Matthew Williamson on How to Go Wild with Colour

One of the UK’s leading fashionistas, Matthew Williamson's vivid colour prints translate effortlessly onto everything from frocks to furniture. Here are the tricks of his trade...

WHERE DOES YOUR LOVE OF COLOUR COME FROM?

My mother was a big champion of using colour in our family home when I was growing up, as well as wearing print and colour herself. I’m sure this rubbed off on me and it’s partly why I’m drawn to bright, bold and expressive colour combinations that lift the spirit. My tropical palette is inspired by travels to Mexico, Costa Rica and India.

WHAT IMPACT DOES COLOUR MAKE?

Without doubt, colour affects your mood. It’s such a powerful tool for both fashion and interiors. To keep things contemporary yet uplifting, I team classic colours with a pop of neon or an unexpected contrasting tone. My favourite wall colours are Farrow & Ball’s Dix Blue, Green Blue and Dove Tale. For acid neon colours, I go to Bristol Paint. For hot pink paint, I tend to swatch match my own with Dulux.

Matthew used this ‘blushing, lively juicy red’ to give his home its signature look – Firecracker vinyl matt emulsion, £28.98 for 2.5l, Dulux

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHICH COLOURS WILL WORK TOGETHER?

I always refer to the theory of the colour wheel, especially when looking at the use of warm and cool tones together in the same room. For example, I always offset a cool green wall with hot pink accessories to create a complementary contrast. Bolder, warmer tones evoke fun and energy, while cooler tones tend to have a calming, more serene quality.

HOW DO YOU INFUSE THE EMOTIONAL MOOD OF COLOUR INTO A ROOM?

I’m much happier in a room of colour than when in a white, clinical space, so I think about how I want to feel in a particular room – if it’s calm and relaxing, I choose cool tones from blue to green and then work with a few extra tones similar to this base colour to dress the space with larger items. This creates a chic and harmonious feel. If I’m feeling brave, I might throw in some fuchsia-pink velvet cushions, for example, or paint a picture frame neon orange.

An eclectic collection of objets in Williamson’s London home

WHAT’S YOUR STARTING POINT WITH COLOUR?

I always start with the floor in any room, which is usually the most expensive aspect too, so it’s worth getting right. I like natural tones and materials for the floor because it needs to last – at home, all the rooms are either wood or ceramic tiled. In the lounge area of my home, a classic herringbone-parquet oak floor is teamed with soft grey-green walls with deeper tones of these two colours reflected in the rug and key pieces of furniture. This reasonably strict palette anchors the space.

Makrana W6956-01 wallpaper, £64 per roll, Matthew Williamson at Osborne & Little

WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP WHEN DECORATING?

I like to treat a room like an envelope (starting with walls and floor) to create a solid base and then I have fun with the things I put in the envelope. It’s at this point you can give a room character by reflecting your own personality. Wall art, piles of books, cushions and candles are where I like to inject contrasting hot tones – and, as they’re smaller pieces, you can let go a little bit and afford to experiment with mixing colour and pattern to suit your taste.

Minelli day bed in Marble Butterfly Raspberry, £2,350, Duresta for Matthew Williamson

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE WAYS OF ‘LETTING GO WITH COLOUR’?

I’ve created highly detailed and exotic wallpaper and fabric designs for Osborne & Little to really explore my love of colour combinations and pattern. In the same way, the bedding sets I’ve designed for Debenhams also provide a fabulous way to instantly refresh your bedroom with colour, especially when coordinated with the big pompom-edged throws
and embroidered cushions.

Mandala bed set, £45.60 for a double, Butterfly Home by Matthew Williamson at Debenhams

WHAT ABOUT FURNITURE AND OTHER ITEMS OF HOMEWARE?

My favourite rooms always contain a mix of styles, such as vintage pieces from markets, which feel romantic, poetic and tell a story, alongside elements of nature – from framed butterflies and hand-thrown ceramics to flowers. If a striking modern piece catches my eye in a wonderful colour and material, it can always find a place in my home.

HOW DO YOU CREATE A SENSE OF BALANCE IN SUCH A VIBANT PALETTE?

In my own home, I even out the vibrancy with neutrals, such as using the calming tone of eau de nil – a soft, aged green-grey – as a base, because, for me, it’s the equivalent of white or beige.

Embroidered cushion, £25, Butterfly Home by Matthew Williamson at Debenhams

WHAT IF SOMEONE FINDS COLOUR RATHER SCARY?

If it’s a little daunting at first, remember, walls can easily be painted over. Take small steps, building on the layers of hot and cold tones, so you always feel comfortable. Right now, I’m loving a mix of neutrals and neons – it’s a very satisfying combination that doesn’t seem to date. Dove grey with acid yellow or a soft pinky nude with neon orange are two of my favourite combinations.

Kemp sofa in Butterfly Wheel Jade,£2,867, cushion, £128; and Estelle teal cushions, £77 each, all Duresta for Matthew Williamson

FINALLY, DO YOU HAVE ANY FIRM COLOUR RULES?

My only interior design rule is… Do you love it? Does it make you smile? If yes, then it’s just right for you. I don’t believe in forcing things you don’t really love just because it’s supposedly on-trend.

For more info about Matthew Williamson’s fashion and interiors work, visit matthewwilliamson.com

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