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How to use colour at home jewel tone colours in interior design

How to use Colour at Home without it Looking Crazy

There’s nothing I adore more than solving your decorating dilemmas. In today’s post, I’m coming to the rescue of a TLC reader in need of colour assistance.

How to Use Colour without it Looking Crazy

Recently on Facebook I asked you guys what your biggest decorating issues were at home, and TLC reader Natasha posed the below comment regarding how to use colour. I’m using it as a basis to give you a quick tutorial on colour and how to rock it at home.

Natasha writes:
“I love your blog and use it all the time for styling advice – I’d love more help on how to add colour without making my house look like a circus. I know neutrals are the easy and simple way to go but I just find my home too boring without colour – but when I splash it around I tend to go too far”.

white timber floorboards in living room with red white and blue primary colours

Well Natasha (and the rest of you glorious readers), let me tell you the secret to rocking multiple colours at home without it looking crazy, juvenile, or like the circus has come to town!

I’m going to reveal three words to you in today’s post that will change your life. Well, it might not change your life, but it will change the way you approach colour when you’re shopping for decor. They are:

Tint: Adding white to a pure colour to lighten the hue.
Tone: Adding grey to a pure colour to make it less saturated.
Shade: Adding black to a pure colour to make it richer.

red yellow and blue interior design primary colours interior design

Pure Colours

The photo above perfectly demonstrates pure colours at play. The red, yellow and blue are primary colours and the green is a secondary colour. Rooms like this (as divine as they are) are the spaces people often describe as juvenile. It’s because there’s a largely white base at play – and a cold white at that – topped with pure, bold colours in block form.

The colours you see above are often attributed to kids toys, and inturn their bedrooms, which is why as adults we find it hard to make these work in a space and still have it feel sophisticated.

The good news is; tinting, toning or shading these pure colours is a great way to add colour to a space. So when you’re next shopping or putting a room together stylistically, ensure there aren’t too many of these pure colours at play. It’s the first step to removing the circus vibe from your space.

Pastel interior design ideas pastel dining room chairs

Tinted Colours

The colours you see in the photo above are all derived from the pure colours in image one. They’re just lightened within an inch of their life by adding white, resulting in a colour scheme we commonly refer to as pastel. By tinting the pure colours, you remove a lot of the intensity and create a space that feels calm and serene.

This is a beautiful representation of how you can use colour – still against a crisp, white backdrop – and not have it feel too visually chaotic of childlike. Sure, it definitely feels softer (or more feminine), but it’s an easy way to have colour at play in your space and bodes well in Scandi, French ornate or coastal interior design schemes.

You can add some drama to this colour scheme with a few pops of black if you wish, as seen above.

schoolhouse electric dining room using mid tone colours

Toned Colours

When you add grey to the pure colours in image one, you end up getting these gorgeous, mid-toned colours. The best part; they feel neither masculine or feminine. In my humble opinion, these tones are the ones you should veer toward if you adore colour and want to use a lot of it.

The mid-tones mingle really well together and are great when put against brown toned woods. This makes them great in a mid-Century scheme, eclectic space or  country interior.

It’s pretty hard to get the colour combinations wrong in this look, actually, because they’re not visually punchy. In fact, you can use a lot of them and bring in an accent like a metallic and have it all work perfectly.

Jewel tones in interior design emerald green sofa against blue feature wall

Shaded Colours

Adding black to the original pure colours at the start of this post results in deep and moody shades. Just like the ones you see above. These are commonly known as jewel tones.

These colours – be they in reds, yellows, greens or blues – bring such a sense of opulence and sophistication with them. And they’re often paired with black and dark brown colours in a space. You’ll also see them surrounded by reflective materials like brass, marble and glass. It’s definitely a moodier, somewhat masculine colour palette.

It’s important to understand that when you’re shopping, you need to think about the backdrop you’re putting jewel tones against. If it’s a bright, all-white wall and floor scenario, these tones can make the space feel juvenile and high-contrast. That’s because there’s too much variation between the jewel tones and the white in terms of colour. The result: it can be quite jarring on the eye.

Living room ideas green armchair and black leather sofa from Schoolhouse Electric

I hope this quick tutorial on how to use colour has given you some food for thought.

By understanding how the colours differ and play together, it’ll give you an idea of what tones to veer toward. It’ll also help you understand the kind of vibe or feeling the room will have when complete.

Lastly, my top two tips to remember on how to use colour at home:

  • Use three main colours in the room, and a fourth colour as a small accent. If you look back at all the rooms you see in the post, they abide by this rule. And it works well.
  • The most well-resolved spaces use a combination of tinted, toned and shaded colours. The picture directly above is a good example of this colour combo at play.


Which of the colour palettes in this post is your favourite? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Image Credits: One, Pure, Tinted, Toned, Shaded, Six


Chris Carroll

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He’s also spent time on TV, on Channel 10’s Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you’d like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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2 Responses

  1. Thank you so much for this! Of course being me I love them all and somehow want to have a room of each in my house LOL This gives me so much to think about with what hasnt quite been working in our house and gives me heaps of direction.

    That tinted colour room at the top is so crazy good that it has made me reassess the need for BOLD colours like I seem to always think I need – it doesn’t look the slightest bit dull and boring but also doesn’t look like a circus!

    I’ll be reading this a few times I think to make sure I understand how to put it into action in my home!

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I’m interior designer Chris Carroll, and at TLC Interiors we’re all about helping you create an amazing home without breaking the bank. It’s affordable designer style at its best, and we make the whole process easy and fun for clients & readers alike!

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