10 tips from Joa Studholme on decorating with colour

“My mum says I was obsessed with colour as a child,” says Farrow & Ball’s International Colour consultant, Joa Studholme – and happily for us, it would seem that little has changed. Joa not only creates the colours for the Farrow & Ball collection, she also advises private clients on how and where to use colour around the house, her years and years of experience looking at different homes and different tones giving her a wealth of tried and tested ideas. From her recent presentation on what works – and what doesn’t – we noted ten great, easy-steal decorating tips that will have you hankering to get the paints out.

1. What to do when you have light… and when you don’t

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“Light is so important. It’s become really fashionable to to say that light doesn’t matter, and it does. It’s what brings out all those pigments in the paint. It drives me mad to hear ‘if you’ve got a lot of light it can take a dark colour.’ In light spaces paint them light and in dark spaces keep the colours dark, turn the rooms into jewels.”

2. Think about all the architecture in a room

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“Think of every bit of architecture in the room – skirtings, picture rails, coving. Every one of those is an ingredient in a recipe so you have to get them all right to create the dish. Not defaulting to white woodwork is transformative.”

3. Make a great hallway

“Start with the hall in your house. I always start there because it sets the tone of the house. Put a lighter colour on the wall and a darker colour on the woodwork, it creates a lovely look that’s easy to live with. I also love going one half in gloss and one half matt.”

4. Paint every room in one colour only

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“In William Palin’s Spitalfields house every single room is painted in one colour only – I love it, the rooms are so strong and really calm and they look much bigger than they are.”

5. When you’re scared of colour…

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“…keep it low – for example on the bottom of a bath. In one house I worked on the only colour they used was Pelt in the guest bathroom, which made you, as the guest, feel special.”

6. Add colour slowly to build up confidence

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“An easy way to start introducing colour is to put it on the spindles of your stairs – it’s something you can see through, unlike a great big wall. Or go for the back of a bookcase or the back of a kitchen dresser.”

7. Always put darker, lower

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“Similarly, if you are using two colours then make sure you put the dark colour low and the lighter colour high. If you put dark high, it feels like everything is falling on top of you.”

8. Paint inside your cupboards

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“This is my calling card. I’ve had an eight-year-old with a quivering lip in a completely neutral house so we put colour inside her cupboards and mum could shut the door on it if she had to. I used to have wallpaper inside my own closet in an all-white room.”

9. Borrow a Dutch idea for your windows

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“Paint all the window frames in your house in one strong colour. It’s a very Dutch way of decorating and it makes the windows feel bigger.”

10. Do what you want to

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“Most important is…do what you like. So many people get caught up in ‘Oh I live in a Georgian house so I should do…’. Do what you like!”

Jill Macnair


Jill Macnair has worked as an interiors journalist for 13 years, contributing to titles including Elle Decoration, The Sunday Times and The Guardian. She set up cult interiors blog My Friend’s House in 2009 with Ros Anderson and continues to run the forum daily.

The Chromologist 2019 | Farrow & Ball

The Chromologist