When working on a colour palette be it for an artwork, for your home colour scheme or even when putting an outfit together, a strong accent colour can always make or break the overall effect of the colour scheme.
To provide a harmonious scheme, the use of neutrals in muted tones works to provide a soft calming undertone, which is easy on the eye and works in most spaces. This is a subtle effect allowing the differing colour tones to create interest without making too much of a statement as the overall effect is soothing and monochromatic.
To turn up the volume however, without destroying the integrity or feel of the scheme, the simple addition of a strong accent colour, can push the boundaries a little, and make for a far more interesting and stronger statement. To offer a simple example, consider a neutral fabric lounge sitting on a rattan rug, with soft earthy toned walls which provides a comfortable space to live in, day in day out! Add however a couple of scatter cushions in vibrant red or yellow and the scheme will still remain soft with the accents giving a punch making the whole space come alive.
Whilst visiting the newly renovated Van Gough Museum in Amsterdam, some artworks caught my attention for the same reasons. These works (one by Van Gough, the still life is by Anton Mauve) differ in style from still life to landscape to a figurative work, however the colour tones within the paintings are very similar and the accent colour almost the same tone.
You can see the dramatic impact such a small amount of an accent colour (in this case muted red) can make on an otherwise neutral backdrop. This strong colour works, as it is used in a very small amount and positioned bringing to life the entire scheme. This means that we instantly stop and our eyes are drawn to this “out of place” colour and this “alert” means we are stimulated and therefore interested in what we are viewing making us linger a little longer. This is a trick, which works in many other formats not just painting.
In fashion for example, a neutral tan skirt with a soft white shirt and darker brown jacket will be a stylish look. Add now a thin red belt or handbag and you compliment the overall neutral look, whilst adding some interest and a little punch to great effect. Importantly, the look still remains neutral!
So don’t play it safe, as adding strong colours in small amounts will add interest and contrast. The important trick is to make the backdrop simple and understated allowing the accent to “be the star” without competing against other similarly strong colours or patterns. The accent will then in turn highlight all of the neutrals rather than compete with them providing balance and harmony to the scheme.
James Treble is an ambassador for Planet Ark and firmly believes in sensible purchasing, recycling and creative re-purposing. James Treble has more than 25 years of experience in the Building Industry and Interior Design. His knowledge and experience in adding value to homes, through clever design & styling, is now published for all to learn and benefit from. Interior Design For Profit is now available online.