Every season has its own special colour palette, especially when you live in a country that has such dramatic climate swings as we do in Canada. Spring is full of boisterous new leaf greens and apple blossom pinks, summer rides high on a riot of brilliant blues, citrus yellow, hot orange and red, and cool, fresh whites. As those green leaves burn themselves out in the fall, they surround us with glowing shades of orange, ochre, russet and browns, and the cycle ends with sparkling shades of winter whites and a myriad of subdued grays.
It’s wonderful to experience the rhythms of the earth, and to bring some of Mother Nature’s decorating skills into our indoor spaces. If you are thinking about a change, you might be inspired by the earthy warm hues of autumn to instill cozy spirit into your home.
Yellow and Ochre
There are those who say that yellow is a difficult colour to get right. And it can turn on you. Pastel yellow may end up looking washed out, and almost disappears in a sunny room. Yellows that lean toward the green side are sharp, citrus and can be overpowering. But yellows that have a hint of orange or brown in them are generally a safe bet as they create a group of happy and comforting shades such as buttercup, marmalade, mustard and ochre. These make a welcome backdrop for any room. They are strong, but don’t dominate.
Furnishings and artwork are punctuated as if they are sharing the inner glow of the yellow rather than fighting for recognition.
The lighter shades of these mellow yellows are beautiful in a bedroom or living room. Apply a coat of paint or choose wallpaper in a stripe. Any shade of green, pink or blue work well in upholstery fabrics or bed linens, and dark wood is especially rich in this setting.
For drama in a dining room, go with the earthier ochre. Rather than as a flat colour on the wall, mix one part ochre paint to three parts glazing liquid and wash the coloured glaze over a lighter yellow base coat. The broken colour will increase the play of light on the surface and this creates a more interesting mood.
No colour reacts to changes in light as actively as yellow. The rooms that you wake up to in the morning will have a new look at noon and again at night. But no matter what time it is, you will be smiling.
Raspberry to Russet
Autumn’s reds can simply take your breath away. There is enough brown in them to nudge the brilliance down a notch, and yet the boldness of this colour will always be stimulating. Saturated colours such as raspberry, russet, and heritage reds are exciting in a dining room or a den, specifically suited to evening light, chatting and reading.
Dark reds also make an exciting choice for an accent wall. Think about a branch of autumn leaves, with the reds and ochres side by side. This is a stunning combination. You don’t need much red, but by injecting a little in each room, you can unify your overall colour scheme. A few throw pillows in the living room, a vase in the bedroom, an accent chair or even a framed poster with a splash of red will add life and humour to your style.
If you are painting a light wall with a dark colour such as red, there are a few tips that will make the job easier.
Apply a coat of primer that has been tinted with some of the colour you are using. Allow the primer to dry for at least four hours before painting. It often takes two or three coats of paint to get full coverage, and allow each coat to dry before applying the next coat (four hours for water-based paint, depending on the heat and humidity).
Paint comes in a variety of sheens from matte or flat to high gloss. A flat sheen will show every smudge and fingerprint, particularly with a dark colour. A satin or velvet sheen is more forgiving, and a good choice for most rooms. A glossy sheen reflects the light and shows up any bumps or imperfections on the wall.
Browns and Grays
Vivacious couplings such as the yellows and reds we are thinking about here do need a little grounding. This is easily done with the trim and woodwork. If you live in a home that has natural wood trim, then you are lucky, because shades of brown, particularly the dark oak stains, frame the walls beautifully. Wood floors will also shine.
Another way to go is with mid tones of gray. The coolness will act as a natural buffer. Paint the baseboards and one or two important doors in semi-gloss historic gray. Or try a dragged paint technique on the trim. It is easy and effective.
First apply a coat of cream-coloured paint. Mix the gray paint with glazing liquid. This will slow down the drying time so you can work the paint. Apply the gray glaze over the cream base coat, working in four to six-foot lengths. Drag a coarse-haired paintbrush through the wet glaze, moving in only one direction (along the length of the trim). Wipe off the excess paint on a rag and drag again until you have the look you like. The overall effect will be gray, but the cream will show through in the brush marks.
Stone floors in an entranceway, solid or patterned gray linoleum in the kitchen, or gray carpet complement ochre and russet. Gray has many sides, but in this scenario you can’t go wrong whether it is steel blue, barnwood or brown gray.
Concrete is a fashionable material in contemporary interior designs, not only seen in loft floors, but also as kitchen countertops and bathroom walls. The autumn palette suits the somber concrete shades. Switch the composition and imagine a brick red kitchen floor under a stretch of stone counter space, or a marmalade couch with navy blue cushions settled in the midst of soaring seagull gray loft walls.
No season wears just one colour — the magic is in the mix. Autumn’s hues are great fun to play with, just like a towering pile of fallen leaves. And they create a luminous home environment.