Interior inspiration: Playing with colour
Elizabeth Ockford

Meet Elizabeth Ockford

Elizabeth’s creative talent and passion for colour, pattern, and form saw her study textile design at the Chelsea School of Art before beginning her career, creating fabrics and wallpapers for the fashion and interiors industries.
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The artist Kandinsky said: “colour is a power which directly influences the soul” – and who could argue with that?

The colours you surround yourself with are, indeed, one of the most personal and transformative decisions you can make in your home.

Colour has the potential to influence the mood of a space – which is why it’s always a central part of our designs. That’s not to say that our designs are always bright or vibrantly hued, just that we embrace colour in all its forms.

Playing with a palette

Our most recent collection – The Islands – was inspired by exotic, far-flung destinations. The forms we used included whales, lobsters, seashells, coral and tropical birds and we created a series of textures and geometrics to accompany our more illustrative designs.

The colour palette for this collection began with fresh, cool and typically beachy hues of sea green, blue and golden yellow. We then started to experiment with adding…

W-01052-Bahama
Rich tones of wine and deep petrol blue...
Bahama - W-01052
W-01043-Aruba
Pops of pastel and bright neon...
Aruba - W-01043
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Dazzling accents of coral and jade...
Kitts - W-01013
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and we expanded into more muted tones.
Butia - W-01092

Exploring the way colour changes our designs is always fascinating. Take Martinique, a design based on outsized anatomically-drawn seashells. When the design is rendered in charcoal tones it reads as formal, elegant and sophisticated, and would suit a minimally styled interior, whereas the classic blue and stone combination lends itself to a more airy, playfully nautical theme.

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Martinique - W-01023
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Martinique - W-01025

We also created several colour variations – ranging from light and bright to rich and dark – which completely alter the mood and effect created by our Kitts and Bahama designs.

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Kitts - W-01011
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Kitts - W-01014
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Bahama - W-01054
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Bahama - W-01051

If you’re drawn to a distinctive and colourful wallcovering, for example Bahama in stone/green (below), then you might opt to base your colour scheme around that. Here, the russet, silver, and emerald have pulled through into the furnishings: 

Bahama - W-01053

Don't fear colour: seek out inspiration...

Many of the most exciting, stylish, and aspirational interiors incorporate colour in a brave and creative way – but where to begin? We recommend composing an overarching colour scheme that pleases your eye and sparks the mood and feeling you’re looking to create – whether that’s cosy, airy, dramatic, lively, or relaxed.

One tip is to look for inspiration from those who have accomplished colour in a way that you enjoy and admire. The American modern painter Milton Avery is one of Elizabeth’s favourite artists. Avery used colour in a really exciting way – the paint has a luminosity and dynamism, where the dark offsets the light or clean and pure hues meet subdued or moody tones. These paintings are saturated with a depth of pigment and have an almost electric quality to them that is very pleasing. Avery’s colour combination in the painting below, for example – inky blue, dusky pink and mauve, crisp white and earthier sand and brown tones – could be reworked into the scheme for a room:

Milton Avery, Along the Coast

Pinterest is also a helpful resource for exploring colour inspiration – simply search for terms, such as ‘emerald green room’ for successful design ideas: 

Image credit: deardesigner
Pink and emerald interior shot
Image credit: Maggie Overby Studios
Emerald lounge
Image credit: Nicola Broughton
Emerald and pink interior room
Image credit: Living After Midnight

The website and Instagram account of Michelle Ogundehin – writer, TV presenter and former Editor-in-Chief at Elle Decoration UK – are also great references for finding colour inspiration – see how she has pulled together a tonal palette, inspired by this image:

Inspired colour palette
Image credit: Michelle Ogundehin

Look at colour trends...

We can’t help but be drawn into the buzz that surrounds both Dulux and Pantone’s colours of the year when they’re unveiled – it’s interesting to see the accompanying palettes and observe how these are received by the industry and public.

Pantone’s 2020 Color of the Year is 19-4052 Classic Blue – a richly bold and velvety hue that reminds us of deep oceans and the sky at dusk. Classic Blue is restful and reflective. It is timeless and reassuringly solid: a colour that’s altogether ‘bigger than us’.

On revealing Classic Blue in December 2019, Pantone describe the colour as “instilling calm, confidence, and connection, this enduring blue hue highlights our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era.”

Pantone Colour Palette Desert Twilight
Image credit: Pantone
Pantone Colour Palette Untraditional
Image credit: Pantone

Likewise, a fresh start and the colour of the sky also informed Dulux’s Colour of the Year for 2020. Sitting in the space between grey and celadon-green, Tranquil Dawn was inspired by the serenity of the morning sky. It’s a soft and ethereal hue – a versatile almost-neutral that adapts and shifts with the light and whatever other colours are used alongside it.

In fact, Dulux’s colour experts have explained that Tranquil Dawn “can be used to create spaces for care or for play, to find meaning or for creativity”

Dulux Colour Inspiration Tranquil Dawn
Image credit: Dulux
Dulux Colour inspiration tranquil dawn
Image credit: Dulux

Both institutions selected their shade for this year – the start of a new decade – with an optimism and an emphasis on a fresh start but who could have predicted what lay ahead for our planet?

And finally: ignore the colour 'rules'

Shouldn’t pair pink with red? Nonsense! We love this combination – in all its iterations – from pastel pink with crimson to dusky pink with deep ruby, and clashing hot fuchsia with raspberry red.

Blue and green should never be seen? This is a combination found in nature – how could it be wrong? With so many shades to choose from – from palest apple, vibrant verdigris or deep forest green; and ice through to ink –  the possible pairings are endless.

We believe it’s fine to break these outdated and general rules – you should enjoy the freedom to combine colours that spark delight.

We hope our article has inspired you to take the plunge with colour! For help and advice about any of our collections, please email us on enquiries@elizabethockford.com.

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