Karen Howes’ Advice for Using Colour at Home

by Rebecca Bourne in Designer style at home

It’s no secret that colour is one of the most powerful visual forces in our home. 

We are highly attuned to pick up on different shades and these have real consequences for our mood, so it’s important to get it right. And when we do get it right, it can transform a room into somewhere really special.

There’s a growing trend for bold colours, as across interior design people are getting braver with their interior design choices. Recently this has seen a growing number of people embracing rich jewel tones, and pastels are becoming increasingly saturated. Luxury design studio Taylor Howes is known for its use of bold colours, and their Creative Director Karen Howes has agreed to share her expertise.

Browsing through Taylor Howes’ portfolio of opulent homes is as enjoyable as flicking through a Pantone swatch book; filled with rich plum, vibrant orange and splashes of yellow, effortlessly placed without a clash in sight.

“At Taylor Howes, we don’t really have a signature look as we prefer to concentrate on giving clients a home that is truly personal to them."

“We do not shy away from using bold colours in our interiors. The trend at the moment is to combine vivid colours, such as emerald green, not just as an accent, but on the actual main focal points in a space.” Karen says.

The key is carefully selecting the right colour for the space. Start by determining the mood of the room, based around its function. Are you looking for a vibrant blue, energising green or warm and comforting rust? When you have chosen a shortlist of these colours, start collecting fabric and paint swatches. Make sure you view them in the space before committing – testing paint colours on different walls if possible – as the quality of the light in different parts of the room can affect how different colours are seen.

Bespoke upholstery is an excellent way to add colour to any space. Accessories can be complementary, but they don’t have the same impact as a large sofa or group of dining chairs. And as Karen explains, custom designs are becoming a standard requirement for luxury homeowners. “At Taylor Howes we don’t really have a signature look as we prefer to concentrate on giving clients a home that is truly personal to them. As we tend to work with cosmopolitan individuals, our clients request glamorous but practical interiors. We like to design our own joinery and most of the furnishings to distinguish ourselves in the market. Clients at this level do expect that kind of attention to detail.”

There are a huge variety of different fabrics available, and deciding which material you’re planning to use will also affect how your colour looks in the finished scheme. Play with different yarns from matt linen and wool through to shimmering jacquards, velvets and silk to see how their different properties affect your colour choice. Selecting a plain fabric will give your chosen colour maximum impact, but you can also add trims and passementerie for a unique look.

 “There is always a fine line between creating an impressive space using colour and overwhelming the senses.” Karen says. When using a large block of colour it’s important to include neutral elements, especially to counterbalance the strongest colours like orange, yellow and fuchsia. These also allow the rich jewel tones, which have become increasingly popular in 2017, to shine.

Getting neutrals right requires some careful planning too. It’s important to determine whether the palette of a room is warm or cool, and choose shades of ivory, buff or pale grey or blue which complement the main colour. This is a great place to start introducing more patterns and textures to a space.

Decorating with neutrals does not mean that furniture is placed inside a ‘white cube’. Taylor Howes often use fabric wallcoverings, “especially white linen wallpaper by Phillip Jeffries, which gives a fresh and bright contrast to a room,” Karen says. Metallic accents and mirrored surfaces also act as luxurious neutrals, and their shine will add extra richness to complement jewel tones. Choose warm brass or cool nickel for hardware like door furniture and lighting, keeping your choices consistent throughout the home for an added sense of continuity.

When the major elements of the room have been determined – the wallcoverings, flooring, window dressings and any larger, statement pieces of furniture – it’s time to accessorise. This is an excellent time to re-assess the balance of colour and texture within a space, to spot any neglected corners that need additional light, or to break up large spaces which have become too dominant.

Before buying smaller accessories, plan out what art will be added to the space. “When using bursts of colour in a bold and confident manner, we place great emphasis on finding show stopping artwork to fulfil our client’s needs,” Karen says. As well as adding an extra hit of colour to a room, art has an intangible, emotional quality that benefits any space. Whether using antique portraiture, romantic abstract paintings or high-impact contemporary pieces, the versatility of art and its importance for luxury clients has made it a central feature of Taylor Howes’ designs.

This tassel and complementary curtain trim add a vibrant touch to the corner of this bedroom. The list of accessories for adding the finishing touches to your home is almost endless, so while sourcing vases, picture frames or decorative ornaments keep your colour swatches to hand (or just browse the selection online) to make sure that what you buy is a close match.


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