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UNDERSTANDING WARM AND COOL COLOUR TONES

Heather Nette King is a Melbourne-based interiors stylist and writer for many leading interior titles and newspapers. The hallmarks of her styling are colour and vibrancy, and she writes passionately about peoples’ homes and how they live in them.


The science of colour and how it makes us feel can be difficult to grasp.
So, when it comes to selecting colour schemes to use throughout the interiors of your home, understanding the power of warm and cool tones can be a handy tool to have.

What classifies a colour/tone as ‘warm’ or ‘cool’? What qualities do they each possess and how can you distinguish between the two?

At its most simplistic level, warm colours fall into the red, orange, and yellow families, and have
obvious connotations to fire, the sun, and feelings of warmth. Conversely, cool colours belong to the green, blue, and purple families - think water and grass.

It all sounds straightforward until you start hearing terms like ‘warm white’ or ‘cool red’, and you begin to doubt everything you thought you knew about interior design. That’s because there are cool versions of warm colours, and warm versions of cool colours - it’s all about undertones and the composition of the colour.

Warm colours typically have undertones that are orange, yellow or red, whilst cool colours have undertones that are green, blue, or purple. So, a pink should be warm, but if it’s mixed with a blue, it will be a cool pink; and if it were mixed with a red, it would be a warm pink. Compare a few pinks side by side and you will get the picture.

Which flooring products would you choose to achieve a warm look/feel within your home, and why?

With the above explanation in mind, it makes sense that flooring products with undertones of red, orange, or yellow will bring a warmer feeling to you home. A hybrid product like the pet friendly UltraPet Pinnacle Hybrid in Classic Chestnut, or the Hampton Style carpet in Sandpiper will give your room an instantly warm look. To create a cooler colour palette, try a cool grey carpet like Blue Grey from the Avant Garde range or the Boulder colourway from the wonderful Elements Hybrid Tile range.

What mood/look/feel do warm, and cool colours create in a home? Is there a style of home that suits interiors with warm coloured furnishings? What about cool furnishings?

The colour palette you choose for your home will have an impact not just on the look, but also the feel of your home. I find that a cool colour palette is best suited to more contemporary dwellings that have bigger windows, are north-facing, and have more natural light. They require less in the way of artificial warming through warm floor and wall paint colours. Older style and more traditional homes that receive less natural light can often feel cool and a tad gloomy inside, so warm flooring and furniture selections will create a more welcoming space.

How can one easily change their home décor from warm tones to cool tones with the change of season?

The turn of the season is a great time to refresh your home décor. Changing your soft furnishing and textiles like rugs and cushions is one of the best and most economical ways to achieve this. Again, think about the warm versus cool colour theory. Two excellent examples would be Carpet Court’s Skandi Loop rug in Madras Blue which is lovely and cooling, and the Atrium Jute rug in Polo Cherry which will instantly add a hint of spicy warmth to a room.

How can you use colour to add depth or texture to a space?

Colour depth perception is an interesting concept that suggests warm colours advance, and cool colours recede, which in turn affects your eyes’ perception of depth. Therefore, using a mixture of warmer and cooler colours can create a real contrast for your eyes, which will help your rooms feel more textured, layered, and interesting. This is particularly true if you have decorated a living room in a neutral scheme of warm whites or cool greys – some added hints of contrasting colour hues will create a much more interesting visual plateau.

So, whether you choose to have a warm tonal scheme or a mix of warm and cool colours, when armed with this knowledge you will be able to achieve a beautiful mix that will delight you and be perfect for your home.


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