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The Value We Bring : Colour Theory

Written By Guest Author Melissa Alli, Interior Designer

Images Supplied By Mella Design Ltd. 

At Mella Design, we believe every project tells its own story; a story heavily directed by a unique design concept. Establishing a strong concept is the secret for any successful project and should never be overlooked. This process varies between Residential and Commercial projects. Residential projects tend to be more personal and exclusive to an individual Client lifestyle, whilst Commercial projects are exclusive to a brand identity. Though every project may require a different process, the first question we ask every Client is whether there’s a Color Palette they’d like us to follow. As Professional Interior Designers, we consider the psychology of Color; how different hues work together; the lighting within the space; brand identity and much more, to create a balanced and harmonized interior design. 

Colour Psychology 

With the average person spending 90% of their time indoors, colour plays a critical role in how a space looks and feels. This is where colour psychology comes into play, as different colours can affect our moods to a considerable extent. 


An emotionally intense colour; symbolises passion, intimacy, power, and love

Spaces: bedrooms, theatres, music, studios, restaurants and adult spaces 



A joyous and playful colour; symbolises optimism and energy

Spaces: playrooms, schools, restaurants, dining and living rooms


A bright and cherry colour; symbolises optimism, energy, joy, happiness and friendship

Spaces: commercial offices, accent walls or furniture and accessories


A colour that stimulates life; symbolises life, growth, nature and energy

Spaces: healthcare spaces, schools, libraries, offices & living rooms


A relaxing and cool colour; symbolises peace, trust and comfort

Spaces: bedrooms, reading nooks, smaller spaces, therapist & healthcare offices


An exotic colour which adds drama to a space; symbolises royalty, wealth, creativity and drama

Spaces: living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms

Though the colours in Table One may represent different meanings, colour theory becomes much more complex when we get into the colour properties. This is where a Designer would consider terms like Hue, Tint, Tone, Shade & Saturation to create a balanced design.  

Colour Properties 

Colour: The general term we use to describe any hue, shade, tint etc. that we see

Hue: The purest and most vibrant form of the colour itself, with no added whites or blacks

Tint: A paler/lighter version to colour, lightened by adding white 

Shade: The opposite o tint. A shade is a pure hue which has black added to it to appear darker

Tone: A pure hue which has a neutral grey added to it. This means that the colour remains the same, but less vibrant and can range from light to dark

Saturation: The intensity of a hue. High saturations make a colour appear brighter, whereas low saturations make a colour appear greyer. 

In addition to colour properties, an Interior Designer will use The Colour Wheel to help curate the right colour palette for your project.

A basic colour wheel will show us the primary colours: red, yellow and blue. We then have secondary colours, created when combining the primary colours: orange, green and purple/violet. Tertiary colours are created by combining secondary & primary colours: red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet and red-violet. 

More complex Colour Wheels simply display a variety of tints and shades of these colour combinations. As Designers, our understanding of the Colour Wheel allows us to establish which Colour Scheme works best with the Design Concept. There are Six Colour Schemes we will often choose from, which heavily guide an aesthetically pleasing design direction.  

Once we’ve established the colour scheme, how do we know how much of each colour to use? Every good designer knows the 60-30-10 rule: the dominant colour makes up 60% of the space; the secondary colour makes up 30% of the space; and the remaining 10% is your accent colour. This rule is highly useful in both Residential and, Commercial spaces. 

When working with commercial clients, brand identity is at the forefront of our colour scheme. For example, if a company's brand colours are blue, green and yellow, we would use an analogous colour scheme, with warm neutrals, tints and shades of blue, green and yellow, distributed through the 60-30-10 rule. 

Similarly, if a residential client desired a 'fun, optimistic but relaxing' space, we would lean towards an analogous colour scheme with cool-toned neutrals with pops of green, yellow, distributed through 60-30-10 rule. 

Though we may have colour rules and guidelines to help us curate a balanced design, there are many other factors that influence our decisions and emphasize our value as Designers. Colours can be used for way-finding. Way-finding is when we use Colour, Signage and other Design Elements to help navigate a space. Colour is also used to mask unsightly features or to make a small space feel bigger. Additionally, a successful project is more than finding the right colours, but also how we achieve the desired aesthetic while staying on budget, increasing resale value and ensuring that inhabitants feel emotionally and physically safe.  

A Professional Interior Designer is knowledgeable about the many Principles and Elements of Design, particularly Color Theory. A good designer will transform any space by understanding the power of color, how it makes us feel, how it makes a room appear and how it attracts people. With every successful project having a unique design concept, a trusted and valued Interior Designer will help you achieve a balanced and harmonised Interior Design with an appealing colour combination.  


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