Colour Highlights in the Interior Design

The idea of a highlight in an interior design is to attract attention and perhaps at the same time distract the eye from a less deserving area. If colour is to be effective as a highlight, it has to be seen against neutral or tonally similar background. It will obviously not work in a room that is already a riot of colour. A highlight does not have to be a strongly saturated colour – a flash of pale apricot, for instance, seen against dark grey, would be as effective as a violet against baby pink.

If the room is mainly used for daytime activities, any colour highlights should be placed within reach of the direct natural light coming from windows, skylights or doors. A room for evening use can be fitted with directional spotlights, as light is imperative to bring any colour to life.

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The hightlight should stand out and be quitedifferent from the surrounding colour, and its effect should be uplifting. Choosing colours to usein this way providesan opportunity to follow our colour instincts and introduce our favourite colours. There are often the stronger shades that produce an immediate physical response when we see them, and as this reaction is so subjective it is best to avoid using them over large areas.

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Many interior designers have built their reputation on their bold use of certain colours in public places or other people’s homes, but are revealed to have chosen a neutral palette when their own homes feature in interior design magazines. Large areas of a favourite colour can be too stimulating and exhausting to live with, whereas a small area can be deliciously attractive, bringing the eye back again and again to take pleasure in its beauty.

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The right combinations and arrangements of colour are like food for the eyes, and good food makes us feel better. We need to balance what our eyes see in the same way as we doour diets, providing a balance of colours to satisfy our senses without over-indulgence, which leads to the visual equivalent of indigestion.

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The colour of the background will help decide which highlights will work best. A strong contrast is important, but this could be oneof tone as well as colour. Complementary colours from opposite sides of the colour wheel, such as orange and blue or red and green, create exciting highlights, but must be used in the correct proportions to one anotheror they will be too competative.

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A sage green room, for example, will be enlivened by a bowl of scarlet dahlias but completely overpowered by a large red rug. Remember that it is with flashes of brilliance that we turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.


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