by Róisín Lafferty

Pablo Picasso once commented “Colours, like features, follow the changes of the emotions,” and in my own experience, this is very true. There can be no doubt that your surroundings affect your emotional well-being. Various studies confirm this, but it is something we innately know anyway. Design factors such as colour, light, tone, shadows, acoustics and furnishings all have an impact on the health, performance and engagement of those who live or work in a space. For the interior design professional this is the starting point of any project whether it be residential or commercial. You need to ask all the questions, who is using the space, how are they using the space, how often etc. Whether it be a family living room, an open plan office environment or a Michelin star restaurant, each space is different and requires individual examination and consideration. One of the most important factors in any space is colour. Colour influences perception, mood, feelings, and behaviour, so you need to get it right. Also, important to note, colour is completely subjective. It evokes different reactions and responses from everyone.

Dublin 4 Hallway and Stairs
Bold geometric tiles in the entrance hall of this KLD designed Victorian residence in Donnybrook, Dublin. Walls are Aged Wine and stairs is Dark Navy both from Fleetwood’s Prestige Range


Colour psychology is a field of study that’s devoted to analysing the emotional and behavioural effects produced by colours and colour combinations. As a research topic it is still in its infancy, despite this the concept of colour psychology is prevalent in marketing, art and design as it is an integral part of their function. Essentially, we react to colour, it is innate in us, we don’t control the reaction, it is automatic, biological or learned. Of course, there are always other factors involved such as the context of the colour, and who the individual is, for example their gender, age or culture can influence how they perceive colour. Any evidence and findings are by no means absolute and there will always be variables.


Donnybrook Residence fireplace kld
The juxtaposition of a bright cherry red fireplace creates an unexpected theatrical twist.


Various empirical studies find that red can signify power, excitement, love and anger, while blue signifies masculinity, high quality or competence. Pink signifies sophistication, sincerity and femininity, while purple can signify authority or power. Black can signify grief, sophistication and fear while white can signify happiness, sincerity and purity. As an interior designer you must have an intimate relationship with colour, you need to know what impact a colour is going to have and most importantly how colours work with each other. Combinations of tone and hue can create dramatic results. The artist Joseph Albers spent years studying colour and creating artwork that experimented with unexpected and unusual colour combinations. Often using ‘clashing’ colours, he pushed the boundaries of what people were used to. His work is still relevant decades later.


KLD Dublin 4 Bathroom
Turquoise walls, black and white decorative floor tiles and a luxuious bath and chrome fittings add a Moorish feel to this Moroccan-inspired bathroom.


As a practice, Kingston Lafferty Design are known for being playful with colour. It is one of our trademarks. We take our clients on a journey, sometimes hesitantly, but always with great results. With our unique climate, which leans to the grey side, it is important to inject colour into our lives any opportunity we can and create spaces that positively impact the users experience.

KLD Kitchen Dublin 4
A jewel-toned kitchen feels like a high end cocktail bar.


We are braver and bolder as a nation and we have come a long way even in the nine years I have been in business. We are less conservative than we once were, and our tastes have matured. We now travel the world and bring the best of what we see back with us in our imaginations. This should be reflected in the colour we use inside and outside our homes. In my experience, we are being more creative, adventurous, bespoke, applying our own personalities ensuring our homes are unique in design and reflective of ourselves. I believe colour is a tried and trusted way of achieving this. It is also very economic. The transformative power of paint shouldn’t be underestimated.

Green is not the only colour that can work in a garden
Green is not the only colour that can work in a garden


One of the joys of my job is when you find a client who is adventurous, open minded, who has travelled a lot and wishes to explore the full potential of their home through art, design and colour. One such client crossed our paths last year. A professional woman who had travelled to many countries whose brief was to encapsulate these travels and art and influences she had collected from the likes of New York, Italy and Marrakesh, all providing wonderful palettes off which to work.

Living Room KLD Design
Stong colours can be daunting but it is worth taking the chance. Wall is Copenhagen Blue from Fleetwood’s Prestige Range


In this Victorian house of colour, we drew inspiration from Joseph Albers, opulent Italian mid-century interiors with strong nods to the colourful Marrakech. We juxtaposed colours in such searing shades as maraschino-cherry red, jade green, cobalt blue and dandelion yellow along with moodier plum and soothing sage green. These saturated colours gave each room a distinctive character and provides a full journey of emotions as you wander through the house. The daring tonal changes were deliberate to coincide with how she wanted to feel as she used the space. The opposite of corporate was our main brief. We sought to steer away from any expected colours in the kitchen and bathrooms etc, and instead to challenge what people often associate with these spaces. Instead of a sterile white for the kitchen, we opted for a jewel toned luxury feel that felt more like a high-end cocktail bar than a practical kitchen. All the while still being as functional. As the light changes on each level of the house, so does the impact of the tones and the overall mood. The bedroom for example is a calm sanctuary with deliberately selected muddy greens, which evoke serenity, calm and thoughts of nature. A bedroom needs to encourage sleep after all.

Dublin 4 Hallway by KLD
The home’s daring tonal changes were deliberate


Overall what struck me about this project is the overriding physical and emotional effect colour has on us all. From pictures, the house definitely packs a colourful punch, but in reality, it has an air of romance, passion and nostalgia about it. It is strangely calm and cocooning to be in. It is a space that you want to spend longer in. And that was the desired effect.


Dining Area KLD Design
This room has strong nods to colourful Marrakesh.


We were lucky we had a brave client in this case, and you do need to be brave and visionary. Strong colours can be daunting and often you might find a builder or even a painter advise you that something won’t work. Part of KLD’s success is that we take chances, we have experimented, and we have taken risks.  With this project even KLD were pushing our comfort zones; for us this was extremely bold, but the results exceeded even our own expectations. This project has been one of our most featured internationally, appearing in Architectural Digest Russia and Design Anthology UK.

Beautiful cabinetry and retail display, The Vaults
The Vaults Parlour Café with chequered flooring designed by KLD


Interest in the subject of colour psychology is growing, but there is a long way to go. No doubt new technologies and innovation will discover and reveal incredible findings. In the meantime, I encourage people to play and experiment with colour, push the boundaries, follow your instincts and enjoy the results.


Hatch Cork Student Accommodation
Hatch Cork Interiors designed by Kingston Lafferty Design


  1. Think Colour

Never underestimate the importance of colour in your home. Colour schemes exist for a reason and they do not need to match. The colour will come from your paint choice, furniture, flooring, art, ornaments, glassware, even books and flowers. Always try to think what works with what as you add elements to your space. Most importantly choose colours that make you feel happy. Life is too serious. Allow your own personal space to be a positive place.


  1. Be Brave
    This goes without saying. Don’t be afraid. If you are unsure exactly what colour to use, why not try out a number of tester pots and add each colour to the wall beside each other. Nothing compares to seeing the colour in the location it is going to be.


  1. Paint it

Paint is the most obvious and cost-effective way of adding colour to your home. A great trick for upcycling or reinventing something is to paint it. On one of our projects we took a beautiful pine fireplace which felt dated and painted it white, totally transforming the aesthetic and giving it a luxurious feel. I recommend looking at the extensive Fleetwood Vogue and Prestige range. We always use Fleetwood in all our projects and there is little doubt it is the best paint you can lay your hands on.


  1. Art

Can’t stress the importance of art in the home. Art is another way to bring colour into the home. The more colourful the better. There is no end of art available, and if you are on a budget, you can get prints of your favourite art, have them framed, and it can add so much to a space.


  1. Black and White
    Remember black and white are colours too. Black and white are never out of fashion. The monochrome rainbow serves as a wonderful contrast to bolder colours of all hues. As it happens at KLD we love black and white chequered and monochrome floors especially when the walls they serve are bright vibrant colours.


This article first appeared in the Sunday Business Post on 3 November 2019.