Colour Theory 101: A main floor renovation in Little Portugal hits all the right notes
Photography by Valerie Wilcox
Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane, and revisit those lessons on colour theory from high school art class; I promise this detour will be quick. Everyone knows that the primary colours are blue, red and yellow. Secondary colours are made by mixing two primary colours together: purple, orange, and green. Tertiary colours are made by (you guessed it), mixing one primary colour and one secondary colour together.
Now that we’ve got those three terms straight, let’s move on to complementary colours. One common misconception about complementary colours is that they are similar colours. When we say “complementary,” we are actually referring to two colours on opposite sides of the colour wheel. A complementary colour pairing is made up of one primary colour, and one secondary colour that was made without the primary colour it is paired with. The pairs are blue and orange, red and green, and yellow and purple. Scientifically speaking, complementary colours simultaneously stimulate different parts of the eye, which is why we find the combination so appealing. It’s a natural example of opposites attracting. When we are describing similar colours, the technical term is “analogous” colours. They are groups of three colours that are next to each other on the proverbial colour wheel. An example of a trio would be blue, teal and green.
Now that we are up to speed on our colour theory, let’s apply it! This is the fun part. First of all, don’t get hung up on the colour of the year. Rather, think about the colours that evoke the atmosphere you want to create in your space. Some may find peace in darker, more dramatic hues, while others find solace in brighter spaces with varying shades of analogous colours. The latter was the case for our client’s ground-floor renovation in Little Portugal. The main goal for the space was to open it up by removing the partition walls. In doing this, we shifted the location of the kitchen toward the back of the home to provide a more formal living/dining space at the front of the house, and a family room right off the kitchen at the back of the house.
Family heirloom plays a new tune
One of the major influences in this design was finding a way to transform the client’s family piano. The piano was no longer in great musical shape, but it had been in the family for decades, so it was an important piece of family history that needed to be preserved. The piano was lovingly disassembled, and the salvaged pieces of mahogany were stripped and sanded, revealing a beautifully rich reddish-orange wood. The family heirloom was then reconfigured into a functional and original desk in the kitchen. Considering the open-concept floorplan, we chose a classic white-and-grey paint combination for the kitchen cabinetry. To add a hit of timeless contrast, we selected a moonstone marble backsplash in a herringbone pattern.
Colour’s transformative power
Knowing that blue and orange are complementary colours, it is no surprise that the hints of blue found in the backsplash, as well as the undertones in the dark grey colour of the island, are the perfect pairing for our custom mahogany piano desk. The vibrant runners are an excellent way to add colour and pattern to the neutral backdrop of the walls and cabinetry. By simply changing the runners, some accessories, and the artwork, the colour story of this space was completely transformed, without another major renovation.
If you are like me, and constantly thinking about your next design project, take the time to consider the colour story of your home, because great spaces are carefully and selectively curated to present a cohesive story from the foyer to the back door, and everything in between. Now for your homework – because I have to give you the full high school experience – do a little colour soul searching; discover what colours empower you, energize you, console you, and then create your new space with unapologetic conviction.
KITCHEN CABINETRY PAINT: Chantilly Lace OC-65, Midnight 2131-20 Benjamin Moore KITCHEN COUNTERTOPS: Noble Grey from Caesarstone KITCHEN BACKSPLASH: Moonstone Herringbone from Creekside Tile KITCHEN CABINETS: Merlo Woodworking WOOD FLOORING: Bistro Collection, Maple French Roast, Fuzion Flooring
Natalie Venalainen is a Senior Designer at Men at Work Design-Build.
She has 10 years of industry experience and has won several awards including the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s top 30 under 30 design professionals across North America in 2018.