Spring trends:why rebel-pretty is this season's key look on the catwalk and in the home

Like the catwalk, spring interiors are showcasing sultry shades and inky-black backgrounds that make brighter colours pop.

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Scorn pastels this spring, the mood in interiors, as on the catwalk, is black — along with indigo and other dark, sultry shades, especially used as intense backgrounds for lighter tones.

Fashion giant Topshop, calling the trend “rebel-pretty”, has lifted the delicate Wild Strawberry print from the archive of British china favourite Wedgwood and souped it up with a black background, modelled by Bella Hadid. It features on new-season skirts, blouses, even a jumpsuit.

“The black background adds a wonderful sense of subversion to one of Wedgwood’s most iconic patterns,” says Geoff Finch, Topshop’s creative design consultant. Meanwhile, Wedgwood itself has lavished it on a bone china cup and saucer.

“The new trend for dark is completely different from that rather bleak mono look,” says Kate Watson-Smyth, author of a breezy new book Shades of Grey (Ryland Peters & Small, £19.99), packed with personal tips and down-to-earth colour suggestions in the style of her award-winning blog, Mad About The House.

“Dark backgrounds are the new neutrals, whether navy, bitter chocolate or charcoal. They cry out for added colour, which could be pastel, primary or neon.” The darkness behind brings the colours forward and makes them “pop”, she adds.

Watson-Smyth suggests going dark by stages, doing perhaps a piece of furniture first, then adding walls. She has painted a set of shelves a very dark grey, and loves it contrasted with bright flowers, vases, and glassware.

“Pictures look so much better on dark walls,” she adds. Her own home in Crouch End sports Farrow & Ball Down Pipe, but she also recommends Night Jewels by Wickes, and Dulux Urban Obsession.


Abigail Ahern, who opened her cult boutique in Upper Street, N1, in 2004, is a self-confessed dark interiors addict. Originally, the shop had white walls, “then it all started with one dark wall. Things looked better and sold more quickly.”

Now she also has dark walls throughout her four-storey Victorian house in Dalston. “People think dark is depressing, but it’s cosy, chic, sophisticated, and looks great in our soft London light. Once I started I never looked back.”

Ahern has written a best-selling book (Colour, Quadrille, £24) as a dark home manifesto, and now has her own popular paint range.

Nourishing the noir in east London is House of Hackney, which created dark fabrics for furnishings and fashion soon after launching in 2010. Its brand has grown into a ritzy double-fronted flagship in Shoreditch High Street.

“We use a special mix of blue and black which we call midnight,” says co-founder Frieda Gormley. “We’ve used it for our new William Morris collaboration, adding huge aquamarine acanthus leaves for a fresh, bright take on dark.”

Divinely dark: bedroom features Farrow & Ball Railings paint, £38 for 2.5 litres of Estate Emulsion 


In Paris, Sacha Walckhoff, creative director of Christian Lacroix Maison, uses black liberally for a stunning spring collection, new in at Designers Guild in King’s Road, Chelsea. “Black enhances other colours,” he says. “It brings depth, mystery, and chic.”

Black is great for a background, he adds, “but enlighten it with colours and shine, using metal and mirrors.”

Even Sanderson, fount of chintz, has added black to its famous roses. “Black is the go-to shade for making colours stand out,” confirms studio design manager Rebecca Craig. She advises: “Add two or three bright accent colours, then soften the space with textured furnishings — heavy weaves or brushed velvets. Warm golds and metallics will add glamour.”

Melanie Adams, director of a “designer paint” website, says you need a good-quality opaque paint. Her favourites include Squid Ink from Paint Library, Prussian from Zoffany, and Tollard Royal from Albany. She used Little Greene’s Smalt in a small bathroom — “our budget white tiles and towels and white porcelain fittings now look fabulous and much more expensive.”

Explore options and order from www.designerpaint.com, a trading name for the old-established brand of Brewers, supplier to the Queen. You can have home delivery or “click and collect” from 19 London stores.

Charlotte Sumner and Camilla Frances Blunt, who launched a new Hackney-based furnishing fabrics brand at Maison & Objet in January, say: “Dark florals are so versatile. Men love them, or they can toughen up a girly room.”

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