Condo Design Tips from an Award Winning Designer!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


While going through all the questions sent by you (thank you!) and all I can say is that one particular question comes up all the time. “How do I choose the right colors and the right amount of color in a small condo?”

So many people shy away from using bold colors in their condo (small or large) for fear of getting it wrong.

In their quest for a “designer look”, they take the route of avoidance using mostly pale hues and not searching for that color that will make their condo a happy home.

I have to admit, selecting colors and mixing them all together may not be as simple as you think, however they are not as complicated as math formulas- remember math? :)

On my way to find the easiest way to help you solve the 'color dilemma' I found an easy way to show you how you could take 'beginner designer steps' and I can finally share with you my foolproof formula for selecting colors in a small space. This is by far the easiest way to do it, yet not the only way. I have developed this formula while searching for an easy systematic way of using color in condos (especially in the ones with small spaces) by anyone who wants to achieve a cohesive yet personal look.

The trick is to start layering the space. You’s almost the same as putting together an outfit- Ladies- think of how you put together a work suit, shirt, purse, shoes and perhaps a chic scarf? Gentlemen- think of choosing your trousers, shirt, jacket, tie and shoes.

Let’s divide the space into 3 major areas:

1. Large size areas/elements: walls + floors, kitchen cabinets (think of an open kitchen space).

2. Medium size areas/elements: furniture

3. Small size areas/elements: accessories, vases, candle holders, artwork, flowers, throw pillows, books etc).

While designers have almost infinite possibilities for mixing colors, sometimes you can just see a way of layering all the elements in a space that could be translated in a plain language for everyone to understand.

First step though is to find your color! Your home should reflect who you are, so pick a color palette that’s close to your heart and run with it. Not sure how to find your color? Read more here  and here

Once you found the perfect color tones, decide if you can live with them for a longer period of time or if you would like to be able to change them easily. I can’t tell you how many times condo owners decide to change their colors and try to add few new color accents just to realize the space looks ummmm somewhat confused :)

The color is not the only factor but the right tones, intensity, brightness, saturation etc.

This foolproof formula takes into consideration that you will only work with one color and few neutral tones (gray tones for coolers looks, beige tones for warmer looks). You could become quite versatile in the process, feel free to step out of the formula and experiment :)

Let’s decide first if you’re an A,  a B or a C.

  •  you like color on the large surfaces- painted or wallpapered walls & floors (area rugs)
  • easier to change if you get easily tired of a strong color or pattern

  • you love colourful sofas and other upholstered pieces of furniture
  • may be more expensive to change but you know you will love them for a long time.

  • you prefer neutral tones and patterns throughout and just accents of colors in accessories
  • the easiest and least expensive way to redecorate every season
  • you would love to have only one color (in different tones throughout) with metal accents- nothing wrong with that, a monochrome space is not meant for disaster or unhappiness, it could actually make your space very happy if you know how to play with the natural and artificial light.
If you’re an A, here are the steps of using color in a small condo space:

1. Decide if your favourite color will go on all walls or just a few feature walls/columns.

  • If all walls will receive a strong color, the color that you can select is a deep tone of a ‘colored neutral’ which is one of the trends of 2011. As you can see the colors are not overwhelming and can be paired with with furniture in shades of neutrals from warm to cool tones.

The reason for choosing deeper color tones is that large color surfaces tend to create the mood of the space and because this is your living space, you have to make sure the mood will be suitable morning, day and night, Monday to Sunday, when you’re relaxing and spending some quality personal time at home or while entertaining at home.

Your walls will all be the same color and ideally (especially when going for a contemporary look) is to paint the entire vertical surface in the same color (baseboard, wall surface,door frames, doors, vents- Caution! not all condominiums allow tenants to paint the vents and grilles, make sure you check your condo docs before you have to repaint them back to the factory color).

  • If only featured walls/columns will receive color you could be brave and step into new territories of bold colors with more intense hues than the colors above.

2. Furniture (medium size areas/elements) would be best to receive neutral colors- light or dark? up to you if you prefer a tone on tone or contrasting look.

3. Selecting accessories- you could play with both neutrals and few color accents to match your main color. The trick is to keep the your walls as the main punch of color and accessories as secondary.

If you are a B- here are the steps of using color in a small condo space:

1. Select your favourite color as the upholstery of the large pieces of furniture and feel free to play with few patterns, for eg a solid fabric color for the couch and a blue fabric with a pattern for the chairs or ottomans.

2. Choose your neutral colors for the walls- could be cool or warm. You could even venture into the world of patterns and choose neutral wallpaper for the wall behind the sofa.

3. Select accessories that are a blend of neutrals and some of your accent color.

If you are a C- here are the steps of using color in a small condo space:

  • choose your main neutral color (the one to be used for the largest surface of the open space).
  • select furniture and accessories as a mix of hues close to your main color
  • play with different textures like: silk, velvet, leather, linen, faux fur etc
  • insert accents of your favourite metal- when you’re not sure how to do a mix of different metals stick to only one- for e.g. chrome, nickel, pewter, antique brass etc.
  • lighting will play a huge role in creating drama- small space big drama! use artificial lighting to accentuate certain features your space may have (higher ceilings, polished surfaces, decorative mirrors/ frames etc).
I’m sure by now you are probably still deciding which group are you part of? A is not better than B or C, they are all different but all have equal potential of creating a WOW space.

Once you master the process of choosing colors, I can almost assure you that choosing patterns and textures will be the next best game for you to play.

And...don’t forget to have fun while playing with colors! :)

PS all images courtesy of Crown Wallpaper +Fabrics.
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