This season, those berry shades are bountiful, as plum, raspberry, blackberry and damson all ooze their luscious charm. Fashionistas love their sexy glamour and designers grab this chance to serve up a delicious mélange in taffeta, silk, velvet, chenille, to be offset with glowing glass and lustrous paint colours.
“Think puddles of pink coulis with pure aubergine,” says colour maestro (and author) David Oliver, who runs the successful Paint & Paper Library in Elystan Street, SW3 (www.paintlibrary.co.uk). “The berry shades are feminine and glamorous without being frilly. They are also very versatile, and I think, wildly romantic.”
The more red there is in these colours, the greater the punch of warmth and energy they pack. But these rich tones can gobble up the light, so they really need to be slightly shiny and reflective to look their best. Then the light will bounce back and provide a feeling of depth.
If choosing paint, go for satin or silk finishes, rather than a matt or flat. This will give just the right hint of sheen. Look for wallpapers with a foiled surface or reflective inks. As for fabrics, choose the glossier weaves of satin, velvet, damask, taffeta and chenille. Brilliant lacquers and coloured glass will also do the trick.
'Don’t be timid, do it in excess. Mix berry with olive green to accentuate richness'
Equally, make sure a room has lots of light at night. A chandelier (in crystal perhaps, or golden metal) has all those sparkling rays that make a fab focal point. But have a supporting cast of extra lamps and spotlights.
Raspberry and plum are warm and cosy. They are “advancing” colours — they can tend to make surfaces appear closer than they are. So they could be good for a large hall, or for an intimate dining room. In bedrooms, this will be the boudoir look.
Follow fashion’s lead and go for the layered look, with a big pile-up of reds and purple. Use crimson, scarlet, ruby and wine for cushions on a sofa or as covers and pillows on a bed, enlivened perhaps with brighter mauve and fuschia.
Don’t be timid, do it in excess. “I love mixing berry with olive green to accentuate the richness, says designer Suzy Hoodless (020 7221 8844; www.suzyhoodless.com), whose chic interiors shop is in Clarendon Cross, W11. “Be flexible — these shades work well as wall colour, upholstery or just as accents.”
For a braver scheme, include large dollops of ochre and caramel, or even a dash of lime.
Pile on the tassels, fringing and braid, for swanky looped-back curtains, swagged pelmets, cushions and shades. At other times, such an excess of trimmings might look a tad OTT but berries just soak them all up. Indeed, the berry shades just love to be baroque, all curves, swirls and ostentatious ornament.
Subvert — slightly — the 18th century notion of “picture room red”, and hang prints, photographs and pictures in glistening gilt frames on a background of deep raspberry. Indeed gold, along with copper and bronze, are perfect partners for the berry colours, lightening the look and adding a touch of opulence.
Hang heavy silky damson curtains lined with pink or taupe from a golden pole with ornate finials, or add fancy gilt handles to a junk shop chest, painted in a blackberry gloss. Blue-toned neutrals can make these colours really “sing”, says Liz Cann, design director of Zoffany (0870 830 0350; www.zoffany.com), the big fabric house, whose sumptuous new collections are now in their showroom in Chelsea Harbour.
“Think slates, iron- and steel-greys, mists and a winter sky,” she says. “With modern dyes you get much better colour fastness than before, so that fabrics won’t fade over time.”
So who’s harvested the best berries this autumn? At the top-end of the market, there are decorator brands such as Osborne & Little (020 7352 1456; www.osborneandlittle.com) — which mixes them into sexy but expensive fabrics for walls and curtains.
Harlequin’s Arkona range of prints and weaves (0870 830 0032; www.harlequin.uk.com) is more affordable. Or simply pop into Sainsbury’s and pick up velvet and taffeta cushions for only £5.99. Homebase is also doing berries on the cheap, with plates and wine glasses for only £3.99. And its Jazzberry paint (at £11.99 for 2.5 litres) hits just the right note.
John Lewis (0845 604 9049; www.johnlewis.com) has a lovely new leafy pattern (called Flock Branch) in two tones of crimson, which sells as ready-made curtains, a roller blind and even as a rug. M&S (http://www.marksandspencer.com) puts berries in the bedroom, with rich Heritage Plum sheets and covers, all baroque swirls and diamond quilting. Or slip under its Red Ruby duvets in cotton sateen.
Of course, fashion influences furnishing, says Shauna Dennison, who, as design manager at Osborne & Little, does high glamour with ease. But, she suggests, there is a more earthy approach.
“These colours are with us every autumn in fruit farms, gardens and growing wild. Remember, the dyes originally came from unpretentious sources such as beetroot, and from the berries themselves. So maybe team raspberry and plum with undyed linens, raw woods, wicker, and cane.”
Served in this fashion, with lashings of cream, you have the ingredients for a relaxing family room.