Designing with colour
Fraher & Findlay
By Lizzie
April 2020
Colour is an integral element of our world.
'The architect must consider the color effect of every element of a building's construction, from the earthy colors of primary construction materials like wood, stone, brick, and marble, to the expansive variety of colors available for paint, doors, windows, siding, and trim.' ™ Architects
Architects are generally known for their commitment to grey and white - but looking into this - I'm unclear of why? It could be said that greys and white give the perfect blank canvas for us to shape and build purer spaces - however, it is known that whites and greys do not exactly boost productivity or morale. The well-known architect Louis Kahn gave an interview, saying: 'I have no colour applied on the walls of my home. I wouldn't want to disturb the beauty of natural light.'

Design is a visual form of communication - it makes us feel, respond, react, love, hate…… therefore the way in which our three-dimensional spaces communicate with us, has a big impact on how we feel. The impression of a colour and the message it conveys is of utmost importance in creating the psychological mood or ambience that supports the function of a space.

So how to use colour?
Colour tone, combination and placement are key to the behavioural effects created, and it's often best to work with an expert colour specialist to help with this. Farrow and Ball, Little Green Paint Company amongst others can help you with this and we have lots of experience of this in the studio.

So how do the different colours make me feel?

Red: Warmth, passion, energy, excitement, power and ambition
Design: Boldness, strength and importance - it is a highly visible colour. Red always appears closer than it is. If used on the ceilings it can feel disturbing and heavy.

Orange: Activity, Optimism, Sociable, Appetite
Design: Youthful & Casual 'Doesn't take itself too seriously.' It has very few negative connotations. If you are to use it on the walls it would feel warm and luminous.

Image from Jotun Lady

Yellow: Cheerfulness, friendliness, intellect, energy, joy & youth.
Design: Attracts attention, pure, friendly and fun feeling generally. Used on the ceiling in a light shade it stimulates us and is illuminating (not great for getting to sleep!)

Green: Health, fresh, natural & balance. Dark Green can represent wealth. Green is the most restful colour to the eye (opposite to red).
Design: Stability, growth, sustainable. It doesn't work well on ceilings as it reflects onto your skin - on walls it can be cool, secure and reliable.

Image from Jotun Lady
Blue: The sea and sky - peaceful and clean. Calming & Trustworthy
Design: Calming - most versatile of colours - communicates trustworthiness, security and stability. Dark and Navy blue is seen as professional and understated. Blue decreases a person's blood pressure and pulse rate. When used on the walls in a light shade it feels cool and spacious - when used as dark blue it can deepen the space.

Purple: Spiritual, religious and honour. Creativity and Fantasy.
Design: Deeper purple: Luxury & opulence, lighter purple - feminine or child friendly (pinks for nurture). Purple can work well on the floor - on walls, it can feel quite heavy.

Image: Christmas Houses, Fraher & Findlay
Black: Modern & Sophisticated, power & exclusivity. Death and mystery.
Design: Colours always look brighter and more intense against black. Black not used excessively in the home.

Brown: Warm, secure, stable. There is a strong difference between brown paint and brown natural tones. We are yet to use a deep brown wall paint - just haven't found the right shade yet!

Image: Design Milk
White: Clean & Minimal - purity, goodness but can also be stark and sterile
Design: Simplicity, clean and modern quality. When used on the ceiling it can help to diffuse light sources and reduce shadows. When used on the floor it can feel uncomfortable as though the surface should not be walked on.

Grey: Neutral to calming
Design: Grey is the only colour to not have much of a psychological reaction. When used on the ceiling it can appear shadowy, but when used on the walls and floors its effect is neutral.

Image: Urban Avenue
The Colour wheel
A colour wheel is an organization of colour hues around a circle, showing the relationships between primary, secondary and tertiary colours. We use a colour wheel in the studio when looking at colours for our projects with our Clients. The wheel can be used to help our Clients feel comfortable with colour schemes:

1) Tonal: Using one colour from the wheel but varying tones of it throughout the room.

2) Harmonious: Picking colours next to one another on the wheel - these colour relationships are easy to live with

3) Complementary: Contrasting colours sit opposite each other on the wheel and inject life into a scheme.

Where to use warm colours? (sit on the yellow to red range of the colour wheel): - Areas where you want people to feel welcomed

Where to use cool colours? (sit on the blue/green range of the colour wheel):

  • Areas that you want to relax
  • Spaces that you want to feel bigger
  • More Private rooms
How to link rooms with colour?

  • A lot of the spaces we design are open plan and so the line at which you stop a colour can be challenging. We look to choose harmonious colours for rooms that open up on to one another. We often try to keep woodwork the same colour to provide continuity.

So as a Studio it's exciting to see how spaces can be impacted through the use of colour right from the very beginning of a project. We love taking a look through a Client's Pinterest board to see their feelings about colour…. And it's exactly that - a very emotive reaction and one that we continue to learn about and help it inform our projects.

We will be looking back at colour palettes for different periods of properties in another journal post.

If you are thinking of starting a project, please do not hesitate to contact us in the studio: