Writer, presenter and former Editor in Chief of Elle Deco, Michelle Ogundehin is known for her rainbow-hued Instagram feed, where she leads her followers through the colour spectrum, one shade at a time, exploring the way they are used in interiors and how that influences the way we feel. She shared some of her insights on how colour can shape the spaces we live in for the better.

Colour trends ebb and flow in direct response to the culture they reflect in much the same way as fashion designers dictate one season to be ruled by houndstooth and the next by trouser suits. For example, Dulux recently announced its Colour of the Year for 2019 as the amber-hued ‘Spiced Honey’ believing it to be “all about awakening, kindness, resilience and optimism” and inspired by “the varied tones and remarkable properties of honey — natural, timeless and enduring, protective, rejuvenating and healing.” It clearly felt that the world needed a great big warm hug of a colour to counteract the general sense of unease caused by current global political uncertainties.

And it's right. The emotional effect of colour can never be overstated. Hospital wards are routinely painted a pale minty green because it has a proven sedative and soothing effect, likewise patients set to rest in beds that face a garden heal quicker than those with no natural view, such is the power of green. Whereas red excites, yellow says danger, and blue is routinely cited as the nation’s favourite colour, no doubt because it recalls the limitless potential of clear skies and still seas.

However, I would like to suggest a rather sharper shade of the honey hue as the go-to colour for our times — at the other end of the condiment tray, mustard.

Piquant and tangy, and sitting just on the wrong side of neutral, like its namesake, mustard adds a shot of heat to anything it touches. However, pair it with calmer colours, and sedate starts to turn seriously sexy. The thing is, for me, perhaps surprisingly, mustard is akin to the peacemaker of the colour world, treading a conciliatory line between the two rival style camps currently competing for your interiors attention: ‘New Neutrals’ vs ‘The New Happy’. The former references the revival at the beginning of this year of a set of faintly old-fashioned colours, think peach, pistachio, dusty pink and lavender, where the latter refers to the more recent emergence of a very devil-may-care explosion of print, pattern and more strident colour. The decorative reaction to troubling times, if you will. A move that I interpret as saying, well if the world is about to go to hell in a handcart, then I’ll do as I damn well please at home!

And so, while mustard yellow might at first seem a touch too out there and edgy to be palatable, it is in fact tremendously adaptable. You’d be forgiven for thinking you couldn’t ‘do’ mustard, only to try it and discover that it belies its perceived punchiness to be the fast track to an instant interiors uplift — not for nothing is it one of the world’s most widely employed flavourings, and all the best homes benefit from a pinch of spice.

Besides, I feel it chimes perfectly with the mood of the moment, because it not only enables the trend-conscious to channel a bit of the more vivacious decorative moment that’s happening without descending into over zany madness, but it’s also a complementary step up from the more reserved re-coloured neutrals. Pair this with what I’m hereby stating as the next big homes trend on the horizon, ‘Texture Tastic’, a revelling in natural materials like rattan, sisal, cork and coir, and we’re all set for homes that play an ever larger role in supporting our wellbeing.

If we relate this to the cultural context, I believe it represents the awakening of the individual. A realisation that each of us can in fact play a part in the bigger move for change that the planet needs right now, whether that’s marching for parliamentary policy revisions, shouting for our rights, or helping to clear our beaches of plastic. And the tactility thing, that’s quite simply an antidote to our increasingly smooth screen-based lives; a direct response to a very primal craving for surfaces that tempt our fingertips and textures that treat our toes. We need to be re-earthed so we can begin again.

Caveat: use such power wisely. A single mustard cushion in an otherwise quiet room will not be heard. You need to be confident in its employ to add depth and deliciousness. As such, twin accessories with a wall in a statement paper or a star piece of furniture. The point is, use enough to add a deliberate flavour. Mustard doesn’t really do nuance. And texture? You really can’t have too much!

Follow Michelle on Instagram @michelleogundehin and read more of her writing on colour and interiors at www.michelleogundehin.com

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