Current Issue #488

The Evolution of Colour

The Evolution of Colour

Perceived colour is a unique and personal experience, writes interior designer Claire Kneebone, as she looks at how nature’s colours have been transformed into dyes, paints and other mediums through the ages.

It is said that the colour blue is the most liked colour by both males and females. The reason behind this might be linked to our evolutionary development, in that, clear skies or clean water were elements that led to survival and potentially has some link to this colour being a desirable one.

In ancient times, blue dye used for paint and ceramics was considered highly sought after, due to the complex chemical reactions to produce the bright hues. Unlike reds, yellows and browns that were manifested from minerals and clay, the first documented synthetic blue was Egyptian Blue, which was invented around 2200 BC and created by heating minerals at high temperature but was temperamental to perfect. Throughout history, the processes required to develop this colour evolved as has how we see colour in art and the built-space.

Through the revolution of the industrial era we have been able to refine, attain and create not only the perfect hue but also texture, reflection, and tactile qualities like never before. This leaves us with endless opportunities to bring colour into our lives and experiment with how they are used in art, design and architecture.

Colour trends change as quickly as fashion trends but with technology advancing it is ever evolving. I always find myself looking back to the past for inspiration on design techniques, joinery details and colour palettes rather than fixating on what is trending at the time. I have always been inspired by past eras, from the intricate sculpted details of the 1600s, the craftsmanship and colour of the Art Deco era, to the muted pastel tones of the ‘50s and ‘60s. I find that great design is derived and reinterpreted from these past eras as we find new ways of implementing them into contemporary times.

It is said that the colour trends of 2017 are based around the sentiments of rejuvenation, revitalisation and reassurance, which relates to the complex social and political environment we find ourselves in. The colours we introduce into our lives help support a life we wish to be in. This especially relates to how greenery has made a bold entrance into residential and commercial spaces bringing vitality and freshness. These colours are also hard to replicate. There is certainly something to be said for the natural world; we find its organic unpredictability appealing and comforting. When it comes to colour, I am drawn to introducing it in elements that are natural rather than reproduced for this reason. The beauty of natural stone – unique in its veining and changing colour, brings character to a space that can be somewhat flat or lifeless.

There is a move towards the use of pale pinks and rich velvety reds, once seen as clashing colours they are now being coupled together in an opulent and sophisticated way. We are seeing this used as a design statement on floors, walls and ceilings, being painted entirely in one or two contrasting colours. This is transforming minimalistic design into a palette that is much more confident than what we have seen in the past, while appealing as a cost-effective way to create big impact. Using geometric shapes and lines, designers are using this simple household product to create interesting perspective, bold branding opportunities and controlling the emotional state of its inhabitants. Coloured painted finishes and surfaces are proving to be a powerful and uncomplicated tool.

Colour can evoke emotion, nostalgia and can change one’s mood in a subliminal manner. In the same way a chef might plate a dish – taking care to refine each element to appeal to the culinary senses – design and art use colour to highlight and create perspective that bring life and meaning to each detail and design decision.

Colour is inspired by nature, derived from natural dyes and elements of the earth. Through time this has evolved into a saturation of endless opportunity to use colour in a thoughtful and refined way. We are seeing a trend in designed spaces of colour being used in very bold but restrained ways. It is an exhilarating time to be able to access such diversity of colour in not only paint but in all natural and constructed materials and finishes.

Claire Kneebone is an interior designer


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