Pale but interesting is probably the most popular look when it comes to painting your house, and we often advise people on neutral colour schemes in our shop on the edge of the Peak District. Below are a few key points which our customers often find useful.
1. When choosing an off-white, it's really helpful to look at the colour next to a pure white (use the whitest thing you can find, such as a sheet of paper from the printer or the back of an envelope, for example). This helps you to see any tendencies within a colour, which way a colour is going. What do I mean by that? For example, what in isolation seemed like a fairly neutral pale colour could suddenly reveal a strong hint of green, yellow or pink. As this might not be the effect you want, it's important to establish this before wasting time and money on paint you don't really like.
2. On a similar note, it's particularly important with off-whites to buy a tester pot first and try it out at home. Put on two coats in small patches on a few different walls to establish the effect of different light (allow the paint to dry between coats - use a hairdryer if you're in a hurry!). And if you're trying out several tester pots at once, don't forget to mark which colour is which. . . In an ideal situation, it's a good idea to live with the colour patches for a few days so you can see how they look in the daylight and at night, and make sure you are completely happy with your choice.
3. Don't forget that colours change depending on the colour they are next to. You can use this to your advantage. For example, you may feel that the colour you have chosen is perhaps a little pale once you have painted the whole room in it. Adding touches of an even lighter colour to your scheme (painting the skirting boards or doors in white, or even just adding a white throw or cushions) will immediately highlight the fact that the walls are actually a colour - pale but interesting nonetheless!
4. Neutrals are a great choice for a hallway, as you won't have to worry about the colours of the rooms leading off the hall. They should all go with the neutral colour scheme you have chosen. Don't worry about this being boring - it needn't be! Try up to three different neutral shades. To give a concrete example, if you were using Farrow & Ball paints you could use White Tie no. 2002 on the ceiling, skirting boards and doors, Matchstick no. 2013 above the dado rail and Savage Ground no. 213 below. What if you haven't got a dado rail? Well, just draw a pencil line at dado rail height and paint one colour above the line and the other colour below. It works really well and is a good way of adding interest. Another popular method of achieving this, of course, is to paint one wall in a different colour to the others.
By Lucie Storrs, owner of Period Features (http://www.periodfeatures.net/ ), a successful shop and mail order company selling domestic paraphernalia for period homes and gardens. Copyright 2005 Lucie Storrs, Period Features, http://www.periodfeatures.net/ , 17 Broad Street, Leek, Staffordshire ST13 5NR. Telephone 01538 372202.