Warm your home with sunny side up

DAVID KILLICK
Last updated 09:56 20/03/2012

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Colour brightens our world - and we need that more than ever, writes David Killick.

Right now colours are super hot. Watch tennis stars Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka. They set the court ablaze in hot orange and fuchsia pink, electric blue or fluoro green.

Cars, too, are brighter than at any time since the early 1970s, an era often described as "the decade taste forgot". Interspersed among the silver and greys, bright vehicles stand out.

Hot colours are also coming to the fore in the home.

But why? Colour experts believe world events play a role. At a time of gloom and recession, people seek brighter colours to give them a much- needed boost. The oil crisis of the early 1970s led to rampant inflation, the end of the gas- guzzler, bizarre new fashions and variations in mustard, orange, lime and purple.

Now, after the global financial meltdown, people want to break free, escape the gloom, and party. Hot colours are in.

"Colour is a wonderful antidote to the general gloomy outlook, whether it is disquiet derived from economic and political uncertainty, natural disasters or simply fatigue from the virtual world," says Melbourne Dulux colour forecaster Andrea Lucena-Orr.

"After 9/11, or certainly World War II, the colours started to get bright. After a big event, like the tsunami in Japan or Christchurch earthquake and a lot of natural disasters, which pull people down, people feel a sense of uncertainty.

"People are sick of worrying and uncertainty, and going, 'you know what, too bad, I am just going to move on'."

Lucena-Orr says women's fashion and automotive trends flow through to the colours we choose for the home. The latest colour trend is international and is evident in fashion, accessories such as glassware and ceramics, fabrics, furniture, and interior colours. Neons and brighter colours have appeared, although you still get balance with more muted colours, too.

"You have to have the conservative choices as well." Whites and neutrals serve as a foil for hot accessories.

Heather Nette King, an interior stylist and writer, says the single most influential colour for 2012 will be green. "It's fresh, organic and natural and reflects our need to nurture oneself as well as the planet."

Lucena-Orr agrees there will be a resurgence in green, particularly shades with more lime, cleaner and more saturated tones.

New Zealand fashion designer Denise L'Estrange- Corbet, who has joined forces with Dulux to release "Denise's Picks", a new palette of autumn colours, says Kiwis need to embrace colour more. She says we tend to have "an undying love affair with white" - and she's on a one-woman mission to ease them off it and on to brights.

"People are obsessed with using white. White is clean and very nice, but it is a shade, and colour adds so much more depth to a home and a workplace. It really does have the power to transform a space."

While her own house features bright colours, "You don't have to be so extreme, and if you do prefer neutrals, you can accentuate with one feature wall in a bold colour, or paint a piece of furniture to brighten a room."

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Resene colour consultant Sarah Gregory says that as we emerge from the depths of the recession, life has taken on new meaning. "We yearn for a simpler, more relaxed way of living and we find comfort in the familiar. Objects that remind us of happier times take centrestage, and splashes of bold, uplifting colours are fully embraced.

"Cheerful, optimistic yellows and oranges speak to our playful side, while tranquil blues and greens muster a sense of wellbeing and warmth. Add to that a vibrant mix of purples, mustards, ochres, and earthy tones - all colours that celebrate our past - and the new season's colours combine to refresh, inspire, motivate and lift our spirits."

Gregory says there are also a few romantic pinks creeping through. "Really pretty, feminine ones. Even the blues and greens are really feminine, rather than trying to balance a neutral scheme. Everything's getting more cozy and feminine and frilly, and men are actually more comfortable now with using those in the colour scheme."

Splashes of strong colour feature not just on accent walls - our appliances and homewares are getting an overhaul too. Toasters, mixers, fridges, rangehoods, ovens, and other homewares are becoming brighter and cheerier, with oranges, yellows, reds, and blues coming through.

"Splash those feel-good colours on to walls and you have instant pick-me-up pizzazz," says Gregory.

Examples include Resene's Wild Thing, "a star-bright yellow gold that's bold, energetic and frivolous"; oranges that are murkier though "still full of fire and splendour"; and cherry reds - "evoking energy, excitement and passion".

Blues feature widely. That's not surprising, says Gregory - we are happiest when the sky is blue.

As many of us choose to stay put in this uncertain economic climate, our homes are well and truly becoming our sanctuaries, she says.

"Everyone is just tired of the uncertainty that we are surrounded with, but the one thing that people can control is their immediate environment," says Wendy Elers, of Wendy Elers Colour & Design. "We're wanting to lift our spirit and get some positiveness back into our day, and that is achieved well through the use of colour."

Interior designer Karen Smith, of Casabella, has some cautionary advice: "There are always 'fashion colours' coming through. Only ever choose a fashion colour if you love it, otherwise you will get tired of it quickly. Also know what balancing colours work and most importantly how much to use proportionately for the space and size of the room or area."

Yellow is everywhere, says Rebecca Bowering, the co- founder of Auckland fabric importer Atelier, who travels to the world's leading fabric and design shows in Paris, Milan and New York.

Oranges and pinks are also popular. "Colour like I haven't seen in 16 years."

Bowering says there are two reasons: a backlash against "all the monochrome and minimalism", and the recession. "If I wear a colourful dress I smile more than if I wear black. It's a psychological thing."

- The Dominion Post

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