Colour story: Embracing neon in our homes!
A wise woman (Kate Watson-Smyth from Mad About the House) once said that if you’re struggling to understand your interiors style or unsure what your colour preferences are, then look at what you wear. This is a simple strategy yet so insightful and when I did this with my own wardrobe, it helped me realise a lot more than I ever thought I could about my own interiors style. You’ve probably heard me banging on about this a lot, the fact that knowing ourselves and our unique style is an important starting point in a new room project and I still stand by that. Knowing your colour story is a (really fun!) journey and does take time but it’s so worth it and necessary I believe to make decisions in our homes that we don’t get sick of in a couple of months time.
But what did I see when I looked in my wardrobe? Firstly, as to be expected, there are quite a lot of dark dresses and tops echoing my love for dark cocooning interiors. Some items, along with my boots and belts have industrial detailing and this is a style I like in my furniture and lighting. Then as a lover of antiques it wasn’t surprising to see some vintage patterned dresses and a couple of pencil skirts. All of these choices over the years were made subconsciously when shopping for clothes but so instinctively reflect who I am. Now, the little surprise in there that makes me smile is that there is a neon pink striped knit dress from Mango and a gorgeous vintage jacquard fluorescent dress that I bought in Greenwich Market for a wedding years ago. How did neon get in there? And what does it mean?
A lovely synchronicity was that at the time I was reflecting on my wardrobe choices and realising my unique decorating style, I coincidentally also bought a new art print for my house, and you’ve guessed it - it was NEON PINK! The subconscious mind is powerful! It was a lovely screenprint from Hazel Nicholls, a fellow Northern Irish lass who lives down the road who I adore for her positive, uplifting and clever word art.
Now you might think that this all makes for a very eclectic personal style but the beauty and joy is finding the creativity to bring all these ideas together in a unique way to make it work in your home. Once you stop being afraid of colour and can embrace it to the extent that is right for you, you begin to realise the unlimited colour combinations and ideas that exist for your home, rather than hiding behind white or grey (which there is nothing wrong with as long as it’s not your default choice). For further reading on this check out this brilliant blog post via Ted Ideas by Ingrid Fetell Lee highlighting some of the reasons why we avoid using colour and why we should embrace it more. A really brilliant read!
One more thought…
Before I share some of my favourite neon rooms, art prints and other details that make my heart sing, I want to share that recently I’ve becoming even more attracted to the neon and fluorescent end of the colour spectrum and I was really curious to find out why. The past couple of years have been a very enlightening time for me as I’ve grown my business (and my mind) as well as embracing motherhood, marriage and creative way of living and there is something optimistic and energetic about neon shades that really mirrors the my values in life at the minute. I also think that there is a playfulness to these bright shades and love rooms that make you smile with surprising colour combinations or quirky items.
For obvious reasons fluorescents are used in advertising and warning signs to grab and command your attention and tell you something important. Recently I’ve bought for a print pink cardigan (that my husband calls the shrinking violet jumper!) and am obsessed with painting my nails bright neon shades. You see colour isn’t just for our rooms, it spans out into everything else. This perspective of choosing particular colours and themes for interiors that reflect our values (not only our personal associations with colour and pattern) is hugely due to reading The Architecture of Happiness by Alain Botton which I recommend any interiors lover reads.
What exactly is neon and fluorescent colours?
I’m going to get a little bit scientific here. What makes things glow and how does that luminosity actually happen? It turns out that a better name for neon colours is "fluorescent". Fluorescent colours appear unnaturally bright because they are. They contain pigments which are made up of molecules which are very efficient at absorbing high frequency light and then emitting lower frequency light.
Remember colour is just the way that light is reflected off something and is then interpreted by our eyes and brain and somehow these joyous colours seem to reflect more light than they receive! It may sound like a magic trick, but it makes sense if you think about the fact that the light you can see is only a small section of the larger spectrum of energy all around you. That extra glow in fluorescent colours comes from energy we humans don’t see, called ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet light (UV) is just beyond visible violet in the colour spectrum. Its wavelength is too short to be visible to the naked eye, but you see it working when fluorescent colours glow. Molecules in these colours are excited by UV energy, and afterwards, as the energy level within these molecules decreases, they release part of that extra energy as visible light. Fluorescent dyes turn invisible energy into visible light, and that’s how the magic trick works by converting into visable light from parts of the spectrum we can’t see!
Interesting, eh? But let’s move on to have a look at how you can integrate neon and fluorescent colours in your interiors. It’s probably the case that these will work best in accents such as art or even woodwork but brace yourself for some fully colourful rooms about to hit your computer or phone screens. Sunglasses may be required!
Neon Accents and other details
What about painting the furniture or highlighting other features in the room. More from the home of Quirk and Rescue below. And see how Ms. Pink embodies her interiors style?!
And in my own home I’ve been playing with this pink flamingo and the dark grey walls in my boys bedroom creating contrast. I find people either embrace contrasting colours or feel safer when shades are closer together.
See my Neon Love Pinterest board below for a few more ideas….
Now I’ve realised that pops of neon and bright colours (and most definitely veering away from Primary colours) are what I am most attracted to in my art choices. One artist that I met at Catford Arts Trail is Kelda Storm and her recent pieces would really stand out whether on a white wall or against more dark tones. Check out more of her work here.
I also like the accents of flurorecent colours here in these oil paintings by Francoise Nielly. Such an incredible use of colour to show raw emotion with his aggressive paint strokes! Remember that colour never exists on its own and I love how he uses darker muted tones to contrast with his other vibrant colour choices. The power of contrast working again.
If prints are more your thing then you might remember a previous blog post of mine where I talked about brightening up my neutral landing with some bright art prints.
Let there be light!
Now I couldn’t write this post without mentioning the current widespread trend of using neon lights and illuminated word art which is becoming more common in people’s homes as well as bars and restaurants. I have to say, I dream of having one in my home one day, maybe one with my favourite song lyric. Check out these living spaces below and if you fancy your own then Bag and Bones or Light up the North are your guys!
I’m sure we can all hum the tune to this one! If you’re not following this interiors queen, where have you been?! Check out her blog, where these images were sourced here.
On a recent photo shoot I came along this one in Grind, Greenwich and love how the soft pinks and textured concrete walls work here to make a very relaxed space.
Going back to the beginning of the post, I challenge you to consider your wardrobe choices and what that says about you and how that can inform your own decor choices in the future. Any surprises or enlightening discoveries? I’d absolutely love to hear in the comments below.
When I met Martha from The Colour File last year, I realised that once you start your own colour journey, it opens up a whole new way of living a creative life, and is so much fun! The narratives attached to our colour preferences are so unique to us and this is one of the most satisfying aspects of working with clients in their homes, not just that I can help them create rooms they love but that they understand way more about colour and how it can influence their lives.
Anyway, I’m afraid to say that neon will firmly be staying in my life. Yes you might spot me donning a bright cardigan or see flashes of it in my upcoming interior projects. But looking further afield I’m looking forward to dancing on the sand at Neverworld again, punctuated by neon lights, and hopefully one day enjoy the larger scale neon lights in Tokyo. We begin to see these colours and preferences all around us and if we are mindful enough we can enjoy them every day.
Yours in colour and creativity,
Cover Image: unable to source. Found via Pinterest.