Home Decor

Five essential rules when decorating with colour

Transform an underused room into a playful colourful retreat with these tips from designer Emily Griffin.
By Emma Reddington
Emily-Griffin-colour-tips-pink-office-wallpaper-work-area-bubble-chair-lounge Design, Emily Griffin. Photo, Sian Richards.

At their first meeting for the design of this Toronto home office and creative escape, the homeowner presented her designer, Emily Griffin, with inspiration photos of neutral linen sofas, distressed wood, pale walls and equestrian images. It was a complete departure from the rest of the house, which packs a colourful punch with lots of hot vibrant hues. Knowing the woman well, at the next meeting Emily brought a range of wallpapers and fabrics ranging from organic and neutral to bold and dramatic. True to form, the homeowner went for the brightest, most exuberant fabric: a multicoloured raised velvet. She also chose an elaborate wallpaper with a bold pattern in pink and silver. Armed with these two pieces, Emily set about creating an inspiring space perfect for crafting, lounging, reading or just getting away from it all. There’s a long desk with two workstations used by mother and daughter for computer work, while a comfy sofa sits across from a discreetly tucked-away television. The pièce de résistance, a floating bubble chair accented with a bright pink and orange cushion, hangs in a corner and is the ideal spot to dream up new ideas. In the end, the room was very much a nod to the house: a whimsical, glamorous escape bursting with cheerful colour. We sat down with the designer to get her best tips on decorating with colour.

Q: Where do you start?

A: Every room needs a jumping-off point. Begin with a piece of art, wallpaper or fabric. Once you’ve found it, pull your colours from there.

Q: What is the best way to decide on colour?

A: Start by asking yourself what colours you don’t like. Then make a list of the colours you’re drawn to. Finally pull out all of your favourite paint chips — the colours you think you could live with. It’s a basic test. Often the colours we love aren’t the ones we necessarily want to live with.

Q: How do you make multiple colours in one house work?


A: It’s all about the tone. Colours should flow from room to room, but they don’t have to be the exact same shade. Just make sure they are in the same tonal family. My exception to this rule is powder rooms. There’s nothing better than opening the door and seeing an unexpected wallpaper or colour on the walls.

Q: Are there any rules for decorating with bright colours?

A: Yes. Don’t overdo it. Pick where you want to showcase the colour —  whether it is through paint, rugs, pillows or upholstery — and then rein yourself in.

Q: Do you test paints before committing?

A: Absolutely 100 percent. I never trust a paint chip because a colour will always look different once it’s on the wall. Always paint a test patch directly on the surface you’re painting before you commit.


Wallpaper, Cole & Son. Chairs, Kartell. Fabric, Designer Fabrics. Lamps, West Elm.


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