Brighten your world


How do you create a happy atmosphere in your home? Say goodbye to grey and go crazy with colour-rich, mood-improving hues that will bring a smile to your face, writes Alanna Gallagher

A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?, Albert Einstein once asked. A happy home is a colourful one, says interior designer Colette Ward. The decorator is tired of the taupe and smoky grey shades that have taken over many of our walls and soft furnishings. There is a fear of colour because we associate it with economic recession, she explains, recalling that the last time we saw sunny yellows, soft tangerines and Mediterranean blues on walls was in 1980s. There were good reasons for returning to colour, however.

“People now better understand the mood-enhancing properties of colour and its ability to brighten these dark economic times. How we use it is far more sophisticated when compared with the 1980s when homes were decorated like Rubik’s cubes,” she says. “We painted sitting room walls in primary yellow. Adjoining dining rooms wore electric blue while kitchens were given a rustic terracotta paint job.”

Now, however, she suggests giving your greys and neutrals an update by introducing vibrant colours such as navy and yellow into your cushion and rug choices.

It’s a sentiment potter-turned-designer Jonathan Adler has taken to new levels. His latest decorating compendium, 101 Ways To Happy Chic Your Life, offers oodles of easy-to-replicate ideas. In it he talks about making art out of the unexpected. In one room of his home, a huge sunburst mirror hangs on the wall. On an adjacent wall, a sliding door is painted fluorescent yellow and terracotta. In another room a pair of wrought-iron chairs has been juxtaposed in front of a cobalt blue tiled wall of his own design to create a focal point that draws the eye in. This is home decor for the brave and the bold.

“Bright and uplifting colours such as yellows and oranges energise a space but you don’t have to go mad to get an ambient uplift, says Arlene McIntyre of Ventura Design. “You can introduce pops of colour in small accents such as feature walls, scatter cushions, throws, rugs and artwork.”

In Ireland, colour is the vitamin D of decorating, says Joanne Kelly of Think Contemporary, an interior design firm. “Upcycling and wall decals are two easy ways to work in new hues and pattern,” she says.

Art is the easiest way of all to add colour and interest, she says. “Just don’t buy art to match a room. Art needs to resonate with you and have a meaning for you,” she says.

Jam Art Factory offers affordable art and design by upcoming Irish artists. She’s also a fan of A New Space and Art Republic. The Cross Gallery is another place to look for contemporary and colourful art.

The art doesn’t have to be critically acclaimed or expensive. Show off your children’s drawings in colourful frames on landings and hallways, says Ward.

Consider the lighting too. “Warm light will give a cold clinical atmosphere an ambient glow,” says Megan Sheridan of Industry Design. “Eschew overhead pendants in favour of floor and table lamps to add halo effects, that is soft hazy light sources in different areas of a room.” You can use light to create a feature out of a dark corridor end or alcove. The Damson Diner on Dublin’s South William Street has installed a row of soft pastel tubes that, when used in a horizontal fashion, make an end wall seem far more interesting than it actually is.

Interior stylist Eleanor Harpur says happiness at home comes only when you embrace the mess your children make. Mother to Tom (7) and Margo (3), she believes many of us expend far too much time and energy trying to declutter our children’s beloved toys and games. She loves the fact that their stuff “brings life to a room”. Harpur is a fan of atmospheric lighting too and admits to having kept last Christmas’s fairy lights in situ. “I really like the cosy effect they create at night.”

Clothes on the floor are the one aspect of family life that makes her unhappy, so much so that in her new home, she has turned a room sandwiched between the kid’s rooms into a family wardrobe where all clothes are stored. “It dispenses with the need for wardrobes in the bedrooms, makes the rooms feel far less cluttered and, as a result, makes them happier spaces to spend time in. It has changed my life.”

101 Ways to Happy Chic Your Life by Jona- than Adler online at