A Beginner’s Guide to Clashing Colours in Interior Design

For a beginner, deciding to implement an interior design theme is an almighty step; and one that should be commended (so pat on the back for you!) However, if you’ve decided to try your hand at clashing colours, then you really are jumping into the deep end.

Fear not, learning to, and successfully implementing, a clashing colours interior design theme isn’t as difficult as it looks… or sounds. There are of course a few fashion laws that must be abided, and like most things, your research should be the backbone of every decision.

clashing blue and yellow bathroom accessories John Lewis

The Starting Block:

These are just a couple of pointers to bear in mind for any DIY endeavour, redecoration or home improvement project.

  • Quality over Quantity.

Okay, so we all love to grab a bargain, but like I said earlier DO YOUR RESEARCH. Bargains do exist, but 9 times out of 10 there’s a reason why it’s cheap or discounted. And you can bet the money you’re saving that it’s because of the quality of the item … which will soon need replacing.

  • What’s your Style?

So, we know that you want to try your hand at clashing colours, but that’s just the colour palette – you need to consider your style. Do you like vintage, industrial, traditional, country, luxury, homely etc. etc. the options are endless (and so your decisions it can seem sometimes.)

  • Budget, Budget, Budget!

Always the most important, don’t over spend or you’ll be eating Rice Krispies for dinner for a month (in an expertly styled clashing colours themed room though).

What are Clashing Colours?

clashing colours bedroom

This may seem arbitrary but you can’t successfully implement something if you don’t know what it is. What are clashing colours? If you can’t explain it in one succinct sentence then read on.

Clashing colours are often confused with opposite colours (just because they’re opposites doesn’t mean they don’t complement, get with it) or analogous colours (next to each other on the colour wheel). For more information on colour relationships check out this.

When in fact, colours that clash are those that have unrelated colour properties or resonance. So, rather than the colour itself, we’re talking about the intensity or the undertone.

If you’re not sure how to categorise a colour, it’s quite simple. Rather than trying to memorise different colours and their properties, simply look at the piece of furniture and describe it to a friend – you’ll find yourself naturally using words like “warm, cool, vibrant, dull, pale, pastel” at which point you’ll then be able to categorise the piece.

Clashing Colours: the Basics

Now you know what clashing colours are, we can work out how to use them within your interior design theme.

  • If you want to clash colours based on intensity, you should pair smoky muted tones with bright ones, as their intensity will offset each other.
  • If you’d like to clash colours based on their undertone, then you’ll need to pair warm colours with cool ones.

How to Clash Colours:

blue and green clashing colours

Blue and green should never be seen, the old saying goes – but like most old wife’s tales, it’s hogwash. Strong colours can live in hue harmony (intensity/undertone); so the trick to clashing colours is to use different shades of the two colours you’re using.

The best way to achieve this is by focusing on the accessories (it can be difficult to make judgement calls on big items like sofas/and it’s a costlier mistake). For instance, deck out the cushions and lamps in different shades of green, while the rug, blanket and coffee table coasters could be different shades of blue – does that make sense?

Once you’ve got the hang of it with smaller home décor items, you’ll feel more confident to move onto bigger changes like wallpaper and curtains; one step at a time, right?

The Three Commandments

#1: Clash tones, not colours

#2: Focus on accessories

#3: Start small (count the pennies and the pounds will follow philosophy)

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