Working & Living with Colour

Must-know tips for taking the plunge 

Decorating with colour can be intimidating and scary, but when it’s done right, it can make a room feel inviting and inspiring. As a designer, I love to infuse a healthy amount of colour into a space. When it came to decorating my own family home, I made no exceptions. With two young kids and a small furry dog, I wanted a space that felt friendly and yet looked polished, where neighbours could gather and kids could play. Finding that perfect balance is what transforms a beautifully decorated house into a home.  

Colour is integral to creating the right mood. It is always my goal to create living spaces that are warm, unique and inviting. Colour allows me to do this every time.  

Before designing any space, think about the mood you want to convey. Is it a cool, relaxing space or a warm, inviting space where dinner parties evolve into dance parties? You don’t need a degree in psychology to figure out which colours are right for you. Trust your gut and you will never go wrong, but it’s important to be mindful of the mood and energy you are trying to evoke. The psychology behind colour is a fascinating study. Yellow is a cheerful colour that promotes optimism, while blue is associated with tranquillity and reliability. It also happens to be the preferred colour of men, so it’s no surprise that I needed a little bit of navy for the men in my own home!  

My home is a true expression of “his meets hers” style. When we first moved into the house six years ago, I fell in love with its architectural features like the crown moulding, wall panelling and the fact that it was “almost“ 100 years old. My husband was less excited about the “old” factor, so the decor needed to reflect his modern sensibilities as well as my own more traditional take on life.  

For the living room, I wanted it to be bright and energizing as this is the main sitting and socializing area of the home. The drapery fabric was my starting point. I knew we wanted to energize the space with yellow and we already had the retro navy chairs to work with, so I chose to balance the navy of the chairs with bright yellow custom drapery.  

Finding the right balance of colour was also key in achieving a cohesive design. When decorating with colour, it’s important to balance any bold colours with lots of neutrals. A little trick that I like to use is the 60-30-10 rule. When decorating a particular room, divide the colours into percentages: 60% of a dominant colour, 30% of a secondary colour, 10% of an accent colour and you will never go wrong.  

The three dominant colours in our living/dining space are Beige, Yellow and Navy, but I also chose to compliment the blues with hints of orange in the living room. Adding a few “bonus” colours adds further interest. I found an old traditional wingback armchair on the curb along Earlsdale Road one day shortly after we moved in. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure! Needless to say, it was in desperate need of TLC. I had it stripped down and recovered with bold contemporary orange fabric, and now it’s cozy, warm and inviting while adding some traditional sophistication to the space. We repeated the orange hue throughout the room.  

Repetition is the key to any successfully designed home. By repeating a colour multiple times in a space, it feels purposeful and comforting. We repeated the orange in custom toss cushions and with smaller accessories. It’s not enough to have a large amount of colour in one piece of furniture. Layering the same colour throughout the space creates a cohesive and unified design. 

Ask any of our neighbours and they would probably tell you that our home is a welcoming space to kick back and relax in. It’s a family space that feels modern and sophisticated. Contemporary fabrics and traditional bones make it an inviting place for social gatherings or curling up by the fire with a book. Our home is proof that taking the plunge and designing with colour can create a space that is visually beautiful, intriguing and sometimes surprising.



REBECCA HAY is a Local Designer  – principal of Rebecca Hay Designs Inc., Toronto based complete home design services.  Serving clients throughout Toronto, Muskoka and Canada. RebeccaHayDesigns.com 


Photography By Stephani Buchman Photography


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