brian gluckstein living room

Making your home a colourful and happy place during isolation

Brian Gluckstein shares his six tips for designing with colour

Catch Brian Gluckstein on Cityline, where he is a regular guest expert, shop his collection, GlucksteinHome, at Hudson’s Bay and follow him @briangluckstein on Instagram.


When people think about my design aesthetic, they don’t always think about colour. I love the soothing quality and timeless sophistication of a neutral palette, but the truth is I love designing with colour, too.

When done well, colourful spaces can be just as timeless and calming as any monochromatic room out there. Colour can also have an incredibly uplifting effect on our mood, and, now that we’re spending more time at home than ever, it’s especially important to live in spaces that keep us feeling happy and optimistic.

Designing with colour can be a bit daunting for many, especially when you’re looking to invest in a space that you’ll want to live with for years to come. The key is in striking the right balance so that colours feel connected and complementary, without overwhelming the room. Here are my tips for designing a colourful space you’re sure to love spending time in.

1. Create a mood board

Before designing anything, it’s always a good idea to dedicate some time to determining your vision for the space. Start a Pinterest board, a saved collection on Instagram, or collect clippings from your favourite design magazines over the next several weeks to collect images and get a sense of what you’re drawn to. You’ll start to notice common themes throughout, and these will help direct what you really want for the space.

2. Start with the art and rug

When designing with colour, I find it’s best to start with the big, important pieces like the art and area rug. These pieces ground a room and will set the tone for the space, and they can also provide inspiration for the colour palette. If you have a piece of art stashed away or a rug rolled up in storage, this is a great time to pull those items out. Directly pull a few of your favourite colours from these pieces or draw on colours that coordinate, and let these be your guide for upholstery, paint, and décor.

3. Go big and bold

Don’t be afraid to go bold and colourful when it comes to your furniture. A coloured sofa or armchair can make a powerful statement, and you likely already have one or the other in your home to get started with. If you’re planning to stick to a more neutral palette for your furniture, the walls are the easiest thing to change for an incredible infusion of colour. Once you’re able to, coordinate the drapes and toss cushions with your new wall colour for an even stronger look.

4. Consider your fabrics

Some fabrics take colour far better than other materials. Silks and velvets not only have beautiful texture to them, but they also absorb rich hues and have a beautiful sheen, making them the perfect choice for colourful upholstery, toss cushions, and even grasscloth wall-coverings.

5. Take note of your surroundings

Make sure to take into consideration how surrounding interiors and exteriors will cause hues to read in a room. If there’s a deep red room adjacent to the one you’re redecorating, for example, that might cast a pink tinge to the space. If there are plenty of trees right outside the window, that might cause the space to read a bit greener. Order tester pots and finish samples online to try on the colours for size and see how they’re affected by the room’s surroundings throughout the day.

6. Think about the lighting

Just like surrounding exteriors and interiors, lighting can have major impact on how colours appear. In living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms where we spend more time relaxing, we typically want warmer bulbs that will cause colours to look warmer. In working areas like the kitchen or a home office, we usually want cooler lights that improve our focus, which will cause colours to read cooler, too. Make sure to test lighting against your fabrics and paint chips to be confident you’re happy with the final result.

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