No fancy finishes or fiddly decoration, just beautiful colour, applied simply, is all you need to make any room achieve its potential. Paint becomes a kind of architectural tool when used on a room's surfaces — and not just the walls. Window sills, fireplaces, alcoves, ceilings and even floors can all be put to work.
After years of neutral domination, the return to colour might seem daunting but there are tricks and tips for finding your way back into a more colourful home.
Set an objective
Start by taking a good, hard, look at the room you are planning to change. For now, ignore the furniture and fittings and just concentrate on the light coming into the space, the height of the ceilings and the walls that define the shape of the room.
Is there enough light — do you want to make the room brighter? Or more dramatic or moody? Who uses the room and what for? Do you want to make a bright dining room for family celebrations or try a richer colour for romantic candlelit evenings or grownup dinners with friends? And is there anything about the shape of the room you would like to change? Colour is a very clever, quick and useful tool that can appear to transform the size and shape of spaces.
Marianne Shillingford is creative director for Dulux. There are few people who understand paint and colour as well as this expert.
"You can use richer colours like seasoning in food, adding small amounts for visual flavour. Try them in window recesses, behind shelves and on additional elements such as painted furniture and picture frames. Hand-painted wall finishes, such as stripes, draw the attention to the best parts of the room and seem to fill the space, allowing you to get away with less furniture."
Choosing paint colours
Choosing your colours is perhaps the hardest part as there are so many — and all the major manufacturers have been adding new ones to their ranges. It is good to have one or two shades in mind as a starting point, and the inspiration for these can come from almost anywhere.
"Think about the colours you actually really like," suggests Marianne Cotterill, one of the UK's leading interiors stylists and an ardent fan of colour in the home.
"You might find the right shade in something you already have in the room — a detail on a cushion, a fabric or even the cover of a book. You can then find additional colours that complement each other."
She suggests first picking colours that are about three tones apart (company paint charts can help you identify these related shades).
Not every colour works on a large scale, she explains: "I love green but green on four walls might be a bit hard to live with, so you could paint a thick border of that green as an accent or use it in a space that you pass through rather than stay in."
Adding contrast with paint
Interior designers such as Eleanora Cunietti have also mastered the magic of paint. Eleanora, a partner in award-winning practice Carden Cunietti, introduces drama by painting the door to a light-coloured room in black or dark grey: "It's a good and very modern contrast, and the same light and dark contrast can also be used for a staircase where the balustrade is painted black."
When considering your colours, Marianne Shillingford advises: "As a simple rule of thumb, warm colours such as red, pink and orange 'advance', which means they make the walls appear closer to us. You can use them to make a big, open space appear more intimate.
"Cool colours like blue and aqua 'recede', which means they can be used to make smaller rooms appear more spacious. White creates balance and adds light and crispness to any colour scheme but it's not always a great choice for the ceiling in every room.
"A white ceiling will help to increase light levels, but if there is a marked difference between the ceiling and wall colour, it can look stark. Instead, try a much paler tone of the wall colour for the ceiling to create a considered, seamless look."
The right colours will transform your room, enhance its features, and delight you every time you enter it. And the more skilful and confident you become, the more fun you can have trying new combinations.
Crown: 0870 2401127, crownpaint.co.uk
Dulux: 08444 817 817, dulux.co.uk. All listed colours are from the Dulux Paint Mixing range, matt emulsion, 2.5 litres, £24.29 RRP
Earthborn: 01928 734 171, earthbornpaints.co.uk
Farrow & Ball: 01202 876141, farrow-ball.com
Fired Earth: 01295 814396, firedearth.com
Sanderson: 0845 880 5866, sanderson-uk.com
Andy Martin Architects: 020 3397 1999, andymartinarchitects.com
Carden Cunietti: 020 7724 9679, carden-cunietti.com
Marianne Cotterill: 07917 788969, mariannecotterill.com