Sparking Joy with Colour:
An Interview with Siobhan Doherty
Colour sets the tone for the home. It’s a key ingredient in creating a joyful feeling on entry, a cosy mood in living spaces, or a fresh tone in a breakfast nook. Working out exactly what colours are called for is both an art and a science. To spell it out, we connected with Edinburgh-based colour consultant, Siobhan Doherty. She previously worked for Farrow & Ball, and now puts that know-how to good use helping people get the most out of colour in their interiors. We wanted to know what sparks joy in her home, and her top tips for integrating uplifting colours into a scheme. She let us in on all sorts of tricks to help demystify the process. Read on to discover how you can make your home sing with colour, too…
This winter, we’re looking at small ways to spark joy! Can you share a snapshot of joy in your home?
Because we’ve got young children and quite a hectic schedule throughout the work week with school and extracurricular activities, we don’t tend to be home all that much. So, on the weekend we like to make the most of not having to rush or be anywhere. We light the wood burner, get the living room nice and cosy, and the girls then love to play in there. That’s our hub in the daytime. I love to diffuse some essential oils and make a coffee then just sit in the armchair with a book for as long as I can get away with.
My husband loves to cook, so that’s another little snippet of joy that unfolds in our home, when we’ve got that space that time affords. That was a big thing for us over Christmas when we weren’t spending our days at work. We had a really cosy time at home, experimenting with new cookbooks, discovering new ingredients, and making some really nice meals. I’m very lucky to have my husband around because I’m not much of a cook – but he really enjoys it! He brings a real lift to the house on winter days where no one really wants to head out into the Scottish weather, so we just spend the day cooking instead.
What colours bring you the biggest mood boost, and how do you incorporate them into your interior?
I tend to stick to quite a neutral palette in my own home. I would never be bold enough to go for too much of a pop of colour on the walls. I keep to more natural tones in nice, lineny textures, but then I layer them up to create interest. One colour that works to bring into that sort of soft scheme is yellow. I skew more towards a warm ochre, like the Earth colourway of the Scandi Linen on my Henry sofa. I love those sorts of autumnal tones, like a nice rust or olive as well.
I’ve noticed lately, as I take photos for my Instagram, that I gravitate towards that fiery, pilar box red as well. I think that’s a real mood booster and it seems to go quite nicely with pared-back off-whites. And then you can bring in natural textures like wood to add a hint of colour. Or sometimes I’ll go for colourful accents and accessories like a tablecloth or even just a vase with flowers, which are easy, non-committal ways to incorporate nice pops into an interior. I’ve got, for example, a Falcon enamelware jug that I love because it’s got a nice, orangey-red, which brings a little boost.
What are some of your favourite pieces in your space?
I love my Globe Wernicke bookcase that’s in the alcove in the sitting room. It’s nicknamed the ‘elastic bookcase’, so the glaze door can be pulled out then slotted into the piece of furniture. It’s a German vintage piece that we found at a local salvage yard in Edinburgh, and it truly feels like it was made to fit that alcove. It’s perfect for that spot. We pop some plants on top of it and use it to display some of our favourite objects behind the clear glass.
I do love mixing in the old. Most of my furniture is vintage, actually. The armchairs, for example, are old chairs that we’ve reupholstered. I think that’s part of what I love about the Henry sofa. It’s got the same feel and personality to it as our vintage chairs, with the castor wheels and so on.
I’ve got a vintage Le Klint scissor wall lamp as well, which is something I was hoping to have for many years. I saved up for that one and I absolutely love it! I’ve got a real thing for lamps, actually. That’s something I’m willing to spend on.
The console table in our hallway is quite special, too. It was made for my husband and me as a wedding gift from a friend. It’s got an old railway sleeper as the top and an Ercol style leg as the base. I like that it fits into that space perfectly, with its slender, streamlined format. It makes a great spot to display decorative objects, too.
You’ve gone for our Henry sofa in an Earth coloured Scandi Linen. What drew you toward that colour?
What I liked most about it is it’s a bit unusual and different from what most people go for. Oftentimes it seems people lean towards playing it safe with sofa colour. They’ll go for classic neutrals like beige or grey, say. Those are sure to work well – but what I like about the Earth colour is that it does work as a neutral while being a bit out of the ordinary. I think it’s great to go for something unique. Even if it still falls into the neutral category, you can always find a colour with some depth and intrigue to it.
What do you think are the most important factors to consider when selecting a colour for an interior?
The first thing to take into account is the purpose of the room. Is it a morning room like your kitchen, for example? In that case, you wouldn’t necessarily want to choose a colour that creates a moody, cosy feeling. You’d probably want to go for a palette that feels fresh and invigorating. It’s important to think about how you want to feel when you’re in that room as well. You should also ask yourself if there’s any particular style that you’re drawn to. I’m personally into the Scandinavian feel, with clean lines and neutral palettes, for example. Pinterest can be useful for working that out.
It's also key to identify what existing colours you’ve got in your space that can’t be changed. Maybe that’s your flooring, say. So, you have to work in relation to that. It’s important to consider the aspect of the room as well. Colour can change quite a lot depending on how much natural light a room gets, as well as the quality of that light. For example, North-facing rooms have got quite a blue light, so you’re best to stay away from cool colours like greens and blues in that space. An east-facing room will get the sunrise and be quite bright in the morning, but cool and dim in the afternoon. So, you could go for warmer tones in those spaces as well.
Have a look at which colours you’re typically drawn toward, too. A good way to work that out is looking at your closet or opening up a colour chart and noticing which area your eye is naturally drawn to right away. I think it really is key to work these things out for yourself, rather than have someone else choose the colours in your home based on what they like. It’s your home at the end of the day!