Strokes of genius

Paint is still the least expensive and most impressive way to transform a room

Fri, Mar 14, 2014, 10:56

The easiest way to transform a room is with a lick of paint. The right colour can brighten, add depth and even enhance your mood. With so many shades and textures to choose from, there’s a paint to suit all wall types, and every colour has a light reflecting value (LRV), says Adele Roche, colour specialist at Colortrend. “The lighter the colour, the more LRV it has.”

Walls account for 70 per cent of the surface area in most rooms, so what you put on them will dominate. In Ireland, we tend to choose colours with high LRVs to better maximise the amount of light in our livingrooms. Other factors to consider include the size of the windows (if any) in the room, its orientation and the quality of the surfaces you want to paint.

With newly plastered walls, you have free rein in terms of paint texture. On old, irregular walls it is better to use a matte finish that has no sheen that absorbs the light rather than reflects it, Roches says. “Anything shiny will highlight flaws.”

Fashions change, but the wave of beige that characterised the property boom has thankfully abated. Autumnal shades are now trending – warm yellows and oranges, particularly on feature walls or shelving. Grey, once an avant garde choice, is now a basic colour. Farrow and Ball’s Elephant’s Breath was the sophisticate’s grey of choice, but the style leaders have moved on and moody shades of blue are the next big thing. Its Stiffkey Blue shade is inspired by the colour of the mud found at Stiffkey Beach, in Norfolk. Only the brave will paint all four walls in this shade, but teamed with pale floors it brings light from below. It also works to accent warm grey.

Magnolia has fallen out of favour, according to Louise Smith of Dulux, and more sophisticated creams such as Dulux’s Natural Calico have taken the top spot. Magnolia’s peachy undertone dated it, she says. “The preference now is for crisp whites that will bounce as light around the room or for greyed off-shades that add warmth, but in a very cool and collected way.”

Another option is light refracting paint. When designing the foyer of the Marker Hotel, at Grand Canal Dock, in Dublin, interior architect Deirdre Whelan, of McCauley Daye O’Connell Architects, used a paint called Armourcoat on the walls. Formulated with pearlescent pigments, it appears lit from within. “It is generally used in commercial applications as it is quite expensive and very labour intensive to apply,” she explains. “It’s a layering process of paint, applied in a curved manner. It is washable and quite hardwearing but if it gets damaged it isn’t just a simple matter of applying a bit of paint with a brush.”

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