Colour has played an integral role in the evolution of humans, such as recognising
nature’s warning signs of red or yellow in animals / plants, or the intensity of dark grey rain clouds before a downpour. The earliest colours used by humans in history came from indigo (taken from the leaves of the tropical plant Indigofera tinctoria), red ochre (from iron oxide) and black charcoal. Whilst natural blues and greens have had enduring appeal, red has remained a powerful colour, used for millennia to represent courage, military combat, revolution, fertility, and marriage. For designers, colour is an opportunity to evoke emotion and set atmosphere, alongside pattern, texture, and tone. Calm spaces can employ a soft palette of browns, greens, and blues with accents of brighter colours to add interest. Colour has also become wedded to brands, which can provide opportunities and limitations in design terms.
use of color
Whilst colour is the hallmark of certain designers, at Squire & Partners we use colour carefully and sparingly, and where it has meaning drawn from the context. Meaning can come from the building itself, particularly in retrofit projects, the history of the local area or the occupier’s brand. At The Ministry, which is a creative workspace and private members club for The Ministry of Sound in London, we used a petrol blue colour to reference the industrial past of the former warehouse but applied it to luxurious fabrics such as velvet drapes and furnishings.
Accent colour can easily be dialed up or down to increase / decrease its intensity. This is best implemented with easily changeable elements such as rugs and furniture, meaning that the strength of colour can be moderated, or the palette changed without expensive changes to the overall aesthetic. At The Frames, which is a workspace in London’s Shoreditch area, we commissioned renowned street artist, Mr. Jago to create a bespoke mural in the reception area, and then extracted colours from this to inform the furniture palette, set against a backdrop of raw industrial tones and textures.
We also use colour to draw out interior elements like structural steelwork or contemporary interventions within a historic building. In our own offices at The Department Store in Brixton, a former Edwardian retail destination, we intensively researched original colour palettes to inform our decisions, settling on a sage green found within the building for original steel columns and using black painted ply to define new insertions.
In Whitechapel, East London, we created a workspace for x+why drawing on the history of the local area and trades to establish a strong oxblood colour for various building elements, including steelwork, ceilings and striped fabrics which relate to former community markets on the site.
role and function of color in design
Colour enables us to create direct links with the conceptual idea for the building or interior aesthetic and allow the building to connect with its history and heritage. We can amplify links to nature through colour, even in the most urban location. Emotion and connection can be heightened by colour, which can easily adapt according to time and season. Colour and well-being go hand in hand, as well as natural light and air quality.
We use colour to code aspects of interior design and draw out building elements either in their natural or adjusted state – to celebrate and amplify the beauty of natural materials such as the ageing of timber, copper or brass. Cleverly curated artwork, as well as furniture and window / wall / floor coverings, can be easily changed over time. Like ‘flowers in the field’, they need to feel right for their environment but can evolve through the seasons.
Lighting is key, and colour can be used within lighting design to enhance mood and increase / decrease the tempo for different functions. Many of our schemes will include different lighting circuits for particular functions, which can be used together or independently. We are particularly interested in the multisensory approach to well-being, assessing light, sound, and colour to create mood and atmosphere.
right color palette for interior design
Whilst there is no one ‘right’ colour scheme for any project, for us, it is imperative that the palette is born out of the space and its location, history, and culture. The materiality and, if available, the essence of existing building elements
should be celebrated.
With new build schemes, these elements can be drawn from the history and heritage of the site. For example, designing a narrow block of residential apartments on London’s Hanover Street, which is an area historically known for military tailoring, we created a series of bespoke perforated screens with a herringbone pattern, which were bronze on the exterior but had a flash of red on the inside to mimic the lapel of a military uniform.
role of color to create a well-balanced and harmonious space
Colour is an important tool to create harmony within spaces. It does not work alone – light (natural and artificial), texture, links with nature, furniture, space planning, and acoustics all play their part – but colour has the ability to unify spaces and create relationships between interior elements.