats, for a stunning effect, at a cost substantially less that that of real mirror. For the living room, there are all sorts of decorations that can be made for next to nothing. Patchwork cushions are mostly your own work-dressmaking remnants can be begged from friends, or even from dress manufacturers who would otherwise throw away these tiny scraps. Anyone with artistic talent can use the same bits and pieces, plus scraps of foil, felt, or sequins, to make collages. All sorts of things look good as objets trouves. For example, a collection of stones, amassed from hillsides and beaches over the years, can look superb. (A handyman could mount these on acrylic sheet, for an even more arty look.) One exotic-looking wall sculpture, in glossy white, turned out to be simply the foam packing in which the vacuum cleaner had arrived, sprayed with white gloss paint! (Keep expanded polystyrene well away from heat, though, it is highly inflammable.) Grasses and flowers can be dried even dunked in a bathful of dye. Beech leaves that have sucked up a mixture of glycerine and water will stay copper-bronze coloured for years. All these, once done, save on the expense of having fresh flowers. Finally, perhaps the best money-saving tip of all is: learn how to cover upholstery, make lampshades repair furniture. You will never know how skillful you can be, until you try.


Buying second-hand furniture is one of the most obvious cheaper way to furnish a house, and still one of the most successful, ways of saving money. Chairs, in particular, can be found at phenomenally cheap prices. In large second-hand stores, dining chairs can be picked up for small sums. They may not be particularly pretty, but stripped and lacquered a bright colour, with the seats recovered (try blue and emerald, black and tobacco brown) they look extremely presentable. Most pre-War furniture has the merit of sound, solid construction. For an extra-comfortable sack chair, make a ‘sack’ of canvas or shiny pvc, and buy polystyrene granules by the cubic foot. Of new furniture, the cheapest in Britain is white wood, although kit furniture is sometimes more durable and it pays to compare the two before you buy. Again, this can be painted, stained, or lacquered. Foam rubber blocks, covered in tough, cheap and washable canvas, can make anything from push together seating or sofas, to divan mattresses to stack on the floor. Some office furniture is cheap as well as durable. So are chipboard tables on trestles that can be bought from builders’ merchants. Cover one of these with a tablecloth, and you have a good-sized dining table. Coffee tables or storage systems can be made from chipboard, and supported on anything from aerated concrete blocks (cheap and paintable), or brick to cheap brackets. An ancient filing cabinet-again from a secondhand furniture store painted in bright gloss coach paint (as used for car bodies) makes an excellent storage place for toys. Or an old, second-hand trunk can be painted, and stuck with transfers or cut-outs. Keep an eye open, too, for shopfitters rebuilding premises in your neighbourhood. Often, old counters and shelves which will provide useable timber are available for little cost. In a bedroom, a thick felt curtain across one wall, hung from a track in the ceiling or from a rod and rings, comes much cheaper than any wardrobe. Clothes can hang from moveable dress rails, which you can buy through mail order; other clutter can go in anything from cheap Moroccan rush baskets to shoe boxes or plastic cutlery trays. Jewellery looks fine hung from hooks on a felt or hessian pinboard on the wall.


The rule here is ‘never skimp’-or it wilt look cheap. Be as lavish as possible with quantities, but use cheap materials. Curtain lining materials, when lined and interlined so that it hangs in thick, ‘extravagant’ folds, has the dull sheen of expensive looking satin. Hessian is extremely cheap, does not need lining, and comes in attractive, earthy-looking colours. Calico bought by the bundle can be used in its original creamy state, or dyed. Deckchair canvas has the firmness and solidity to make, good blinds (which use far less material than curtains), and blind-making kits are cheap. For curtains, or for a padded bedhead of the kind you hung from rings,ordinary wooden dowelling, painted or fabric-covered, is the cheapest sort of rod. Many stores have ,drawers full of odd rings and finials.

Soft furnishings

Chain stores sell cheap duvets, which,in the long run save money otherwise spent on, sheets and blankets-and immediately will save time, trouble, and possibly temper. They sell duvet covers, too-but it could be cheaper to make your own. It is only, really, a large pillowcase, with press-studs or tie tapes at one end.With any duvets ,you will need a bottom sheet. About the cheapest way of getting a ready made one is to scour the ‘small ads’ in your local newspaper. Chances are you will find someplace where odd single sheets, usually white, are sold off cheaply.

Walls Painting & Decorating

There is, really, not much to choose between the prices of the different makes of paint apart from the fact that beautiful, original decorator colours often cost more than the ordinary standard ones, and that chain-store paints can be the best buy of all. Even having a gallon of emulsion (which covers a lot of wall) mixed to the exact colour of your choice usually costs very little extra.

wallpaper bedroom

Wallpaper is something else entirely; costs vary enormously from roll to roll. One of the cheapest ways of covering walls is to use ordinary lining paper; this can be bought in rolls.

Floor sanding

The cheapest thing of all, if your floorboards are in good condition, is to sand and seal them. A sanding machine is reasonably cheap to hire, but before beginning make sure that gaps between the boards are plugged or dust and draughts will whistle up-and check that there are no protruding nails.
floor sanding

These must be hammered down or pulled out. After sanding, the boards must be sealed with one of the proprietary brands of floor sealer. A clear polyurethane alters the colour least. A wood floor, has the advantage of standing up to considerable wear and tear-vital in a living room or hall or any other room.

sanded floor boards

For stairs, wood (unless custom-made as a complete staircase) is on the whole undesirable. It is noisy, and more slippery than carpet.One of the cheapest ways to cover stairs is to use carpet if the noise is a problem.

floor sanding

In a bedroom, polished boards teamed with rugs are always successful. But, because bedroom flooring does not have to be so tough, something softer can be used.
bedroom floor
Other floor covering could be rush matting (best in the country, where you can take it out and shake or brush it clean-remember also to sprinkle it with water occasionally); cheap, plain-coloured lino with diamonds, lozenges, circles or whatever, with a darker colour ‘dropped in’, to give a Roman-marble floor look (try chocolate and beige, orange and cream, black and tobacco); or good old floor paint. This comes in several colours and white especially gives a light look to a room but it does chip or scratch a bit. (It is best bought from a marine shop, where it is known as ‘yacht’ paint.)

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Painting dark rooms

Dark, dreary rooms need not be a problem if you decorate them with imagination. Use colour as your main ally, together with well planned lighting and mirrors, to conjure up a feeling of more light. Extra windows, naturally, are the best way of letting in more light to dark rooms, and you may be able to afford to alter or enlarge the windows in your house. This is more of an upheaval than ingenious decorative treatments, however, and entails structural alterations. Plan what you are going to do. If one of the rooms in your house is dark, and you want to brighten it up, don’t simply increase the wattage in all the light bulbs and paint the walls and ceiling white. There are more subtle-and more effective-treatments for dreary areas, and each room must be dealt with according to its function, shape and size.

Using colour

You can obtain colour charts specially planned to help you create light colour schemes for dark rooms. Different rooms need different treatments, so consider what effect you want to achieve before you go ahead. For instance, an all-white scheme in a living room can make it seem light and airy, but an all-white bathroom would be cold and clinical without the addition of bright pictures, towels and other accessories. Choose cheerful colours like daffodil yellow for tall, dark rooms, or brighten them up with a gay wallpaper, paint the ceiling in one of the paler colours of the wallpaper and use masses of white on the woodwork and furniture.

Low, dark rooms often look best with a white ceiling, but if you want to paint it the same colour as the walls, you can avoid a lowering effect by picking out the cornice in brilliant white, and add bright-looking furniture in white, sky blue or yellow. Using bold colours in a dark room needs special care. Bright red in a small hall looks warm and welcoming, but it can also look dark unless it is mixed with a lot of white plus a big mirror and strong lighting. Remember that pale colours like white, grey and pastel blue are space givers, whereas more dense colours like emerald green and scarlet or orange advance, making a room seem smaller. In the northern hemisphere, north- and east-facing rooms need warm colours to help them feel sunny, so yellows and oranges are good dominant colours. South and west facing rooms will be sunny anyway, even if they are dark, so you can safely use cooler colours like white, pale blue or very pale green. Heavy colours like black and deep brown should be used sparingly in a dark room, although one wall covered in chocolate brown hessian will give a warm feel to a room.

A black-covered kitchen bench could be too sombre in a dark kitchen, but if you choose orange, blue, or even white, the worktop will act as a reflective surface, making the dull room lighter. Window treatments Enlarging windows is the most positive way of creating more light in dark rooms. If you don’t want to widen your windows, a less major operation is to lengthen them to floor level and put in French windows in the basement and ground floor rooms. Long windows can also be put in bedrooms, but this is not a good idea in a child’s room. A small fake balcony outside, attached to a strong pair of brackets, will make the window look more natural; this could take the form of a wrought iron railing, or a big painted brass fender with room for a trough of flowers inside. To catch more light in a ground floor room, change a plain window for a bow-shaped one, or a larger bay window. Installing a bay window would mean extending the walls outwards to take in the shape of the bay. You can add more light fairly simply by changing the type of window inside the original frame.

Small-paned or leaded windows can be replaced by ones with larger panes, but remember that the glass will be more expensive to replace if it gets broken. Many Edwardian houses still have coloured or stained glass panes, particularly in hall or living room windows. If you swap these for plain glass, more light is easily let in. Remember that altering a window will change the whole appearance of a house from the outside. Well thought-out enlarged windows will add a feeling of light both inside and outside the house. But windows that do not blend with the design of the house, especially if it is a decidedly period one, can ruin an otherwise attractive front, although they may improve matters inside.

Curtains and blinds
The main rule to remember in a dark room is never to use dark curtains or blinds. Light window coverings will help reflect what daylight there is in the room. Don’t half-draw curtains; instead, make the rail long enough so that the curtains can be pulled back to clear the edge of the window frame, thus letting in as much light as possible. Blinds are particularly good in dark rooms because they can be neatly rolled up in the daytime so that they don’t obscure the light at all. Shutters are another good choice, because they fold neatly out of the way. In a dark bathroom, you can make your own shutters out of figured hardboard, painted white, or use white-painted louvred shutters. They can be left closed during the day for privacy and will still let in a certain amount of light which can be supplemented by a concealed tungsten strip light behind them if necessary. It is best to keep the feeling of light coming through a window in a dark room by painting the frame white, both inside and out. If you need net curtains, choose a crisp white rather than a pastel shade; the heavy fish net type let in more light than the more dense plain ones. A pretty effect can be achieved by using a thick Nottingham lace with a fairly open pattern to let in the light.

Wall finishes

One of the high quality, and consequently more expensive, wall finishes is hessian. This is a natural woven material which comes dyed in solid colours with or without paper backing. Hanging requires care and patience, especially with the backless type, as the special adhesive used tends to penetrate the material and appear on the surface in uneven patches. A hessian covered wall has a warmth and character quite distinct from that of vinyl and paper decorations, but being a natural fabric, it is more difficult to clean.

Another rather costly, but high quality, wall finish which offers an unusual and pleasing appearance, is composed of very thin slices of decorative hardwood mounted on a flexible backing. The thinness and small size of the wood pieces enables the paper to be hung in the same way as woven materials, again using a special adhesive. It can also be used loose as a screen or blind.

Natural grass papers enjoyed popularity some years ago when they were first introduced from the Far East. They are composed of strips of natural decorative dried grasses stitched to or mounted on a backing and are hung in the same way as the woven fabric described above. Being a natural product, the pieces vary slightly in width, thickness and colouring, but it is precisely these qualities which give grass papers their distinctive character. The surface of grass paper is surprisingly hard wearing, but it is not easily cleaned due to its coarse texture, and it is expensive. If, after some time, you wanted to change the decoration and paint your walls, you would have to strip off this paper, as it cannot be over-painted. The same also applies to woven fabrics and the hardwood material.