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  • Writer's pictureDr Sacha DeVelle

The Colour Wheel: A Guide to your Interiors Colour Palette

Interior Designers and Colour Theory

Colour theory is both a science and an art. We perceive colour from many angles: our visual perception, cultural values and personal preferences all contribute to our palette preferences.

As interior designers, we are trained to understand how colours work together and influence our perceptions. The colour wheel is part of our tool kit - a visual display that allows for the successful mixing, matching and clashing of colour schemes.

Background to the Colour Wheel

The first colour wheel can be dated back to Sir Isaac Newton and his light prism experiments published in 1672. He showed that when pure white light passes through a prism, it separates into all the visible colours.

Newton also found that each colour is made up of a single wavelength that cannot be separated into other hues. The colour wheel we use today includes the three primary (red, blue and yellow), three secondary (mixing two primary colours) and six tertiary (combinations of primary and secondary) colours.


Colour and Mood

What mood do you wish to evoke from your colour palette? What size is the space and how will it be used? For example, Purple relates to royalty, wealth and spirituality, Orange is seen as uplifting and energetic, while the neutral Black can symbolise death, authority and sophistication.

However, it is not just colour that influences the mood of a room. Colours are also categorised as warm or cool. Red, yellow and orange evoke warmth, think of the sun and fire. A large, dark room can benefit from warm colours to create that cozy feel. Blue and green are cooler colours that remind us of the sky and greenery. They create a calming atmosphere and interestingly, a receding visual effect that perceptually allows a small room to feel larger.


A monochrome scheme Photo credit: Toa Heftiba

Colour Schemes

There are a number of ways to use the colour wheel. For more subtle effects combine different shades of the same colour to create a multi-layered effect, such as varying shades of blue or grey. This monochromatic approach uses one slice of the wheel, with outer shades being more vibrant, and those closer to the centre lighter in colour.

You can also work with colours that sit next to each other. These hues blend well, and allow for a softer effect. Use lighter shades, and limit your palette to a dominant (70%) secondary (20%) and accent colour (10%).


Complementary colours

For stronger statements, contrast opposites on the colour wheel, such as royal blue and yellow. These complementary colours create a ‘colour pop’ effect and make stunning visual statements. We recommend using colours of the same depth to contrast your walls and key furniture pieces.

To soften the look use neutral soft furnishings (cushions, throws, rugs) that blend beautifully with other colours. Black cushions are a lovely contrast, and a silver grey throw can provide that extra ‘glam’ feel.

You can also work in the reverse! Keep your furniture and walls neutral, and integrate contrasting colours into your soft furnishings. With interior design the world is your oyster, it’s all about capturing the right combinations to create that special feel.


Orange and yellow: adjacent on the colour wheel

Expert Advice

There is a lot to think about when deciding on your interiors colour palette.

We have described some of the colour combinations provided by the colour wheel. Do you have colours in mind, but you’re not sure how to include them?

We look at the size, function and mood envisaged for each room, and provide a range of packages. Contact us now for a consultation.

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