The importance of Colour Theory in Interior Design and Rugs

Colour has been linked to emotions and psychology for centuries, and can add their own feeling to a room without any other influence. For this reason, successful interior design relies heavily on the ability to match, contrast and reflect colours that invoke the right mood for the right space, as well as looking pleasing to the eye when combined.

Apart from the walls, the floor space of a room is one of the biggest canvases to use in interior design. Beyond the soft underfoot feel of a quality rug, the colour choice you make for your rug can have huge prevalence over the success of your design. Beyond colour, texture and size is also important, which we outline in our Choosing Your Rug page found here.

Today, we're choosing to focus on colour and how Colour Theory works. If you cast your mind back to any high school art class, you might remember the colour wheel, and how the spectrum of colours sit next to and across from others. This positioning is what makes or breaks colour combinations, and how we can influence colour to work in a design. Check out this fantastic chart from the University of Makeup which breaks down common Colour Theory styles:

Colour Theory Wheel.jpg

THE BASICS

Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Colours

The wheel consists of three types of colours, which are broken into Primary, Secondary and Tertiary colours. 

PRIMARY: Red blue and yellow - These colours can not be made by mixing other colours

SECONDARY: Orange, Purple and Green - these colours made by mixing the Primary Colours 

TERTIARY: Tertiary colours are achieved by combining primary and secondary colours

 

Tone, Shade and Tint

We can further influence colours by adding a neutral tone (Black, white or a mix of both) to a Primary, Secondary or Tertiary colour.

TONE: Adding a neutral grey to a tone to slightly darken it

SHADE: Adding a neutral black tone to darken the colour

TINT: Adding a neutral white to lighten the colour

  Tones, shades and tint all depend on the addition of black or white to a colour. Rug: 'Wall'

Tones, shades and tint all depend on the addition of black or white to a colour. Rug: 'Wall'

 

Warm and Cool Colours

Apart from true neutrals, colour can be described as being "warm" or "cool" depending on the mix within the colour to influence it's outcome, and the placement of the colour on the colour wheel.

WARM COLOURS: Reds, oranges and yellows are generally considered warm colours. They add brightness and vivacity to a colour, creating the difference between a dun brown and a chestnut brown - the prominence of yellow and red in the chestnut brown adds depth and as a result, warmth, to the colour.

COOL COLOURS: The influence and dominance of blue in a colour usually dictates the color to be considered a "cool" tone. For example, a green can be warm (e.g Pantone's Colour of the Year for 2017 "Greenery") as it has a great deal of yellow in it, whereas more blue will make the colour closer to a Pine green or Army green, cooling it down.

 

APPLYING THESE TO INTERIOR DESIGN

 

Complementary and Split Complementary Colour Schemes

A complimentary colour scheme takes two colours that sit directly across from each other on the colour wheel, and in the case of Split Complementary, a second shade is chosen close to one of the original shades to add depth to the scheme. 

  An example of split complimentary colours - The soft blue works with the two shades of warm orangey-beige. Complimentary colours do not need to be bright in order to add interest to a room

An example of split complimentary colours - The soft blue works with the two shades of warm orangey-beige. Complimentary colours do not need to be bright in order to add interest to a room

Triadic and Tetradic Colour Schemes

Slightly more complicated, triadic and tetradic schemes bring in a third (triadic) and fourth (tetradic) colour but unlike split complimentary, all colours are an even space apart on the colour wheel. Triadic schemes are often seen in spaces for children, with the colours usually being bright, happy primary colours that add an extra pop to the design. Tetradic colour design can use brights, but may also tone down to suggest age or history, such as design influenced by Indian, South American or Nepalese design.

  Tetradic colours schemes are busy, but when executed correctly can create an incredible space that sings with personality and energy. Rug: 'Geo Century' in Multi

Tetradic colours schemes are busy, but when executed correctly can create an incredible space that sings with personality and energy. Rug: 'Geo Century' in Multi

COLOUR AND MOOD

If we look beyond the science of the colour wheel, colours have always held significant meanings dependent on culture and country. For example, through a Western eye red may be an aggressive tone, Red in China is considered a colour of luck and favour, with many traditional wedding dresses made in stunning red hues to bring luck to the new couple. Generally speaking however, we can divine a general meaning to each colour and the mood it sets based on its psychological impact to humans at large.

  'Metal Screen' rug in Blue. Hand knotted NZ wool and cotton viscose

'Metal Screen' rug in Blue. Hand knotted NZ wool and cotton viscose

BLUE: Intellect and communication. Promotes calmness, clarity, serenity and efficiency. For this reason, blue is a popular colour for workspaces, and compliments well with whites and beiges.

  'Shells' rug in Green. Hand knotted Himalayan Wool and Silk blend

'Shells' rug in Green. Hand knotted Himalayan Wool and Silk blend

GREEN: Refreshment and peace. Earthy, harmony and balance. Green sits in the centre of the spectrum to the human eye, meaning it requires no further balance from the brain: Long story short, green is naturally restful to the eye and is a soothing and organic tone to use.

 
  'Rabat' rug in yellow. Hand knotted NZ wool and cotton viscose blend

'Rabat' rug in yellow. Hand knotted NZ wool and cotton viscose blend

YELLOW: Emotions and positivity. Yellow is creative, friendly and encourages extraversion and good self esteem. Modern design sees a great use of canary yellow teamed with trendy grey, suggesting a stylish pop of happiness to a space that is otherwise neutral.

  'Cane Weave' rug in Red and white. Hand knotted 100% NZ wool

'Cane Weave' rug in Red and white. Hand knotted 100% NZ wool

RED: Physical energy and stimulation. Considered a masculine colour, red is about courage, strength and excitement. For this reason, you can find a lot of bold uses of bright red in gym branding and interiors, to get patrons motivated and physically pumped.

 
  'Melody' rug in Rose/Grey. Hand knotted bamboo silk and wool blend.

'Melody' rug in Rose/Grey. Hand knotted bamboo silk and wool blend.

PINK: Tranquility, nurturing, warmth, love, sexuality and vulnerability. A tint of red, pink soothes rather than invigorates, but is best used as an accent - too much pink can quickly feel claustrophobic and physically draining.

  'Shadow Lights' rug in Black/white. Hand knotted 100% bamboo silk

'Shadow Lights' rug in Black/white. Hand knotted 100% bamboo silk

BLACK: Sophistication, seriousness, efficiency and substance. Clearly popular in up market establishments, black quietly suggests power and menace, adding a calculated chic look to any interior.