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Cover Story: Living In Colour

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Cover Story: Living In Colour

Designer Rebecca Hay puts her fail proof colour formula to the test in her own vibrant living room

By Rebecca Hay

Photography By Stephani Buchman

Most of us love a space that has just the right pops of colour, it feels inviting and lively. However, many of us find it intimidating to decorate with colour. Where do you start? How do you ensure you don’t “overdo” it? Decorating with colour can be oh-so-rewarding. After all, life is meant to be lived in technicolour, not in black and white. Here are my tips on how to live and work with colour.


With every space I design, including my own home, colour is an integral element to creating the right mood. My goals are always to create spaces that are warm, unique and inviting. Colour allows me to do this every time. The psychology behind colour is a fascinating study. There’s no surprise that yellow is a cheerful colour that promotes optimism. Blue, however, is suggested to be the preferred colour for men. Blue is associated with tranquility and reliability, providing a sense of security and stimulates productivity. Before delving into designing any space, think about the mood you want to convey. Is it a cool, relaxing space or a warm, inviting one where dinner parties end in dance parties? You don’t need a degree in psychology to figure out which colours are right for you. Trust your gut and you will never go wrong, but it’s important to be mindful of the mood and energy you are trying to evoke.

I chose this fun contemporary Jonathan Adler Kravet fabric to add further colour and life to the space. The contemporary chevron contrasts nicely with the traditional moldings and historic features of the home.


In our living room, it was essential that it appeal to both men and women. I wanted it to be bright and energizing as this is the main sitting and socializing area of the home. The drapery fabric was our inspiration and starting point. I knew we wanted to energize the space with yellow and we already had the retro navy chairs to work with, so I chose to balance the navy of the chairs with bright-yellow custom drapery. The yellow creates a wow-factor and sets the tone for a playful and cheery mood.


Finding the right balance of colour is also key in achieving a cohesive design. It’s important to balance any bold colours with lots of neutrals. A little trick that I like to use is the 60-30-10 rule. When decorating a particular room, divide the colors into percentages: 60 per cent of a dominant colour, 30 per cent of a secondary colour, 10 per cent of an accent colour, and you will never go wrong. The neutral walls, sofa and rug make up the largest percentage, followed by the yellow of the drapery, pillows and art, which provide visual interest. Finally, the navy chairs and small pops of blue throughout round out the 10 per cent, creating a little extra pop. When the right balance is achieved, the design feels harmonious and comfortable.


We also added a little extra pop. In addition to the three dominant colours, we chose to complement the blues with hints of orange. Adding a few “bonus” colours adds a little extra interest and variety. I found an old traditional wingback armchair in desperate need of TLC, and recovered it with this bold contemporary Jonathan Adler orange fabric. It’s cosy, warm and inviting while adding some traditional sophistication to the space. To add cohesiveness, we repeated the orange hue in the custom toss cushions by using a modern ikat fabric that has a blend of yellow and orange.

Paint PICK: Gray Mist 962, Benjamin Moore


The last key to decorating with colour is repetition. Repetition is key to creating a cohesive design. By repeating a colour multiple times in a space, it feels purposeful and comforting. The warm wood of the vintage teak coffee table and the bamboo roman blind add warmth, and layer in another shade of orange to the space. It’s not enough to have a large amount of colour in one piece of furniture or on accessories. It’s the repetition of this colour throughout the space in varying quantities that unifies the design and makes it feel purposeful.

In our living room we have found a comforting and beautiful balance of colour. It’s a family space that feels modern and sophisticated. Contemporary fabrics and traditional bones make it an inviting and fun place for social gatherings or curling up by the fire with a book. It’s proof that by taking the plunge and designing with colour, you can create a space that is visually beautiful, intriguing, and at times surprising.

SOURCES FABRIC- Kravet; PAINT- Gray Mist 962, Benjamin Moore; CARPET IN LIVING ROOM West Elm; CARPET IN DINING ROOM Dominion Rug & Home; DINING TABLE – custom by RHD; CHAIR – clients re-purposed; ARTWORK – clients

Designer Rebecca Hay, Principal Designer of Rebecca Hay Designs Inc., is a Toronto-based boutique design firm offering complete design & renovation services for residential, commercial and vacation properties for over a decade. Known and celebrated for her design work and appearances on various acclaimed HGTV shows, Rebecca and her team design classic, livable spaces that reflect the homeowner’s personality. Servicing clientele throughout Toronto, the GTA and Canada. rebeccahaydesigns.com


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