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Colours to make you happy.

Minimalism and colour. Isn't that a contradiction? Isn't minimalism just acres of uninterrupted white space? Isn't colour anathema? Well no, minimalism needn't be an extreme concept, there's more flexibility within it than you might imagine. The relatively recent trend towards open plan living space, with a spacious airy feel, and less clutter, is a form of minimalism after all.

The origins of minimalism can be seen in certain oriental philosophies, Zen Buddhism, for example. There, the reason for getting rid of any unnecessary paraphernalia is to create a sense of simplicity that allows us to appreciate the things around us.

In traditional Japanese houses, this simplicity reigns supreme. The lack of knick-knacks isn't seen as austere but as a freedom from chaos and ostentation.

To a lesser degree the Swedes have adopted minimalism, their designs are clean and unfussy.

In an interior design sense, the purpose of decluttering is to help us appreciate quality objects without swamping their impact. Less is more, if you like. A fine piece of furniture or a striking painting should be allowed to stand alone, not fight for space among lots of other bits and bobs.

Colour is all-important as it determines the atmosphere in a room. Warm colours such as yellows, reds and oranges draw you in and create a welcoming vibrant ambience. These cosy colours also have the effect of making a space look smaller. If you have very high ceilings and you want to bring the room down a little, then these hot colours will help do that.

However, if you have a confined space to deal with and you'd like to open it up a bit, then you'd be better off with cooler colours like green or blue. Cooler colours also have the advantage of being more serene and calming.

Colour can be used to alter the proportions of a room, or at least give the illusion that the proportions have shifted. Let's say you have a long, narrow sitting room, then an illusion of better proportions can be created by painting the far wall a darker colour. And in a room that's too square, the effect can be diluted by painting one of the walls a more intense colour.

One of minimalism's goals is to create a sense of harmony. How colours are combined will determine whether or not the overall effect achieves this. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder - a colour combo that might please one person and make them feel good, might horrify another! T

Think also about how you are going to use the room. A kitchen, which is the hub of the house, might happily take a couple of vibrant colours, but you might want something more soothing in the sitting room.

There's also a lot of psychology associated with colour. As Goethe once said, 'Colours act upon the soul. They can stimulate sensations, awaken emotions and ideas that calm us or excite us and provoke sadness or happiness.'

Colours, right from way back in time have been heavily symbolic. Purple was the regal colour in the days of the Roman Empire, and in 18th-century Europe it was blue, hence the term blue-blooded. In Imperial China yellow was the colour of choice for royalty. This far down the line however, we are more likely to see yellow as a sunny, happy colour than one associated with the high and mighty.

Colour of course, doesn't just need to be introduced via the walls. Vivid rugs add spice to a room, as do cushions, throws, vases, flowers and paintings. You can have a muted colour scheme to create a soothing backdrop if you like, and lob in bold splashes of red or orange to invigorate the scene.

The most important thing about colours is that they should make YOU happy.

Never mind about being trendy, if you don't like the latest tones, don't use them, opt for ones that fit in with your personality and your lifestyle instead.

The golden rule when it comes to the home is that it should make you feel good.

For further ideas have a look at Minimalism and Colour by Patricia Bueno, Conran Octopus, pounds 25.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 14, 2004
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