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tan leather bed with kip and co yellow bedding and timber pendant light from dulux entwine

Gutless when it Comes to Colour? It’s Not Your Fault

I was at an event last week, talking to a group of media types about my work as an interior stylist. 

When it got to the moment the audience were able to ask questions of me, someone asked what my bravest design has ever been for a client. And you know what? I couldn’t think of one.

The response I gave, which is actually the truth, is that the client dictates the design we go with. It’s not my job to put my tastes into their home. It’s about assessing their wants and needs, and coming up with an awesome concept that works for their home and ticks all the boxes (both visually and functionally).

The sad thing I realised in that moment though, is that in Australia, we’re not very brave when it comes to decorating our homes. And then I started to wonder why.

west elm cushions in red tones against soft pink backdrop

We’re Very Slow to Adopt Trends

Now, I’m not saying my client’s aren’t the bomb-diggity. I love them. And if you’re thinking about working with me, I love you as well. But when reflecting upon the homes I’ve worked on, the spaces I’ve been in, and even the content that proves most-popular on this blog, let me assure you…. it’s all a bit safe.

In Australia, we’re actually quite slow to adopt design trends. Sorry to break the bad news, but it’s true.

We love Scandi, we love coastal, we love most things that are white, beige, and dusty grey. From what I’m seeing on Instagram, we’re getting adventurous enough to use soft pink accents, but not much else.

Remember when Pantone release Marsala as its colour of the year back in 2015? We clutched our pearls, screwed up our faces, and turned a blind eye. Rich reds in the home, we said… no thank you! Two years later, however, we’re finally coming around. Albeit in really small doses, like a few red cushions or an abstract artwork.

I don’t say any of this to insult you. But it is an interesting issue to look at, don’t you think? I find it intriguing, anyway; that as a nation we are so slow to adopt trends – especially when it comes to colour.

essenza-mokum-fabric-in-china-blue-floral-wallpaper-design

Our Siblings Overseas are as Gutsy as Ever

Overseas (in the UK in particular), they’re rocking colour like it’s going out of style. The Brits are painting their living rooms green, their kitchens red, their bedrooms purple.

Now, that’s not exactly the most cohesive approach to interior design, and I wouldn’t recommend you do it. But you’ve gotta admire their gumption. They don’t seem as afraid as we are to splash paint on our walls, or throw up some wallpaper in their dining room to see how it looks.

So why are we so cautious in Australia when it comes to decorating?

After much deliberation, this is the answer I’ve finally come up with: We don’t know how to use colour properly.

The biggest reason for this is simple: Down Under, we are starved (and I mean STARVED) for locally produced decorating shows that guide us on how to use colour.

The Block Glasshouse

Nobody is Showing you How to Get it Right

In both the UK and the US (and even Canada) they are flooded with design shows that showcase trends, colour, pattern. You know – daring design! Here, however, you could count the amount of decorating shows we produce on one hand. And sadly the majority of them don’t provide viewers with real, easy-to-understand tips on using colour, mixing colours, and making a room work.

Even the magazines (sorry mags, don’t come after me), don’t delve too much into tips. You know why… tips are hard to convey, and they don’t sell magazines. In fact, even websites and blogs don’t tend to do a heap of tutorials on getting colour right, for example. Again, because it doesn’t click-bait readers enough. Tips aren’t sexy or exciting or scandalous. But the country desperately needs them.

I have a whole ‘how to decorate’ category on this blog, but I can assure you that it doesn’t get people clicking over from Facebook when I post on getting colour right at home. Not as much as a recap on The Block or House Rules does.

spring colours pink walls dulux colour trends for spring 2016

So what’s the Solution?

As I said in this post on why there are almost no Australian decorating shows, we need more locally-produced TV series that teach as opposed to entertain. I know, it sounds so boring, but it doesn’t have to be – not if the right person makes it.

You can do a whole room makeover and teach people about colour and spacial planning and pattern and trends all at the same time. And showcase some awesome products from local brands while we’re at it. It can be fun and entertaining, all while giving the viewer something to take away (you know… like knowledge!).

Then, and only then, will Aussies feel more confident to give colour, patterns and new trends a go at home. To be bold in their design choices. And to not fear a bit of experimentation when it comes to decorating.

While I await calls from Foxtel to have me host this series, drop me a comment below and let me know what you make of this topic. Do you think we’re gutless when it comes to decorating? And why?

Photo credits: 1 and 5 Dulux, 2 West Elm, 3 Mokum, 4 Nine Jumpin

Outside of writing the TLC Interiors blog, Chris is an interior stylist and author. You can also catch him on your TV screens as a designer on Channel 10's Changing Rooms. If you'd like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

Comments (14)

  • Nem

    I think it has more to do with how expensive everything is here. Decorating your house can get expensive so people only want to do it when they need to. If they take a risk and end up getting it wrong it is going to cost more. I think this can also a good thing as it means that people are not treating furniture/homewares as disposable items.
    Saying that, I would love some decent Australian decorating shows!

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  • I agree 100 percent… and yet I think I too fall in the ‘scared of colour’ category! I think lots of us secretly love colour and what it can do to a room but we’re too afraid to go bold so we stick to white walls, neutrals and perhaps tiny splashes of colour which is safe…. it’s safe but when you see it all the time it’s boring! I recently decided I’m going to try to be a bit more gutsy when it comes to decorating. Not everyone has to like it – you just have to like it!

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  • Following your post, I thought to myself how boring and depressing it had been if the world was just white. The world full of colours – blue sky, brown land, green plants and it’s so beautiful all together.

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  • Jo Wood

    Could not agree more. We are so scared of colour and we don’t take risk. We run amateur decorating programs which agains supports mainstream ideas. Even when selling your home now, companies come in and strip them back to basic .. blah.. because that sells homes!

    Bring on a “how to do colour right!”

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  • Hi Chris! I agree about the whole scared to use colour but I’ve recently just gone for it in all the kids rooms… which seem like a ‘safe and acceptable place’ to try colour! They love their rooms and I love the different moods created for each of their little personalities.

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  • Jonathon Baillieu

    Couldn,t agree with you more Chris but I did notice when you showcased your own new home there was not the bang of colour that I anticipated.As a long time reader of Verandah,Southern Homes,even Architectural Digest and especially English House and Garden I am continued to be amazed at what American and English decorators are prepared to and can do.Do you think the problem here is that decor is dictated by what is fashionable in the high street and the products that sponsors of both television programmes and magazines offer.My mantra is colour and movement.I think Mame Dennis once said “life is a smorgasboard and half the poor buggers are starving to death” In Australia the same seems to apply to decorating,It’s not, hard do your homework,look at Pinterest,read an overseas magazine and with a little effort most of what you see is all available to you here.

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  • Jus

    I think that people no longer buy “forever homes” so they are more reluctant to decorate to their personal taste and are more likely to go “safe and cheap” for resale value. TV teaches us to do this and developers do it too for new homes.

    Having said that, I am currently painting my walls from a weird blue/grey to white because the current colour depresses me so much. I thought about bold colours but I find them too emotionally overwhelming.

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  • deborah

    thank you for this post. i do not feel confident with colour but i love a vase of flowers of every colour that i can not the same colour. . when i make a rug i use every colour that is can in the same material. I am often told that “i would not put that colours together” . I think why not.

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  • Fiona

    Besides the comment “ the bomb-diggity” I think that your wise words of “nobody is showing us how to do it right” is spot on. The Bloxk was Yawn! And most advise is pick a neutral and build on it. Picking the neutral is easy it’s the colour building that gets murky.
    Thanks for being brave with colour Chris

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