Buy Now, Pay Later with zipPay

Designing with colour - Creating contrast that doesn't Clash

Posted on 10 June 2017

When Martin Luther King Jnr. said, “Only in the darkness you can see the stars”, I know he was talking about way more than good design. Way more! In fact, his purpose had nothing at all to do with interior design. However, as a designer, it is my job to be open to new concepts and different ways of seeing things, so please bear with me as I turn that quote into design inspiration…


You want to draw attention to an element in your space, contrast it (and only it) with all the other elements in the space, as done with this black floating stair against its neutral background.

Martin Luther King is right. It is at night that we see the stars, and if we are in a city with bright lights our chances of seeing those stars is greatly diminished. If we have the opportunity to get to the country and look up, we see a kaleidoscope of swirls, patterns and twinkles as the white stars contrast with the inky sky.

The contrast between what we see in the city night sky, compared to the outback is a reminder one easy way to achieve design that has impact. CONTRAST.


That pink chair! It absolutely is the hero of this room.

As a designer, I am fully aware of the need for contrast; of light and shade, the juxtaposition between big and small and that objects appear lighter when placed against a dark background. My design derives strength from playing up the differences between forms and shapes and all those unique features that give each element of the design its own purpose and sense of place.


Have some fun with colourful contrasting accessories and appliances in your kitchen.

So how do you do start?

I believe our homes should reflect our personality and what we love. So to start with, look around your home and select the objects that you truly LOVE. You know, the pot you bought in India that brings back memories of women in the colourful saris working in the fields, with the light catching the sequins so they sparkle. That same pot that awakened in you acceptance and a sense of a bigger purpose.


In picking up the hues of the painting in the carpet, and a contrasting background of charcoals, blacks and whites means the painting becomes the feature of this room.

Maybe it’s a cloth your partner brought you early in your relationship; a picture; a gold watch inherited from your grandpa?

Firstly, if they have been hiding in cupboards – get them out! It’s time for them to shine bright like the stars.


The purple chair and cushions become the star of this room when they are contrasted with the green highlights.

Look at what colour your object is. One of the easiest ways to bring it to life is to place it against a colour that contrasts with it. If you are not sure how to do this, grab some of those paint colour inspiration books from your local paint store and see how they mix and match colours.


Choosing the right colour is important, make sure you check out Tina's recent article on choosing the right colour for your project.

Another way is to choose colours that are opposite each other in a colour wheel - purple and green, orange and blue, yellow and violet – you get the drift. Have a play and see how other colours bring out the best in your piece.


This wall mounted shelving unit comes a design feature when it is contrasted against the green wall. It’s a simple way to bring design elements to life.

Clear a space in your room to place the object. Perhaps it would look great sitting on a hall table that can be seen from many different rooms? How about on a mantelpiece completely devoid of clutter? Where does your object sit best? Making an object a star, needs not just the contrast of colour and texture, but space for it to make its own.


The orange cushion on our Haven Armchair ‘pops’ against the lighter coloured arm chair which is contrasting against the darker charcoal painted backdrop.

So you have found an object you love, have placed it where it has prime position, but how does it look at different times of the day? Coming back to light and shade, is there an opportunity for you to light up your piece say with a backlight? Really want you piece to shine? Turn off the lights and light your room with lamps and candlelight while spotlighting that object you love.


The red cushions ramp up the luxury in this boudoir.

Have the things you love light up your life by making them stars. Keep them shining bright by using contrast in light, shade, hue, colour and texture to bring out their star quality, no matter what the time of day. 


'Tina Murray is a Melbourne based interior designer, author and speaker who believes good design (and life) comes from the heart.


Leave a comment

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing

Join our Mailing List for 5% off your first order

Subscribe for 5% discount