Colour me beautiful

light_and_space3Our home has not been touched since 1958 and although friends think it looks quaint, living there can be an endurance test. Of course, I have the work all planned out but it is going to be a while before I can set to it. Meanwhile I have come up with the cheapest and one of the most satisfying solutions to transform our home: paint! You might like to try it too.

But slow down. Before you go rushing out to buy a tin of magnolia, stop and think for a moment, as there is a real art to painting. Here is your chance to be as radical or as tasteful as you want without causing any permanent damage.

It is no good poring over colour cards at the store and buying the paint there and then. Instead buy some sample pots, take them home and try them in the room. It is often best to paint the samples in the corners of the room as the walls will reflect on each other to give you the true balance. Also look at the samples at different times of day as the colour will change with the light.

What types of paint should you use? I like to go as matt as possible. I know there are wonderful specialist paints for bathrooms and kitchens but they all have a sheen to them. For me a matt emulsion is perfect for walls. It hides all imperfections, has a crisp modern look and is easy to apply. For woodwork, I use an eggshell, which is durable without being glossy. Dulux have recently brought out a useful new paint called Light and Space. The paint is 20 per cent more reflective than ordinary paint - perfect for a dingy hallway, and it has the matt quality that I aim for.

I really like this feature wall thing that's going on right now. It's a great opportunity to go for pretty wild colours without overdosing on them.

This look is best for homes built since the Sixties; it's not for period homes, unless you like mutton dressed as lamb. In living rooms, nominate the largest flat expanse facing the sofa as the feature wall. In bedrooms, it's best to choose behind the bedhead. Be brave and go for your favourite colour: you have nothing to lose but be more cautious with the rest of the room. Keep what is remaining in one neutral colour.

For period homes, I like a more subtle approach. I like to start by painting the skirting in a dark but neutral colour, what I call ‘greige' or a stone colour. I then follow this by painting the walls a tone lighter, then lighter again for the cornice and again for the ceiling. If you want to have more of a colour for the walls, as long as it follows the same tonal rule as the rest it will work well. There is a company called Paint Library (020 7823 7755; who stock a range of paints called Architectural Colours, which are ideal for painting in this fashion.

Finally, I think we all know that the age of the paint effect is over; so no more rag rolling but pattern is back in, big time. This is large and bold, can be done using paints and is rather more individual than using wallpaper. Keep them fairly monotone and individual, rather than a repeated pattern. Think of it as tattooing your walls.

Images below Light and Space range, Dulux Trade (



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