Colour feels good right now and it’s come at a time when I’m decorating my new home. I’ve found myself buying faded kilims, beautiful old tapestries and colourful cushions for my living room. We’ve also accumulated about 50 Welsh blankets in a wide spectrum of colours for the business too. I’m excited by colour and I seem to have gone off anything that’s bland and stark.
Colour can bring a relaxed, comfortable and uncontrived feel to a home, depending on how you use it. People have walked into my house and said, ‘Oh, nothing matches,’ but I don’t even think about that. I put things together that work in harmony so that the look is eclectic and personal, like decorating in the country house style on a small scale. I actually think that creating this colourful look – making it seem like it’s evolved over time – can be one of the hardest to pull off. It has to feel effortless, glamorous and very English. It’s something that antiques dealers like me have been doing well for decades, as we’ve had a lot of practice putting pieces together, but it is something that anyone can learn.
For me, the key to creating a successful room is colour. I always start with the wall and floor coverings; I look at colours and artwork for the walls, and rugs for the floors. I’ve chosen a pale green for my living room and an ornate rug in reds and blues. Then I build up from there, adding in other elements as I go.
Using antiques is a great way to achieve a colourful effect. Age and patina bring texture, creating a softness of layering, and show colour aged by time. I tend not to worry about wear – it can be beautiful and can be the best thing about a piece, like a pair of comfortable old shoes with character, or an old car that you particularly love.
If it’s a grand room, you need to work that bit harder to make people feel at ease. Think about adding lovely old worn surfaces and battered chairs that people aren’t afraid to sit in. Otherwise guests wonder, ‘Should I take my shoes off?’ and are afraid to put their glass down. We’re all different, but that’s not the sort of place I want to call home.
When you start to decorate a room, you may become aware that you tend to lean towards a certain colour. For me it’s warm reds – ones that are almost pink. I have two antique mercury plate horseshoe mirrors where the red velvet has impregnated the glass, which I love. Also a pair of very worn red Moroccan leather chairs and a Thomas Jeckyll fire surround with pink tiles. These antique pieces work particularly well in these tones. The background colours they rest against – by contrast – are deliberately very muted. It’s all about balance.
The main thing is not to be afraid of colour. Go for what you love in the pieces you buy. For those who want more guidance, here’s my advice.
DREW’S TIPS FOR INCORPORATING COLOUR
Use bold colours if you love them, just be careful how you do it. A splash of something brash can be great – like a crazy neon light in the corner, or a flashy piece of Pop Art on the wall – but if you put another one on the other side of the room to make a pair, you’ll lose impact and create a room that’s too contrived. The thing is to keep things relaxed!
When you’re buying painted antique furniture, try to choose stuff that has its ‘first paint’ (its original paint). Antique pieces that have been recently repainted have – in the majority of cases – been devalued in the process.
The wear that you get on leather, carpets, wall hangings and paintings is all fine and adds to the story of those items. Don’t be afraid of wear, or of faded colours. But do steer clear of anything with visible or heavy restoration. Unrestored is always better, even if it has more damage.
I like to mix in colourful ceramics to pull together a room and create a relaxed feel. They don’t have to be expensive antiques – I picked up a great old pot for £60 last week in Wales that just looks great in my new home!