Colour palette

Spring Refresh – hold that tester pot, read this first!

Sustainable Change

It’s that time of year - when colour charts and tester pots pop into our lives like spring bulbs and our Instagram / Pinterest feeds are filling up with ‘fresh new kitchen ideas’ and the like. It’s also when DIY stores and garden centres typically report their biggest profits as our urge for renewal translates into spending sprees.

Whether it’s the increase in daylight hours or the ability to leave the house without 5 layers of clothing, something drives us to contemplate change with the advent of spring. I’m all for updates and fresh new ideas - I probably wouldn’t be an interior designer if I weren’t - but how do we make those changes more sustainably? Step away from the tester pot and lend me a few moments of your time!

We all know that the planet has some major problems, and sadly I have to say my own industry hasn’t always helped. From the insistence on ripping out and starting again, to pressure to buy ‘on trend’ merchandise, we’ve been encouraged to replace rather than repair and always value the new. But things are changing. On a personal level I’ve been trying to offer more sustainable design solutions for a number of years. Recently I signed up to ‘Interior Design Declares’ and became part of a group of designers pushing for change within the industry.

But what has that to do with your humble tester pot? In itself testing out a paint colour isn’t a bad idea (though I personally don’t paint the wall  - see below for a better option).

It's all in the order...

It’s not the tester pot that’s wrong - it’s the fact that so many room refreshes start there. I have a little mantra I like to use ‘Fabric or Furniture First’. Basically it’s to remind people to look at the larger (and more costly) parts of their design first. Paint is the easiest thing to match to other items. You can quite literally have any colour paint you want, because if the shade you need doesn’t exist in a tin already, it can be mixed to order for you, usually at little extra cost. That new sofa on the other hand may only be available in a certain number of fabrics, and if you’ve set your heart on a colour that doesn’t happen to be ‘on trend’ at the moment your options may be even more limited.


Fresh Traditions Colour Photo Frame

Understanding colour

The two most common things my interior design clients ask me to do are to help sort out room layouts (especially in large open plan spaces - see previous blogs on Open Plan Living) and to help sort out colour schemes. Nine times out of ten when a client says they don’t like their existing colour scheme, or they feel it’s never really worked, the problem will be the tones of the colours that have been used together. That’s because we don’t see colour in isolation, we always see it next to something. The light we see the colour in also has a significant impact on how we see it - a colour we like in daylight in a south facing room for example, will look totally different in a north facing room or in artificial light.

Paint is easy to replace though, isn’t it? Well yes…. and no. It’s usually the cheapest of the materials you’ll use in a design project, that’s true. But there’s all that waste - of the ‘wrong’ paint, of money if you’re paying a decorator, and of time and hassle if you’re doing the decorating yourself.

So make things easier on yourself - and the planet - by following these simple steps for that spring project.

1. Plan ahead. Work out what is staying in your room and what is being replaced. Think if you need extra electrical sockets / radiators moving etc - basically any work that involves surfaces being made good again afterwards.

2. Plan your colour scheme so the different elements of your room work together. 

3. Give yourself time - better a room done slowly that you love, than a quick job in the Easter holidays that you’re fed up with by autumn.

And if you need help I offer a Design Coach service, charged by the hour, so you pay for as much or as little help as you need.

A better way to test paint

1. Use paint cards to narrow down your selection to 2 - 3 shades that go with the fabric and furniture in your room then buy a small tester pot.

2. You’ll need an A4 or A5 pad of acrylic paper (easy to find online or in a hobby or art shop) and some blu tack.

3. Paint 2 - 3 sheets of paper in each shade your testing. Once dry, blu tack to different walls of the room - near a window, in a darker corner etc. 

4. Leave the testers up for at least a few days - or until you’ve had chance to see the colours on a sunny day, a cloudy / wet day and in artificial daylight. 

5. Choose your favourite or keep going until you find the right one - it’s worth it!

Paint tester pots

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