Decorating with colour – your questions answered

From choosing the right shade for open-plan living spaces to injecting colour into your bathroom, Kasia Wiktorowicz, from Valspar, shares her expert advice

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I’ve got a large, open-plan living/dining/kitchen space. Should I paint it all one colour?

This all depends on the final overall look and feel you’re trying to achieve. With a large open space, you really do have freedom to run wild. You can unify the space with one colour, showcasing the size of the room, or use colour to separate out the space into different sections, creating separate areas for different purposes.

By considering a tonal, colour-family theme, you can easily separate out different areas without creating harsh divisions or intruding on the feel or the size of the room. For example, a light duck egg blue in a kitchen that leads into a slightly darker tone of the same shade in the dining space, will create the sense of a new area without taking away from the desire open-plan feel.


I want to paint my old wooden kitchen units – how do I go about it?

As with any painting task, surface preparation is very important. Remove any flaking paint using a scraper and sand the surface if necessary. Make sure to clear away debris from any cracks with a dry paintbrush and dust the units as much as possible to guarantee a smooth coating of paint.

We always recommend using a primer to achieve optimum results and ensure a professional finish. The Valspar Primer & Undercoat is suitable for multi-surface use. For dramatic colour changes or for use under vivid colour top coats, it can even be tinted to aid optimal colour appearance. For example, if your final coat is a dark shade of red, use a primer with a grey tint – this added preparation helps achieve a real professional finish.

Also, think about the quality of the paint you’re using. Valspar’s premium paints feature a super scrub formula and undergo vigorous scrub testing, so the paint won’t fade or chip off when cleaned with products and the abrasive side of a sponge. This is particularly useful for lighter colours that may show up marks, and for any south-facing rooms as the sun can fade colours over time. Allow seven days for the paint to cure and harden before scrubbing.

I’ve always painted my ceilings white – can I try a different colour?

Absolutely! But do consider the size of your room and the impact this will have on the sense of space. If the room in question is particularly small, a dark colour will only make it feel smaller. Consider various lighter, colourful shades that complement the other design elements within your room or swapping over your typical white ceilings and coloured walls. Going with a bright white wall and a deeper, rich colour on the ceiling can really work well, while dark plum hues or greens can really make a statement.


I’ve got a small bedroom, will wallpaper make it look even smaller?

Using wallpaper in a small space can sometimes make the room appear smaller, but this all depends on the pattern or style. In a small bedroom use simple, uncomplicated patterns and consider combining with painted walls so that you can still use wallpaper without having to compromise the feel of space in the room.

My living room is north-facing and feels cold, what colours should I go for?

Lighter, brighter colours will always work well in a north-facing room with limited natural light. There’s always a fear that when using light colours you’ll create a cold atmosphere, but that’s a misconception. By using various dirty or dusty pastel shades you can add extra warmth. Also, incorporate different textures into the room – this will create depth and a sense of cosiness.

Grey is really popular at the moment but I’m worried it’ll look dull?

Grey is the perfect neutral, it’s very versatile and provides a sophisticated alternative to the beiges and magnolias of recent years. Despite the stigma around grey being dull and depressing, it is in fact quite the opposite; grey can be warm and inviting, or cool and calming and, when paired with a splash of colour, it can really bring a room to life.

There are so many shades of grey that it is easy to find just the right one to go with your favourite hue.Try combining pale greys with bright, cheerful shades, like greens, for a refreshing, zesty feel, or pairing darker tones of grey with saturated orange tones to give your room a cosy atmosphere. A bold colour like yellow, combined with a neutral like grey, can really make a statement, whilst remaining subtle and contemporary.

Grey allows you to be as bold and brave with accent colours as you wish – we’ve seen a real trend in people upcycling items of furniture in bright shades to contrast with the neutrality of the grey walls in their room.


What are the other key colour trends to look out for in 2016?

Muted, mid-tones that counterbalance busy living and enable us to find our comfort zone are set to be popular in 2016. We’re constantly battling being busy in all aspects of life and more and more we’re seeking respite from stress with products, tools and services that balance our fast-paced lifestyles. We expect to see this replicated when it comes to our homes, with soft, calm, balancing and restorative shades growing in popularity..


We’re also expecting to see a rise in zingy brights with a pop of personality and originality. Different is becoming the new normal, with more people challenging gender stereotypes and standards of beauty. As a result, we’re beginning to reach to colour as a means of self-expression, with pops of individuality being visible through the colour choices in our homes. There is a growing trend for fashion-forward tropical, floral and citrus colours – a reflection of us becoming bright, expressive and confident. We’ll also be seeing more creative colour combinations with modern twists in shades that are spirited, empowering and uplifting.

My shed is painted a reddy-orange colour and I hate it, what colour would you suggest?

Think about the plants in your garden, the colour of your bricks and pathway, even the shade of your garden door, fence or window frames, if they’re close by. Perhaps you want to coordinate with these, or set them off by choosing a complementary shade?


Paint may look great in the shop, but can look completely different in daylight, so gather swatch cards – or paint pieces of paper using a tester pot – and stick them to your shed with masking tape to see how the shade will look in the morning, afternoon and evening. You may be surprised by which one you end up choosing. You could also colour-match a bespoke shade.

How should I go about painting a wall – masking off the edges first or starting with a roller?

Before you begin painting, you need to ensure you’ve fully prepped your surfaces and the room in question. This could involve scrapping away any existing paint, filling cracks and holes, washing the surface and making sure the area is dust/debris free. We also always recommends using a primer to achieve professional-looking results.

It’s best to paint the trim work before the walls are painted. Begin with your skirting boards – use a 2″ angled tip/sash brush and paint around the room in one direction, so that you do not miss any areas. Next, paint the window trim, door trim and any moulding.

Before painting the walls, protect your woodwork by taping along the edge of the skirting boards using a quality painter’s tape. Do the same with any door or window frames, ceiling edges or mouldings that are not going to be painted. We recommend painter’s tape because masking tape dries out too quickly and becomes difficult to remove.

Start painting by ‘cutting in’ – this is a technique that helps you to achieve clean lines at the corners and edges. Using an angled 2″ trim brush, make a series of short strokes away from the edges where the walls or ceiling and wall meet. Work in three-foot sections so you maintain a wet edge. Remove the painter’s tape before the paint dries.

After you have completed all your cut in work, the next area to tackle is the ceiling. Using a roller affixed to an extension pole, glide the paint in one direction, moving quickly to maintain your wet edge and avoid excess pressure.

Finish by filling in the main body of the wall using a roller. Always allow correct drying in between coats. Valspar paint dries in 1 hour and needs 2-4 hours between coats.

How can I use colour to create a relaxing haven in my bathroom?

To create a relaxing environment, people often reach for calming colours, such a browns and greys; however, when it comes to bathrooms, it is best to avoid darker shades. Many bathrooms lack natural light, so they work best with lighter hues, or brighter shades.

It’s important to consider what relaxation means to you – perhaps it’s lying under the warmth of a golden sun? Or maybe it’s the memory of watching tranquil turquoise waves lap against the shore, or the deep orange glow of a Californian sunset? Colour inspiration can be taken from anywhere and Valspar’s unique colour matching service enables you to scan and match any colour exactly – simply take a sample to B&Q.