Published: Sunday January 5, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Sunday January 5, 2014 MYT 10:03:15 AM

Home decor: Colour your life

Embrace the new year by sprucing up your living spaces in gorgeous hues handpicked by colour experts.

ONE of the easiest and most affordable ways to give your home a makeover? Colour your walls!

“Yet most people are afraid to experiment with colours (in their homes),” says colour expert Heleen van Gent of the AkzoNobel Global Colour & Design Centre.

At the World Architecture Festival 2013 held in Singapore, AkzoNobel announced “teal” as the colour for this year, with the theme, “unlocking potential”.

“It’s about harnessing and exploring the potential found in everyday spaces – in our homes, offices, schools and even factories,” van Gent explains at an interview in Kuala Lumpur.

A melding of blue and green, teal is versatile and reflects “sophistication and tranquillity”.

Each year, an international group of experts from the field of design, architecture and fashion huddle together and brainstorm on colour trends at AkzoNobel’s headquarters in Amsterdam. The world’s leading paints and coating manufacturer, the company’s portfolio includes brands like Dulux, Sikkens and Eka. The experts draw their inspirations from social, economic and design trends worldwide.

MUST USE BUT DO NOT USE BIGGER THAN 3COLS: Heleen van Gent wants the world to play with colour in their living and working spaces. After all, if itâ¿¿s disappointing you can just paint it over, she points out.
Heleen van Gent wants the world to play with colour in their living and working spaces. After all, if it’s disappointing, you can just paint it over, she points out.

“We translate those trends into colour fads. At the end of the day, we introduce one colour of the year and five dominating trends which comprise about 75 colours,” says van Gent.

But more than just pandering to fads, van Gent’s job is to help consumers make the right colour choices.

“There’s a lot of colour insecurity and people just don’t know how to, or are afraid to, use colours,” says van Gent, a self-proclaimed colour buff. “We hope to inspire people via trends and ideas of how colours work in actual homes.

“A good starting point? Ask yourself what is your favourite colour, tap into your mood and current trends.”

Van Gent walks the colour talk too. She changes the wall colours in her home every six months. “Colours are my passion! For me, it’s very interesting to see what colour does,” she says.

And she doesn’t always get it right.

Earlier this year, she painted the walls of her living room with a combination of ochre and red.

“I love the colour combo and found it warm and comforting,” she shares the anecdote. “But after three months, I grew so tired of it. I realised it’s just not me.”

MUST USE: The colour of the year, teal, combines the natural harmony of green with the tranquility of blue. Deeper and more sophisticated than turquoise, teal has a subdued richness which is often used to describe tropical seas of shimmering bluish green.
The colour of the year, teal, combines the natural harmony of green with the tranquility of blue. Deeper and more sophisticated than turquoise, teal has a subdued richness which is often used to describe tropical seas of shimmering bluish green.

Choosing the right colours isn’t just about taking a photo of a particular colour in a décor and translating the colour into your own house, van Gent says. “Colour is personal, it should show your personality and you have to recognise yourself in your house.”

Now that same ochre and red wall in her home is coated with dark blue neutral and greenish bright yellow hues.

“I love it! Every evening when I come home, I feel happy in the room. I’m so happy I made the changes,” she adds.

As proponents of colour psychology would agree, the colour you paint your walls go beyond aesthetics.

“It’s a tool that can be leveraged to affect emotions and behaviour,” says Leslie Harrington, a Connecticut, US-based colour consultant in an article on WebMD, an online health information services provider. In other words, colours influence the way we feel and behave.

In recent years, colours are increasingly playing a pivotal role in the field of product design and architecture, van Gent attested.

“Take the furniture industry, for example. Most furniture companies don’t have the money to invest in new designs so they introduce colours for old or iconic designs,” she explains.

The iconic Wishbone chair by Hans Wegner for Carl Hansen and Son comes to mind.

“That’s what we have in mind with ‘unlocking the potential’; take what is really good and do something better with it instead of coming up with something new.”

When it comes to our homes, colour adds character to our living spaces.

“Paint is such a ‘cheap’ product compared to buying a sofa or changing your furniture. One litre of paint can coat a large surface and the impact is big,” says van Gent. “I always advise clients or people I talk to: have a very basic interior, like a basic sofa, lighting, cushion covers and table. Then you can play around with your wall and interiors using colours.”

But why add more colour to an already chaotic scene of objects cluttered in our homes?

“When I talk about colour, it doesn’t necessarily have to be bright yellow, green or red. There are so many shades of neutrals that are colours as well. Even the colour white is colour!” van Gent clarifies.

“You can experiment. Try a warm or cool neutral and see how it sets off your objects and adds depth to your house. Accessories also need a nice canvas to stand out.”

“White is wonderful as long as it’s your choice and not because of a fear of using colours,” she adds, chuckling.

For Klang Valley-based interior designer Patrick Chin, helping his clients decide on colour schemes is part and parcel of his job.

“We usually asks our clients if they have any specific colour preference, especially if it’s feng shui-related,” says Chin who has 20 years of experience in interior design and architecture.

“If they have vibrant art or ornamental collections, or existing furniture in bright, bold colours, we choose neutral colours to create a balance. Monochromatic furniture with a vivid colour backdrop/wall can enhance the space.

“But the end result has to reflect the client’s personality and desired moods based on the function of the space,” he adds.

And as van Gent puts it succinctly: “Don’t take it so seriously. Just decide on the colour and give it a week or two to see if you like it. If it’s disappointing, just paint it over!”

For more information on colour trends and ideas for your homes, go to

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Colour of the Year 2014, Heleen van Gent, AkzoNobel


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