Decorating, Design, Painting
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Colour Consult – Inspiration for your walls with Paint & Paper Library

I did a colour consult yesterday for someone that’s recently bought their own home. They’d always rented previously, so painting walls wasn’t an option and therefore not a concern. Now he’s got a four bedroom, three storey house to decorate and furnish, it’s not surprising he’s overwhelmed. We’ve already worked on his living room and it’s been completely transformed by choosing the right paint colour. I’m not exaggerating either. Will share some photos with you guys when the rest of the work is done.

The Brits’ fear of colour

Most people’s homes are off white, cream, ivory, dare I say, magnolia… there might be a feature wall somewhere or a splash of jazzy wallpaper in the downstairs loo, but generally us Brits are pretty scared of living with colour. I don’t just mean dark colours, but richer colours and pigments.

Dulux nailed the Brit’s fear of colour with their infamous, still going strong, Natural Hints collection. Apple White, Apricot White, Jade White… see where i’m going with this…? We like colour, but only a little bit, not too strong, just a hint. A bit like someone’s delicately waved a teabag near a cup of hot water to make the crappest cup of tea ever. I’d rather you didn’t bother.

Dulux Natural Hints

I too have succumbed to the allure of at least three of these paint colours in the past. Nutmeg White being the colour I hated in my own living room for over three years. So i’m as guilty as anyone here peeps!

As you might have already guessed, today’s, slightly rambling post, is about colour and how to use it. I’m using images from Paint and Paper Library as inspiration, as i’ve been ogling several of these for some current projects. Their imagery is just spot on, oodles of stunning rooms with very clever use of colour and paint techniques. So much so, these pics might just get you itching to put that pot of Blossom White down and go for something a little different.

“Offering a distinguished palette of 180 unique colours and manufactured to exceptionally high standards in the UK – Paint & Paper Library provide inspiration, colour expertise and design ideas to interior decorators, architects and specifiers worldwide.”

Monument, New Black, and Temple

I don’t think you could get a much more neutral scheme than this, but what an impact it makes to this glorious entrance hall. Obviously, the super high ceilings, dado and cornicing helps massively, but this technique can be used in more contemporary homes and properties without these features. That single black horizontal stripe is just genius, the dark, monochromatic colours framing that ornate dado rail.

How we perceive colour…

For most colour cards, the individual chips of colour are painted or printed onto a white background. White is obviously the complete lack of any colour, so if you put a splodge of paint on there, whatever it is… even if it’s bloomin Blossom White, it’s going to look darker. So when you try a blob of something with actual substance, an actual colour pigment… people tend to freak out.

Erm, hmm… is that going to be too dark? Will it make the room feel small?

And I say,

No. And no. It only looks dark here, because it’s on a white wall, once it’s on a whole wall, it will look like the colour it’s meant to. At the moment, your eye is just drawn to the harsh contrast between the before and after. Here’s a good example:

So let’s say you were looking at this for a colour scheme. A nice, warm neutral palette with a small splash of icy blue to freshen it up. I want to use Plaster II on your skirtings, plaster V on your walls and Spur on your door. What would you say? How many of you would say this:

“Plaster V is a bit dark for me, can we have Plaster II on the walls instead?”

Hands up if that’s you!

Then imagine I completely ignored you and did what I wanted anyway, and you came home and saw this:

Plaster II, Plaster V and Spur

Does that room look dark to you? Or warm and inviting? In comparison to the walls, how light does that skirting look? Do you still want that on your walls? When I first started this ere design lark, I was asked for some top tips for an article I was being featured in, one of my tips was “choose the colour you like but go one darker on the scale”. Because our eyes do deceive us. It’s our fear that leads us back to the lighter colour because that’s what we’re used to.

Top Tip 1:


Check out this next Paper and Paint Library colour palette:

Lovely rich period colour scheme there with a strong, deep green with Hunter Dunn. It is undoubtedly green isn’t it!

Isn’t it?

Hunter Dunn, Muga, Wattle II and Wattle 

Hmm… is that green? Is it? Looks teal, almost blue to me. What do you think? What do you see? The UK light has loads of blue in it, so paint a wall white, and it will have a blue-y, grey tinge. Paint a wall green, and this blue light with make it appear much blue-er, therefore more teal.

Top Tip 2:


Blue Blood

One of the reasons blue is such a popular colour here in the UK is it doesn’t fight with the light issue. And no it’s not a cold colour. It can be incredibly warm used with dark woods, tans and browns. See below…

Blue Gum

This is a very similar colour we’ve just used in my client’s new living room. A beautiful backdrop to his vintage furniture and dark timber accents.

Georgetown, Plimsoll and Wattle V

Now here’s a great way of playing with colour without fully committing. Get your frog tape out and splash out with a rich, deeper section of wall whilst still keeping your existing scheme. This could easily have been a huge, expensive piece of art, where as this could be done in less than a day and cost a couple of pots of paint. Absolutely, brilliant use of colour.

Grenache, Lady Char’s Lilac and Rouge II

If you’re feeling slightly more experimental and want something bolder, then you’d be hard pressed to find something more “wow” than this. The power of paint and a bit of ‘out of the box’ thinking has certainly paid off here.

Porcelain II and Porcelain V

And finally, this last image sums up perfectly the plan we made yesterday for my client’s staircase and landing. A subtle, split wall in soft greys. The individual colours here aren’t exactly bold, but the way they’ve been used adds the extra oomph. Elegant and fresh at the same time.

So that’s your lot for today. Are you a self confessed wuss when it comes to choosing and committing to using colour at home? Scared to ditch the off-whites and creams? Let me know what you think of today’s post!

Featured image – Beetlenut and Heath

Photography – Paul Raeside for Paper and Paint Library






  1. Agnes says

    Love this and the advice, I love playing with colour although I’m more of a neutrals person. I agree with the weight of a colour, testers are all important. I thought I would go pale in our new house but the colours we tested just didn’t look right so we’ve gone for mostly mid tones.

    But one of our rooms was a huge challenge – it’s north facing and incredibly dark so this is where a lot things went out of the window. Anything remotely dark looked black, you couldn’t determine a colour so we actually had to go for a bright blue, which in reality looks pretty dark but looks a definite colour, if that makes sense!

    • Karen Knox says

      Sounds like you did a great job in choosing what your walls needed. Loving a colour on a swatch sure isn’t the same as it being on your walls. All about those testers!!

  2. Sarah says

    love these! We have an open concept home, and when we were getting ready to paint he big giant living/dining/kitchen/open loft area, I was excited to get to use some color. But I live with a person who said “white” and meant it. So I brought home the “white” booklet, and chose the darkest, bluest white I could find. I had them mix it up a little darker and bluer than that. I got frowns and grumbles and no help painting, but when it was all done, guess what? It looks great! And it IS very much lighter than one would have thought. One of us thinks it is white, and a victory, and the other of us loves the way the gorgeous blue gray pops with the periwinkle accent wall and soffits in the kitchen. 🙂 And because this room has all sorts of different lighting from windows and artificial sources, the color does not look like it is the same everywhere. Pretty neat!

    • Karen Knox says

      Well played there! No such thing as “white” is there really? Soooooo many shades of white. Glad to hear you got one you both love!!

  3. Kate says

    I so agree that you need to test a large area of your intended paint colour. I am keen on mylands paint. I like the quality and the texture. ( I no longer use Farrow and Ball. It was much better in the 80’s when I first used it but not now). I used the darkest shade of grey from the mylands range on my walls. It’s a south facing room with a lot of glass and as Karen says it appears at least 2 shades lighter than my sample paint and I did quite a big area.

  4. Clare says

    One of the best things we spent money on for our house renovation was for you to come round for 2 hours and talk about colours! You gave me the confidence to paint our living room a really gorgeous teal green, and we’ve just finished the kitchen in a mustard yellow. You suggested we invest in some cast iron beautiful radiators – which we have done, and they’ve made an incredible difference in terms of both aesthetics and heat output! Next stop the upstairs of the house. Thank you so much again for your advice – you couldn’t be more right, being brave with colour really does pay off. Best wishes, Clare

    • Karen Knox says

      Oh that’s made my day! Thank you for commenting and letting me know, Clare. I do always wonder what happens after i’ve left a consult. Am sooo glad to hear you went for it and you’re finally getting your lovely house just how you’d like it. And BIG yes to the new rads. Well chuffed for you! Thank you again for your very kind comment x

      • Clare says

        Love your blog and wise words – I hope that other people are inspired as we were. You’re doing an awesome job! x

  5. Anonymous says

    Very educational and thought provoking. Made me smile at my own journey with colours in space. When I first used nutmeg white instead of jasmine white I was so proud of myself for being adventurous and bold 😂. Colour definitely affects mood and I have heard that restaurants choose colours to increase your appetite. Don’t know if this is true. Do you think we are affected by the time of year we choose colours for a room ? What do you think of seasonal colours for rooms ? How do you avoid a room being just “a room for summer” Magazines definitely promote palates to match seasons.

    • Karen Knox says

      Haha. Sounds like you were a Natural Hints kinda girl 🙂
      Yes to colour affecting mood. And big yes to the season affecting our colour choices too. But I don’t think we should always put those big changes on our walls, seasonal updates should be in accessories, lighting and artwork. Painting your room 4 times a year, or even twice is a bit much.
      My living room is black. And it’s black all year. And I love it all year. Because I love what black does to a space, 365 days a year. The colours that surround you and you choose to live with should be colours you love. Trends are nice to follow with accessories, but not for the big stuff. Just do your own thing I say!
      Or buy this book, because it’s brilliant:

  6. Fantastic post Karen. Americans too, are terrified of color. They tend to rely on the safety of beige in every room of their homes and it is utterly depressing. I just completed a post on my fear of beige to be followed up with my embracing the dark side of color soon.

    The Deluxe palette of neutral whites is hilarious. Benjamin Moore has more than a 150 shades of white in their off-white collection of which I think only a dozen or so are actually white. []

  7. Hannah says

    I painted my entire flat light grey. It meant a seamless transition between rooms, fewer decisions and most importantly a ‘blank canvas’ for our pictures. We can’t stop buying art (just bought a painting which is nearly a meter square) and have nearly 40 frames on the walls. For a 630ft2 flat I think that could be overwhelming if I had also gone with colour on the walls. We are currently trying to buy a house and I am excited to have some colour this time. These photos are amazing!

    • Karen Knox says

      Hi Charli,
      The featured image and its colours are credited at the bottom of the post 🙂
      “Featured image – Beetlenut and Heath”

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