Colour Outside the Lines

Want to brighten your space with colour but don’t know where to start? Steven Southgate, Master of Interiors at TEB Interiors Inc. in Toronto, offers this encouragement: “All colours can work together.” Read on for Southgate’s tips on how to put that credo into practice.

By Laura Bickle | 2 minute read

Dec 30


Photo credit: Terry Edward Briceland

“The trick to decorating with colour is finding something that ties the colours together —an inspiration piece.”

Steven Southgate

What is your philosophy around decorating with colour?

Any combination of colours can work in a single space or be used as a palette throughout an entire home. The trick is finding something that ties the colours together —an inspiration piece. It doesn’t necessarily need to be used in the room. It could be art you saw in a gallery or a favourite piece of clothing. If the combination works there, it should work anywhere.


How does colour transform the mood of a room?

Here’s an example: A few years ago we created a bright, colourful, fun basement space for a client’s two young boys. They had all of their toys down there, a craft and games table and a big lounging sectional for gaming. Because everything was colourful, we just ran with that and created a bright geometric wallcovering and added other vibrant accessories. Fast forward to last summer: the boys are now teenagers. We took that same space and created a dark, cozy theatre room, painting the ceiling navy blue and covering the walls with dark grey textured wallpaper. While all the furniture is dark, we used gold accents and some bright pops of colour in the carpet to liven up the space. Same space, but two very different moods.

Living room

A geometric wallcovering and colourful accent pillows was the perfect look for a  playroom where a client’s two young boys spent their downtime gaming.


The same room was later turned into a darker, more sophisticated media room with gold accents and a colourful carpet for the client’s now teenagers.

What mistakes do you see homeowners make with colour choices?

We have a client who had her main floor powder room — including the ceiling — painted black. She believed it would be dramatic but it was heavy and oppressive. We painted the walls white and put the drama on the ceiling with a colourful custom floral wallpaper on gold, metallic paper. We had the crown moldings painted gold and installed a light-reflecting chandelier. 

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Where should homeowners start if they are interested in experimenting with colour?

Colour does not always need to be in the form of paint. It can be as simple as new, bold pillows on your neutral sofa or a piece of art that you hang on an off-white wall. Make changes that can easily be changed to something else if you don’t love it. I don’t recommend starting your colour journey with your kitchen cabinets or your bathroom tile.



Adding colour to a room can be as easy as switching out neutral throw pillows for colourful ones, or hanging a piece of bold art on a neutral wall.

Are there any general rules around colour?

We are not big on rules and often break them. It’s hard to pick a colour palette for a room or home out of thin air; finding inspiration is always easier. Don’t choose a colour you don’t like just because it seems to be the one that works. Often a colour that you wear and feel great in will work the same for you in a room. 


It’s not how dark or light the colour on a wall is; rather, it’s the contrast of the other things in the room that make a room feel larger or smaller. In rooms with dark walls, the corners seem to disappear making the room feel larger. A light colour in a room with dark items can feel smaller because the darker items will feel like they are crowding into the space because of the contrast. Colourful art works best on a neutral wall, so save the colour for something else in the room. 

Laura Bickle

Wahi Writer

Photos: TEB Interiors Inc.



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