Vintage Style Decorating
Colours that stand opposite each other on the wheel, and which are therefore as unlike one another as possible, are known as complementary colours. They create the strongest contrasts, and therefore the liveliest colour schemes. Adjacent colours, particularly those that sit between two primary colours, for example turquoise, blue and green, are harmonious, as the eye can travel easily from one to another. Strong, pure colours may be described as saturated. And a colour that is said to have been ‘knocked back’ or ‘dirtied’ has had its intensity deliberately weakened. This is a device often employed by professional designers to add a touch of drab colour to a bright or pastel scheme to make the main colours seem even fresher in comparison.
The qualities that we most often ascribe to colours are warmth and coolness. The warm colours reds, yellows and oranges seem to come towards you, and this is what makes rooms decorated in these colours seem cosy and welcoming. They also seem to make a room look smaller. In contrast, cool colours violets, blues, greens and black seem to recede and appear to create a sense of space. As with everything there are plenty of exceptions, however. The colour of faded denim, for example, is a ubiquitous and much-loved warm blue, while nature provides more such examples in cornflowers and forget-me-nots. Red supposedly the hottest colour of all is anything but when it appears as a sugary pink or in crimson pigment.
A colours tone describes its darkness or lightness. Darker tones also known as shades are created by adding black to a saturated colour, while light tones – sometimes called tints are created by adding white. Two of the easiest ways to create a harmonious scheme are to put together colours that are similar in tone or to combine several tones of a single colour.
A colour scheme based on combining more than one tone of a single hue is often called monochromatic, and when it is based on a neutral colour, such as beige, the shades blend to create a muted and subtle backdrop. Sometimes, though, the different tones vary so much that it is hard to believe they are all derived from one colour. An example would be a scheme based on an orangy red, which might deepen to chocolate brown and lighten to a rosy pink.