Color, pattern and texture are the principle ingredients of any decorative scheme. Color is the decorator's most powerful ally. Its chameleon quality plays tricks with proportion and perspective, moderates warmth and light and acts, quite literally, on our hearts and minds: red may raise the blood pressure while blue will cool you down. Texture adds a subtle tactile quality, playing off light against shade in a variety of media from paint to fabric, while character and vitality can be created through use of pattern - either as a dramatic focal point or as a muted backdrop. These three components, used in harmony with one another, are the touchstones that will bring a room to life.

Color and mood

Use color to invoke the mood you wish a room to convey. Understated tints of ivory, taupe and pale jade partnered with grey-blue tones or soft pink and gold create an elegant, country-house interior where the faded colors complement the patina of antique furniture. Cottage-garden colors of crimson, jade and forget-me-not blue, offset by white, have a vivacity which brightens up a dark kitchen or bedroom. For a more delicate effect, choose sweet pea tints of rose and lilac. Dark, rich shades of burgundy and midnight blue create a formal setting. Entwined with silver or gold the effect is one of magnificence: add sand or forest green for a more intimate appeal.

Sources of inspiration
The natural forces of fire, sky and sun are represented by the primary colours of red, blue and yellow from which all others are formed. Landscapes inspire more subtle schemes from the greys and blues of a heather-clad moor to the brilliant blues and yellows of Van Gogh's Provence. Paintings can be a rich source of inspiration: look at the rich crimson, blue and gold of the Renaissance, the shadowy blue-grey tones of Dutch domestic interiors and the exuberant splashes of colour which distinguish the Impressionists. The styles of the last century, preserved in period homes or re-interpreted in opera and theatre sets, give an insight into the traditional use of colour. The greens and terracottas of Federal America, the dusty blues of Gustavian Sweden and the mahogany browns and plums of Victorian England can supply a range of colour scheme ideas for today's interiors.

Using colour

As fashions change, the colours which are deemed acceptable alter, but the way colour is used remains constant. All schemes fall into one of three main types. Rooms decorated in tones of a single colour are chic and simple to create. Accentuated by a bold splash of contrasting colour or with a range of textures to add variety, these can be among the most eye-catching settings. Families of near colours such as green and blue, sand and ivory, create delicate blends of colour, while complementary or contrasting colours, whether bright or muted, have a vital, painterly style.
The effect of colour is magnified or reduced by texture. Smooth, shiny surfaces like silk, lacquer or ceramic enhance the effect while matt textures such as wool and wood soften its impact. This is modified further by choosing colours from the warm or cool side of the spectrum. Warm colours like red and orange bring objects into focus while cool blues and lavender make them recede.
Adding white or black to a tone to reflect or absorb more light allows us to fine tune the effect: pink (derived from red plus white) will warm a dark room and a greyed beige (a variation of orange plus black) will tone down a south-facing sitting room. Neutral tones of grey, sand, ivory, and taupe provide tranquillity and act as a frame for more vivid colours. As a soothing background used on walls to offset paintings, or on flooring to highlight rugs and furniture, they have an invaluable role to play.