Decorating With Accent Colours

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decoration sets off colourful sofakitchen diner in bathpink lampshade in redecorated hall

When it comes to decorating with accent colours, it would be useful to have a colour wheel to hand. You’ll find an example below. We love accent colours, but our design philosophy is first to create a neutral canvas against which they can pop.

The colour wheel

You may have used a colour wheel before; it provides guidance on the colours to use depending on your needs. You can find colour wheels on-line and they look something like this:

Essentially, colours within a segment tone with each other;  those in opposite segments contrast;  those either side of your chosen main colour are said to harmonise with it. Using these definitions, you can see that blues act as contrasting accents for oranges and vice versa.

Conventional wisdom suggests that you use 70% of one colour, 20% of a harmonising colour and 10% accent.  The 70% usually relates to the wall colour and flooring (the large surfaces), 20% perhaps to the main items of furniture and larger elements of the window dressing, and the 10% accent may appear within the window dressing itself, scatter cushions, towels and other accessories.  We think of the 10% as “a splash” but don’t be hung up on the proportions;  if you have a splash of accent in a number of locations, you’ll achieve the objective.

accent colours bring a room to life

There will always be exceptions to the rule. In one instance, we added two pairs of shocking fuchsia pink scatter cushions to lift the pale clay / eau de nil palette, and the room came to life. We show people photos of that scheme with our thumbs over the cushions; then we take our thumbs away and the room is transformed

roman blinds and dress curtains

For that refurbishment, we also painted the inside of a cupboard in a matching fuchsia so that when the doors were opened, the effect was like the lining of a fine suit.

hand-painted TV cabinet

Accent colours

The accent colours we prefer are on the sharp edge of each primary colour range. We’ve mentioned fuchsia pink, but raspberry works equally well.  Also at the red end, we have contrasted a grey scheme with burnt orange.

bathroom installation

For the greens, lime is fantastic as are shades of melon;  in the yellow tones, lemon and acid yellow are great accent colours. There aren’t many blue fruits, so in the blue spectrum we choose aqua and turquoise. It only takes a splash of these colours for the result to be spectacular.

finished kitchen

In the open plan kitchen diner renovation below, our clients chose Orla Kiely designs and colours as the basis of their accents …


… which we infused through the light shades, bar stools, seat and other accessories:


Multi coloured decorative schemes

We are also not afraid to throw a lot of colour into a neutral scheme, and create our own rule. The split is roughly 70% neutral, 30% other colours, as in this dining room. Each dining chair is a different colour, with the roman blind also from the same fabric. If you look out of the window into the courtyard, you’ll see large planters with the same vivid colours that complement those of the chairs.

ceiling pendant light cluster

For the interior design below, we gave our client a truly glamorous bedroom with strong aqua velvets, punctuated with fuchsia pink and gold.

hotel chic bedroom

Metallics and animal print fabric

You can also use metallics as accents – perhaps chrome, copper or gold.  We’ve even used black against pale surfaces. We reupholstered this chair in  striking animal print fabric and it really makes a statement.

reupholstered chair

Below we used the gold frame as the accent, teamed with a gilded floral arrangement.

tiled in freestanding bath

Decorative schemes

We grow up with a view of what is stylish or tasteful, and those views change over time.  Think about colours and shapes in the 1970s and how those went out of fashion; and how they are finding their place again, with a contemporary twist. We still see over-powering decorative schemes, even in glossy magazines where the designer is apparently a genius. However, our view is that you should retain control over colour; use it sparingly, but with real impact.

We have been designing decorative schemes for clients in Bath and Bristol for the past 13 years. Our award-winning service has been recognised by global interiors platform Houzz, based chiefly on our clients’ testimonials.

If you are thinking of decorating your home and need some help, please visit our interior design services page.

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