All the colours of the spectrum - and aver 1000 variations - are available as paint. This vast range of hues means you can choose precise tints and shades to get the effect yau want whatever the general colour scheme.

Natural colour
Compare this wealth of colour with the restricted palette available to early decorators. It is a common misconception that historic homes were decorated in pastel tones. The colours contained natural dyes which faded fast. Buff, sky blue and brawn were amang the first commercially produced paint calaurs and a favaurite Geargian colour scheme was sage green woodwork teamed with chocolate coloured walls - an adventurous and effective combination. Strang calaurs of equal value like these underline the beauty of perfect proportions but altering their relative depth can help to improve the perspective where necessary. A dark colour appears to lower a high ceiling, while muted, matching tones allow unsightly features like radiators and pipes to pale inta insignificance.

The nineteenth century saw the development of synthetic dyes, progressing from the crude brilliance .of mauve, magenta (named after a battle) and Prussian blue, to delicate shell pinks, creams and celadons used in elaborate paint effects at the turn of the century. These were ail-based paints like modern eggshell finish, whose sheen suits bath walls and woodwork, increasing the impression of space and giving a soft, subtle look. The chalky colours of distemper had been used in unpretentious cattage settings but urban living demanded dark colours which did not shaw the dirt.

Until well into the twentieth century, pastels were the preserve of the rich who did not have to concern themselves with cleaning. Pure white paint became available in the 1920s, and contributed to the widely held image of the homes of movie stars in the 1920s and 30s, made famous by interior decorator Syrie Maugham.

Modern times
Pale colours have proved highly desirable because they reflect light and increase the impression of space. Soft matt emulsions give the effect of traditional distemper without its drawbacks while undercoat, sealed by varnish, has an attractive velvety appearance for those who want an alternative to gloss. Paint can also be applied over textured wallpapers.