The School with Megan Morton - How to Use (and Abuse) Colour

Jenny Butler
Jenny Butler
21st of March 2012

While Megan Morton is happily answering questions on all of her Guest Blog posts this week (seriously, if you want to ask MM anything - now is your chance, comment below!), you can also find her sharing snippets of her day to day adventures on Facebook! Be sure to 'like' her Facebook page and see all kinds of amazing things that MM is working on and loving in general - it is brilliant! - Jenny x

MUSIC TO ACCOMPANY TODAY'S POST:  Hey Ya! by Outkast. 'If I lived in America I would beg Andre 3000 to let me do his sets. I love his high voltage clips, and this song in particular he manages to abuse every primary colour for our visual pleasure.' - Megan
Photograph by Jason Busch, styled by Megan Morton / Room Images.

I learnt a valuable colour lesson from Bronwyn Riedel (from Bauwerk) who I believe is THE single most colour-conscious authority on colour. She works mostly in Saudi Arabia and Europe now, but she has an eye like no other and can break down hues into formulas on sight!  When I am lucky enough to work with her I call her 'Rainman'. One part joking but most part serious. I have worked on schemes for months and then Bronwyn will walk in, pull it a step stronger or lighter, and the result is smack-bang perfect. Colour, you see, is best used to instigate a feeling, and this is why to master it you need to be generally in tune with yourself and your surrounds. And this is how Bronwyn has taught me to work.

One white neutral isn't a one size fits all. People ask all the time the best 'white' colours or what is the ideal charcoal and it is hard to answer, but it is never a one word answer. I have a theory that people who use the same colour in all their projects possibly aren't doing the best by the space.  When asked on the spot, most people want to look knowledgeable and will recite the one they find easiest to remember, not necessarily the best.

A lot of paint companies preach that going for a brave colour is the quickest way to improve a room, but, in my experience, it's also the quickest way to make a train wreck out of a room. I have always been anti feature walls - for me they feel like a visual merchandise device - and the room never feels quite finished. Why would anyone want only one out of the four walls painted?! If you love the colour, go for it all walls over. Or use it in other elements, not restricted to the walls. A floor is just as expansive, and in the right place, can be a great alternative.

I recently shot my friends Morgan and Robert's apartment where they installed red carpet. (Check over at Room Images - it will appear there soon). Yes, a difficult one to even imagine, but totally wonderful and severe impact for their clean modernistic furniture and love of brown Italian leather. And obviously so chic, whereas a red feature wall would present as the opposite.

Photograph by Tim James, styled by Megan Morton / Room Images.

Colour too, is mostly about context. I took a trip to Marrakech just after I bought my first house house (i.e. not an apartment, not half a house but a proper house, Sydney people will understand) and returned and painted my garden walls and terrace yellow. Before paint counters sell you anything bright and over 4 litres worth, they should be made to check your passport and give you a jet lag test to ensure you're not fresh back from an exotic destination, about to make a big time mistake. (Another tip for when you are at the paint counter is to always look at colour vertically - it's a very different reading horizontally and not how the eye digests it).  In this instance, bricks or brick render should not be yellow. Yellow is the colour of banana's (I love you Queensland), the pom trim of a Moroccan djellaba, the sun and stripes on sun umbrellas, not walls of an inner city Victorian terrace sandwiched between total urbanness.

Yellow, as proven above is therefore appropriate to highlights or small digestible pieces. The courtyard was a decorating disaster, it felt permanently sunny. So stupidly sunny. By night is was inappropriate and by day - facing a coveted north position was blasting and intolerable to the eyes. To use colour appropriately is to understand its power. Bricks for instance should be of natural pigment. I love painted brickwork but not overly coloured. I am, despite this seeming prejudice against coloured exterior walls, mad for colour. Red-flag-bull-mad-for it. But only when it's done, like anything, responsibly.

When you are stuck just think that orange is the colour of a small fruit - a mandarin. A watermelon is large and gorgeous green outside with washed out raspberry inside. You can see this working in a room. One of my favorite fruits is the pineapple. All that gun metal grey and dirty green with Fluro yellow - perfect. Mother nature nails it every single time! Watch her or even steal ideas that might kick start your own beautiful combination. And not all of the colour has to be assigned to a wall - remember that the eyes want somewhere to go, and different colours, textures and surface heights can work to making a seemingly colourless room feel complete. Morgan and Robert's red carpet is an extreme case in point of this.

I leave you with a word from wise Bronwyn, for it seems hard to remember any sage advice with your heart pounding at the paint counter, excited and all ready to go. "Colours always look more full-on when they are applied to a large wall so ALWAYS go a little bit moodier than you think is right in your first impression". Bronwyn, I wish I knew you pre-Morocco!

- Megan x

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