Practise the dark arts to help you sell your home this spring

It used to be all about light, neutral colours, but now contemporary cool interiors are selling homes. Jayne Dowle reports.

Overlooking Farnham boating lake, this contemporary family home has an on-trend colour scheme throughout, with a feature wall fireplace in the living room, five bedrooms and a home office. Contact: myringsestateagents.com

One of the first rules of property is that neutrals can help sell a home. Until now. Put down that tin of magnolia, it’s time for some colour correction. This spring, opulent shades such as aubergine, chocolate brown, smoky grey, indigo and deep forest green are on trend, working their way into walls, ceilings, soft furnishings and kitchens.

This commitment to strong colour helped Slaithwaite interior designer and architect Lynsey Ford win BBC2’s Interior Design Masters in March, as she secured a contract to redesign a Lake District hotel with her triumphant ‘girls’ getaway’ holiday villa in Cornwall. Her winning scheme was heavy on glamour and sophistication, brought to life with luxuriant hues highlighted by strong metallics and gorgeous tactile textures.

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“Deep green is set to be a very popular colour for interiors this year,” says Leeds interior designer and British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) member Natalie Murray Hirst at Murray Hirst Interiors. “Many suppliers are using deep green shades in their fabric ranges as botanical designs continue to feature heavily. Green promotes a sense of connection with nature, particularly important to many during the circumstances of the past year. Science can show that just looking at something green can promote a sense of calm, so it is a great choice for the home environment.”

The dramatic colour scheme of the games room at Morthen Hall near Wickersley, Rotherham, is reflected throughout the restored nine-bedroom Grade II mansion, which comes with 1.2 acres of land, £1.7m. Contact: fineandcountry.com

She also points out that ‘Brave Ground’, the Dulux Colour of the Year 2021, a warm deep mushroom/taupe, is often being used to soften deeper colours such as midnight blue rather than being paired with a palette of toning neutrals. “Blue is again a very popular colour right now. Whether it’s on walls, floors, cabinetry or splashbacks, blue has replaced grey as the go-to on-trend colour.”

This interesting combination has been used to stylish effect at a four-bedroom Victorian terrace house in East Mount Road, York, on the market for £760,000 and close to the shops and cafes of Bishopthorpe Road. The sitting room, which benefits from a light-filled bay window, has walls painted in an elegant very dark blue/charcoal shade (similar to Farrow & Ball Stiffkey Blue) with white paintwork and taupe sofas accessorised with ochre and blue cushions.

As the selling agent Ed Stoyle, head of residential at Savills in York, says, a strong contemporary colour scheme will help your home stand out from the crowd and make an immediate impact on design-savvy buyers. “It is a lifestyle thing. Viewers see a certain shade and it kind of speaks to them. You have to be faithful to the style and period of a home, but with a wall colour you can contemporise the space.”

However, he does advise a careful touch, especially in rural properties where buyers tend to expect a well-restored, traditional look. Undertaking a full house redecoration might be seen as an indulgence when a home is going on the market. He believes that it is possible to achieve a positive effect by focusing on certain areas: “The downstairs loo and the kitchen are where we often see sellers expressing their personality.”

Decorated in gorgeous deep green, classic country house style is on display in the library at Aislaby Hall near Pickering, an 18th century country house with 10 bedrooms and 27.8 acres of land. Contact: knightfrank.co.uk

The family of five at Went Edge House, in Kirk Smeaton, at Pontefract in West Yorkshire, on the market with Enfield Luxe for £1.5m, have taken the concept of expressing themselves to the max. “We all designed our own rooms with our own private bathrooms, so we’ve all got our own space and implement our own tastes in décor,” says the homeowner.

Stand-out rooms include a bedroom decorated in a scheme of petrol blue and burnt orange, accented by striking modern art on the walls and the charcoal dining room with its magnificent ruby-red drapes.

Stoyle says that the kitchen, being the most sociable room in most houses and quite often, the first one that viewers see, is where the most impact can be made with colour: “It’s a statement room, the one where everyone congregates. Depending on the potential value of a home – and the cost of a new kitchen – an upgrade might even be worth the investment.”

Hayley Simmons, head of merchandising at Magnet, says that a key kitchen trend for 2021 is the dual-toned kitchen. “Using two complimentary shades for cabinets allows homeowners to experiment with using darker colours without completely straying from the safety of classic shades.”

She suggests opting for a dark, statement colour – such as Midnight Blue or Forest Green – for base units and soft, lighter tones – such as Dove Grey or Fresh Linen – for wall and tower units to balance the aesthetic and create the illusion of a larger, more spacious kitchen.

To offset the darker colours further, Simmons would weave in metallic accents for interest, or choose a light marble work surface as a counter-balance to the darker surrounding shades.

Throughout the house, painting alcoves, chimney breasts, panelling and other such features can be a great way to introduce a darker colour to a room without it being overpowering, says Murray Hirst. She would also recommend simple touches such as bringing in soft furnishings, accessories and artwork in sumptuous shades, a quick fix if you’re selling: “Something as easy as swapping your lampshades on table and floor lamps or changing ceiling pendants for a darker option can help bring a room in line with the current colour trends.”

And Stoyle, although he claims no professional painting and decorating qualification, has his own personal advice to share: “Always go one shade darker than you think. During the lockdown last year, I painted my entire house, and the shades got darker and darker. But you really do need that depth of colour to make it work.”

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James Mitchinson