How to use colour therapy as spring approaches

Spring is on the way, one of my favourite times of the year, as colour comes back into our lives. But how well can you handle colour?

Audrey Hepburn, who was never seen in mis-matching colours, took the theme for her whole life, and would eat by colour to maintain a good balanced diet. But apart from eating your greens – and blues – you need to know how to use colour confidently in design.

audrey hepburn

Putting together complementary colours and creating a balance of hues, and the strength of colour, can make or break the look you are wanting to achieve.

A quick science lesson: colour is derived from the spectrum of light and has three components – lightness, saturation, and hue.  With these components, we get the theory of colour.  The lightness is based on light versus dark, or white versus black.  Saturation is based on the brightness v dullness, or warmth v coolness of the colour. Hues are what make the colour we see and name.

What matters more to us is the impact of colour. There is actually a treatment – chromatherapy – which uses the effect of colour to bring about physical and other changes, and has proven health benefits. That’s why it’s so important to choose the right colours to have around us. But what’s “right” is always personal preference.

So even though I love spring, and gardens filled with bright yellow daffodils, I don’t particularly like yellow as a colour. But it is making an impact on the design scene now, and there are ways to warm to it. For me, it has to be muted tones like mustard yellow, or soft creamy custard. My entrance hall is a very rich petrol blue, and to add some spring colour zest I’ve added complimentary muted yellow accents.

How do you add the right splashes of colour to give vibrancy and balance? Simple touches can create a stunning effect, and adding colour to your interiors can really enhance the enjoyment of your space, whether it’s energising, uplifting or calming. Do you know, for example, that prison cells now tend to be painted a soft pink for its calming effect on the inmates?

In commercial environments colour can be really exploited to create visual impact and draw the eye, enhancing a company’s visual branding, but this would not necessarily be applied in the same way for your home, where you’re living with the effect day after day..

A version of this article first appeared in Lancashire Life magazine


A bold approach to planning in our world heritage site

calatrava in new york

How bold can we be, Windermere?

Whatever else we think about the genius of William Wordsworth, he was the man who deemed that the railway line should not be extended further into the Lakes than Windermere.

And the millions of visitors who have travelled here by train since have emerged at a station which is really little changed since Wordsworth’s day. (Reminder: he lived from 1770  till April 1850.)

Now, I know that those millions of visitors (from all over the world) love going to see where Wordsworth lived at Rydal Mount, to see the couch on which he lay in pensive mood to write his poem about daffodils, and see the garden that he planned.  But as TRAVELLERS perhaps they need to see something more up to date at Windermere station.

There have been some changes, of course: the original train station is now part of Booths supermarket. The current train station has been redesigned/refurbished and extended a couple of times since then, and it fought off plans to close it altogether at one stage.

So rejoice at the plans to transform it into a gateway fit for the World Heritage site that the Lake District is now.

Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, working with the Lake District National Park Authority and other organisations, is exploring options for enhancing Windermere Railway Station to increase its current capacity, and improve access.

Proposals include measures to improve access to and from the station for all modes of transport, including the local bus network, helping to increase links to local attractions and businesses and improve onward travel to the lake and other destinations.

Great! But what will it look like? Wouldn’t it be marvellous if the planners used some imagination and designed and created a gateway worthy of the best in the world?  I offer to you, planners, the inspiration of Santiago Calatrava. He’s the Spanish architect, structural engineer, sculptor and painter, known for his bridges, his museums, stadiums and …. railway stations. Like this one here below in New York, Oculus, designed to bring light down into the subterranean rail station and shopping centre.

calatrava in new york

His best-known works include the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Turning Torso tower in Malmö, Sweden, the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in Dallas, Texas, and his largest project, the City of Arts and Sciences and Opera House, in his birthplace, Valencia.

So, Lakes planners, be bold, think big, and look outside of your comfort zone when planning a gateway which will welcome the world. We can create our own dramatic interpretation, that element of the sculptural, while using local materials. And as the Lakeland HQ next door proves, it’s possible to be sensitive AND contemporary.

Meanwhile, anyone interested in the history of railways in the Lakes, and in particular, the part they played in Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons stories, will enjoy this


Ready for Romance?

As we creep thankfully towards the end of January, our thoughts turn to…love.

February is the month of St Valentine, and romance is all about stimulating the senses, of course, so here we might have something to learn from Neanderthal man, the first Romantic guy. He had it all worked out.

So let’s get down to some Neanderthal basics; we need to get the combination right for our five senses. Each one of our senses is a trigger for creating a wonderful memory. For example, a real fire – as Neanderthal man knew well – can help relaxation and reduce blood pressure.

Not just supposition, it’s now medically proven. Scientists have discovered a link between a burning fire in the hearth and a “significant” reduction in blood pressure. Flickering flames, combined with the crackle and roar of burning logs, possess a hypnotic calming effect.

Fires also “cement” a bond between individuals sitting next to them. The University of Alabama study may also go a long way to explaining the recent surge in popularity of wood burning stoves, whose sales have risen 300 per cent in recent years.

And of course, fire also provides, heat, light, a means of cooking and encourages people to gather and be sociable. The perfect ingredients for romance.

You can find the right setting for Valentine’s Day at my favourite romantic hotel and restaurant, the Cedar Manor in Windermere. Favourite not least because I designed the bedrooms!

Short on cash but big on love?  Invite him or her to dinner by sending a real love letter – not a text, not an email.

Set the table beautifully. Recreate a romantic restaurant feel, using crisp linen table cloths and napkins, add some sparkle with napkin rings, polished chrome goblets and silver candle holders. Flood the room with tealights.

Write your own poem or a special message around the edge of the plate using a Sharpie pen. Hold hands across the table. Then snuggle down on the sofa against our Love District range of cushions..

The key to romance, you see, is being impulsive and aiming to surprise. Happy planning!


Beating the January blues with interior ideas


New year, same old house. Alison Tordoff suggests some sensory treats to lift the January blues

The decorations are down, and it’s dull and grey inside and out, but your home should be warm and inviting in January. It can be done, but you do need a couple of new year resolutions.

Firstly, clear out the clutter. Unless it has sentimental value, anything that’s not been used for six months should be boxed up, recycled or taken to the charity shop. And that includes clothes.

Use storage with cupboards, blanket chests, tea chests, storage boxes or ottomans.  Making spaces feel more streamlined has a big impact on your emotions. You feel calmer, more organised and energised.

Second, get yourself out for a brisk walk. It’s all too easy to hibernate in winter, but fresh air and some exercise will get the blood flowing, and inspire new ideas.

So here are ten top tips to brighten your home life this month.

  1. Draw the eye to the main focus of your living room, perhaps illuminating a piece of art you can drift away in, or a warming fire.
  2. Don’t put all the Christmas lights away. Last year I was so fed up with the dull grey and wet weather, I kept my main dining room twinkles in place and they’ve been there all year, ready for decorating again with the kids this Christmas.
  3. Always use warm-white LED lamps, especially in nooks and niches to introduce more dynamic pockets of lighting.
  4. Around the house, try mood enhancing LED colour changing or SAD lights, such as those by Mathmos.
  5. You can introduce warm and zesty tones into all rooms, with art and soft furnishings that can be swapped around each season.
  6. You might not want a big decorating project, so what about a feature wall in a room that’s otherwise full of neutral tones? You could paint it a different colour, or use wallpaper on one wall.
  7. Use plants, and bring some greenery indoors. You could make a grouping like a small indoor garden, or if you are feeling adventurous, install a green wall.
  8. Look for inspiration and new ideas, in local galleries, stately homes, hotels, magazines.
  9. TV can become moving wallpaper over Christmas. Try turning it off, and even moving it to a less focal part of the room, then listen to some music instead. I’m lucky – I have my own resident acoustic guitarist.
  10. Escape to the bathroom, light candles around the bath, and soak with a bath tea bag by Bespoke Aroma, made locally – and organically – in the Lakes.

This article first appeared in Lancashire Life magazine