The Balance of Colour

Colour12 12 2019, by Josh Schumann


For the sake of this article, I’m going to assume most readers have a basic understanding of the colour wheel, and the wonders of using it. If you don’t then that’s your homework for the week. Instead I’m going to jump ahead and try to impart my love of colour out into the audience and share a tip or two about when less is more. Prepare to be sprinkled with metaphorical colour dust!

The age-old question I ask myself time and time again when developing a concept is when is enough colour, and when is too much? This quote from Coco Chanel has stayed with me since I was a child and has saved me from a lot of fashion embarrassments! And it works for interiors as well.

“Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.”


It is the essence of refinement, learning how to pair back to create maximum impact and not throw everything at your canvas. Maybe the most important point of what she is saying, is not in fact the physicality of taking something off, but of pausing, taking a moment to look in the mirror, and really look at yourself, to reflect and evaluate. You can take this mantra across to interiors, when you are finishing a project or figuring out the perfect colour palette. It is often a seductive trap to overreach and mistake boldness with over excitement but be careful of the dreaded G word… Garish! The ultimate sin.

A tip I like to stick to is finding one base colour the encompasses the mood and feel of the project and work outward from there. It is a good practice to have a list of questions to break down the brief and something you can keep coming back to throughout the project so you don’t get too carried away and can stick to the plan. These questions could include; What emotion do I want to portray? What colours would encapsulate the emotion? What colours do the clients like? What colours do the clients want to stay far away from? How could I make what they want exciting and elevate it? What is this space going to be used for? Will colour enhance or distract? Etc Etc.

These questions should help you create a coherent plan and be a good frame of reference.


Another misconception about balancing colour or using colour is that it must be lots of different colours on every different surface and every cushion must be a different pattern. Obviously if that’s your thing, carry on living your best life! But otherwise balancing colour can be as simple as adding plants to an otherwise light or dark room. This often results in a more dramatic look.

It’s important to remember that colour doesn’t just go on the walls, accessories are your best friend and will help you massively. When picking colours, I like to live by a rule of three. Have a base colour, and two additional colours, and then implement these into the whole scheme.


Also think about the finished room and different angles, think about what shots you’re going to get when it’s finished, a good exercise would be to get out your phone camera and slowly scan the room, look at the each wall through the lens and that might help you see if there’s too much of one colour or not enough.

The main point I would hope to impart would be to have fun with colour, your environment has a major effect on your happiness and well-being, so make decisions that will make you smile each day. And at the end of the day, it can always be changed! Trying, disliking and redoing is better than not trying at all and always thinking what if…