• Anna Proctor

A colour is as strong as the impression it creates.’ Ivan Albright.

Bright colour is life-enhancing. It lifts the spirit on a sunny day as well as on a gloomy one. It is visual music for our eyes. Neon is the colour of youth and vitality; it’s the chromographic equivalent of a can of energy drink. Just thinking about it is getting me excited!

We crave colours that can be found in nature’s exotic blooms and feathers but which we much more readily associate with the fast changing modern world; bright packaging advertising, hip-hop fashion, plastic and neon city lights.

Fluorescent colours are a bit like chilli peppers; a little goes a long way. Not everyone has a large tolerance for 'chilli' as such but it’s not as hard to incorporate into an interior scheme as you might think. Use accents of neon brights with a more subdued palette to give extra impact. Using a smidgen of these shades against a muted backdrop, such as bluish grey or perhaps adding a touch to window reveals or the back of a book shelf will look modern and effective. Paint the inside of your drawers in fluorescent colours- a little secret to enjoy every time you pull open them. The inside of display cupboards will benefit from painted colour to throw the contents into relief. Neon paint is not widely available but can be sourced from the UV centre. It’s Fluorescent brushable paint glows under UV light as well as remaining vivid in normal conditions.

Neon Saltwater, a Cornish College of the arts trained Interior designer a young up and coming artist, has amassed quiet a following with her digital renderings of clean pastel rooms with fluorescent lights bouncing off their reflective surfaces. When describing her work, she says she has very viviid dreams of architecture, the structure comes naturally as it’s so real in her head. The interiors she creates just glow with such vibrancy, almost like art installations or dreamy film sets. Take me there now!

Interior render by Neon Saltwater

Although I have never visited ever since I first set eyes (digitally) on the interiors of Tonight Josephine, where the interiors of the cocktail bar are filled with neon edge and slogans, making the most eye popping venue. With the current situation I'm just dreaming of going out to a cocktail bar full of people dressed up right now!

Interior of Tonight Josephine

Although when decorating your home, its best to not go completely ballistic with neon everywhere; it will quickly look tired and be less than easy on the eye. As neon may not reflect well on human skin first thing in the morning (!!) it is best avoided in great expanses. Small doses will look fresh and have more power. The synthetic quality of neon contrasts well with neutrals; beiges, greys and off-whites, acting as true highlights, giving a vibrancy and freshness. The E8 table by Mathias Hahn illustrates this balance perfectly with its hot yellow edge.

E8 table by Matthias Hahn

Cushions are the perfect way of dipping your toe with neon - I absolutely love the Fez Circles cushion by Bombay duck. I particularly like how it works with the beige background colour and contrasts beautifully with the turquoise. One (or three) would look right at home in my kids bedroom!

Fez circles cushion by Bombay Duck

Of course the obvious way of incorporating some neon into your interior is with an illuminated sign; a trend that shows no sign of going away. Try Rockett St George for various designs including personalised ones. For a more budget friendly option you can opt for battery operated faux neon lights from Flying Tiger for example. I recently bought a fluorescent heart for my kids room.

Personalised neon sign Rockett St George

This is a look to be employed with caution. A flash of neon is pretty but funkily punky. Too much is tacky. Neon works best in strong graphic shapes, to draw attention to certain features. Like your fluorescent highlighter at school, use it to pick out key features. Like a visual exclamation mark punctuating the space!

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  • Anna Proctor

Naming things can be tricky. It took months for my husband John and I to agree on our kids’ names. You want to come up with something fairly original, unpretentious and be sure it feels right. Because they'll have it for the rest of their lives. I’ve always been intrigued to know how brands come up with their paint names. It’s a tough call- the name needs to capture the essence of the paint colour without being too obvious, and ideally be memorable. The best paint names are part of our vocabulary now and can summon up that colour precisely, which for someone who works with colour is imperative. True paint colours are always consistent. You know exactly what you’re getting.

I have to kick things off with Farrow and Ball. Their paint names are an intrinsic part of their marketing. My favourite paint names are their animal based ones. They love an animal at F &B. Colours such as Elephant’s Breath and Dead Salmon have become classics. They were born to be name-dropped. I may or may not partly have chosen Elephants Breath for our bedroom in our old flat because I loved the name and wanted to be able to say it out loud as much as possible.

Elephants Breath by Farrow and Ball. Image from Pinterest

Little Greene use a mix of historical names and playful ones for their paints. One of my favourites is Mischief, described as an ‘exciting and glamorous shade mixing magenta and violet to an intoxicating effect.’ I love this lateral style of description; it’s so intriguing and unexpected. The incredible chic Dorchester Pink has a more literal meaning; ’A 1960s article on an interior in the Dorchester Hotel describes the use of this colour: ‘Lilac provides an unusually restful setting for this bedroom. The room is given a gay note by the harlequin effect of the bed drapes and valance.” By the sound of that I’d LOVED to have spent the night there. Indeed lilacs are having a moment right now but I’ve always thought they were a great choice for a bedroom or living room.

Dorchester Pink by Little Greene

Dulux have a very democratic approach to naming their paints. Colour brand Manager Emily Simpson gathers her team for a creative brainstorm. She tries to make sure there are a mix of people as ‘you don’t always know where the creative minds are hiding.’ She’ll use people who work with colour every day but also likes to make sure there are a couple of wild cards in the room. There may be some people working in finance or HR who are really passionate about colour. The colour is put in front of them and they’re asked to come up with as many ideas as possible. Anything and everything that will reflect not only the tone and shade of the colour but also what people want to feel when they look at it. How I’d love to be fly on the wall at one of these sessions! According to Marianne Shillingford, the Creative Director the most popular Dulux paint names are Wet weather or anything to do with coffee, chocolate biscuits, such as Caramel Latte or Cookie Dough. They’re definitely making me feel hungry, that’s for sure.

Tranquil Dawn Colour of the Year 2020 by Dulux

Paint the town green, based down the road from me in Wandsworth, are a high quality decorating service who also make their own environmentally friendly non toxic paints. Founder Phil Robinson used to be in a band and decided to pay homage to his past by naming all the paint colours after song titles. Jo from Paint the town green explains a bit about the process. “It was a very time consuming process that took a lot of thought but was great fun. Phil wanted to come at the colour naming process from a different angle and have a theme that ran throughout. Some came more easily than others, these were mainly the literal ones- Purple Rain (tune!), Powder Blue, Fade to Grey etc. But actually the ones he’s most pleased with are the ones that are a bit more ‘cryptic’ but convey what he’s trying to say with those colours. These include Dignity, Pictures of You and Charlotte Sometimes. Phil likes to think that these names trigger the imagination by describing the colours in a more metaphorical way rather than just saying ‘Pea green.” I absolutely love the story behind their paint collection. So cool.

Nightswimming by Paint the town Green

What’s in a name? Sometimes more than meets the eye. A great paint name does justice to the colour and fires up the imagination. If you could come up with any paint name you liked for any colour you liked, what would you choose?

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  • Anna Proctor

‘If time were a colour, I bet it would be a tasteful off white”. Greg Parrish

Yes I think it probably would be. White is the ultimate classic and timeless choice. It’s far and away the most popular colour when it come to paint. When used well it can look incredibly elegant It is unrivalled in its clarity and purity. Robert Paul, showroom manager of Little Greene in Marylebone, once described white to me as a way of pressing the refresh button. He’s right because with a big dose of natural light I don’t believe there is anything that can invigorate as much as white can. It’s a popular choice with architects (I should know; I’m married to one) as it doesn’t interfere with their designs and expresses the light they have captured so well.

Panelling in French Grey colour scales by Little Greene

However, white sometimes get a bad rep for being a safe choice, a default option for walls in particular. All too often it is and it can look quite drab as a result. It is criticised for being cold and stark, at worst sterile. The key to really making it work is to combine it with tactile layers and materials to avoid any of these negative attributes.

A mix of materials in different shades of white will bring warmth and comfort to rooms. Add vintage furniture or reclaimed materials to bring character. At Nue Ground, a recent opened cafe on Abbeville road in Clapham, the interiors have nailed a sleek but inviting white look. The combination of whitewashed terracotta partitions, off white terrazzo partitions and handmade Zellige tiles along with bamboo pendants is really effective. It’s a fresh and coherent mix of materials that promotes sustainability and reflects an exciting and healthy menu.

Nue Ground cafe

The beauty of whites is that they are a blank canvas on which to layer pops of colour with furniture and accessories. It’s important to choose a white that complements the other colours in the scheme to prevent them from jarring. Whether that’s a white with a hint of grey, or red in it, for example, consider the other elements in the space to give a harmonious look. There are so many white paints out there it can be pretty mind boggling. One colour which is best avoided in the UK, according to colour expert Karen Haller, is brilliant white. This is because it doesn’t exist in nature so we simply can’t relate to it. If a room is bright an airy, white is the best way to capture the feeling of light and space. White walls are natural light reflectors.

For a high impact look that always look stylish go for big contrast with black and white. Sister Kate @thereverendsister has the most fabulous maximalist monochrome home. It’s virtually all black, white and gold and all about statement pieces and luxurious textures. She really shows how to give white rooms oodles of panache and make them far from cold.


Furniture with relief or carved details look really effective in white as the contours really stand out. I have long lusted over the customised white Ikea sideboard that Bianca Hall of French for Pineapple created in her dining area. It’s incredibly chic and looks a million dollars. So clever. It’s the sort of piece that could work in any room scheme and won’t date. The wooden parquet floor of dreams really grounds and warms up the space too.

French for Pineapple's dining area

After watching Little Women last night (the cinematography was just exquisite!!) I’m especially excited about adding some shiplap cladding to our hallway in a crisp white. Nautical but nice. Our house was once described as 'upscale beach', which I thought was marvellous despite being nowhere near the sea! Having toyed with going for bolder colours I like the idea of a fresh pause of white as you transition from the dark exterior of the house.

Rather than a boring choice of colour, a whiter shade of pale could provide just the break your space (and head) needs.

Source book

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