While some homeowners like to create an interior scheme from scratch, architectural features and prized collections are often the starting point for owners of period homes, and collectors of antiques and vintage. Using a single bold colour throughout can be overpowering. Instead, those passionate about the past are increasingly opting to use a variety of versatile neutral, tonal shades, such as whites, creams, greys and taupes, to keep their homes bright and create a clean backdrop to allow displays and features to stand out.
‘When choosing colours for a period home, think about the look that you wish to achieve. For an authentic scheme, research the style of the time. For instance, Victorians often teamed rich or muted olive greens with big pattern, such as flocks and damasks. Alternatively, bring the look up to date by mixing authentic period colours with contemporary furniture and accessories.’ Stephen Percy-Robb, managing director of Craig & Rose
Whether you prefer neutral or bright, there’s a wide choice of paints, from those replicating historic shades and ingredients, to modern-day formulas, on-trend hues and colour-matching solutions – all now containing low or virtually no VOCs [solvents released into the air as paint dries], thanks to EU legislation.
There are three general approaches to decorating a room:
- coloured walls and lighter woodwork;
- lighter walls and darker woodwork, giving the illusion of space;
- colour on walls and woodwork for a clean, contemporary look.
There are no set rules, and paint is increasingly used on ceilings, floors, furniture and architectural features to inject fun and originality.
‘The tone of neutral colours can be used to create the illusion of more space. Choose white for ceilings, but an off-white on walls to make smaller period homes feel a little larger. Warmer grey-whites are good for showing off favourite pieces of art, while creamy whites create a feeling of intimacy, along with the impression of lower walls — good in properties with high ceilings. For a traditional look, paint cornice work two shades lighter than the wall colour.’ Cathryn Helsby, paint expert at Earthborn.
Paints are also a great way to add interest to exterior surfaces, but will need to be durable and protective against the elements. Do your research before choosing paint for period properties, as older masonry may require specialist breathable coatings — the wrong paint can lead to irreversible damage to the building fabric.
- Light plays an important part in perceiving colour. Before buying a paint, move a swatch around a room to check the effect of light at different times.
- It’s easy to upcycle furniture with paint. Simply rub it down with wire wool, apply a primer, then a gloss or satin. Using chalk paint without primer will give a rustic look.
Know your finishes
Also known as a flat finish, matt has a powdery, unreflective appearance. With light-absorbing properties, matt paints look soft, highly pigmented, and are perfect for using on the walls of period homes and uneven surfaces to disguise imperfections.
This finish is associated with increasingly popular chalk- and clay-based paints. They have an even more velvety appearance than most regular matt coatings. Providing a highly matt surface that subtly changes in the light, such paints usually have fantastic breathability and are great for walls in period homes, but cannot be wiped clean. Used on furniture, they will give a rustic look.
Eggshell and satin
Part way between matt and gloss, an eggshell finish has a low sheen and silky-smooth appearance. More durable than matt paints and resistant to steam, eggshell is perfect for using on indoor and outdoor woodwork, and in kitchens and bathrooms, due to its water-resistant, wipeable properties.
This has a shiny, reflective finish. With a high level of sheen, gloss paints are far tougher than eggshell paint and are great for protecting wooden door and window frames and in kitchens and bathrooms. Try using on walls for a glamorous effect.
Working with neutrals
Beauty Cream, new from Dulux MixLab, is the perfect foundation upon which to build a layered look. Blended for the Him + Her trend at Dulux, which brings together feminine and masculine tones, this warm neutral is effective teamed with an eclectic mix of contemporary furniture, antique paintings and ‘masculine’ pops of colour. Priced £24.49 for 2.5ltrs of matt emulsion. (0844 481 7817; dulux.co.uk)
Blushing copper tones have been hailed by industry experts as one of this season’s major colour trends. Already popular in homeware, copper and rose-gold can now also feature on your walls. Here, Warm Terracotta (lower part of the wall),is complemented by Bumble Peach, both £13.94 for 2.5ltrs of Colours One Coat matt emulsion from B&Q. (diy.com)
From rich cobalt to jewel-like teal, bold and punchy blues are on-trend and often suit period homes. Renowned for heritage shades, Little Greene has introduced Hicks’ Blue to its portfolio. David Hicks, who inspired the name, was one of the most important designers of the 1960s and 1970s, and used this shade in 1962 in the London Telecom Tower restaurant. Priced £37 for 2.5ltrs of absolute matt emulsion. (littlegreene.com)
Described as a deep, energetic colour, Burnham Red is oneof two new paint shadesfrom Neptune this season. Historically, red was often used in dining rooms to create an inviting atmosphere conducive to socialising, but if you’re not so colour-confident, using it sparingly on furniture, combined with white walls and layered-up stripe linens, can create a calming, classic country look. Priced £42 for 2.5ltrs of eggshell. (01793 427450; neptune.com)