· By Studio

Colour Notes 12

Summer is here, and what better time to reinvigorate your space? We've all been enjoying throwing our windows open to the sunshine, spending more time with friends and family, and even finally taking the plunge with that interiors idea that's been simmering in the background for a while.

Recently, we launched our Solstice wallpaper and fabric collection by artist Zoe Gibson. The vibrant yellow colourway, Summer, is sure to bring a sense of cheerfulness to even the dullest of rooms (we've decorated our studio in this wallpaper, and can vouch for the truly heartening feeling it brings, as though the sun is shining on all four walls).

In this spirit, we decided to have a go at match-making Solstice ~ Summer with some of the most joyful paints on the market: from pinks, blues, and of course, yellows, this is one of our most vivid and fun Colour Notes yet. Read on for rainbow-hued inspiration...


In 1888, Vincent van Gogh wrote from the South of France, 'The sun dazzles me and goes to my head, a sun, a light that I can only call yellow, sulphur yellow, lemon yellow, golden yellow. How lovely yellow is!' 

It's true that yellow is an unforgettable, unapologetic colour. In interiors, it's something of a Marmite shade: warm and homely for some, totally overwhelming and gaudy for others. Of course, we fall into the first camp - especially if it's a yellow that's been chosen wisely to suit the space in question.

Yellow pigments were first derived from clay soils rich in ochre, and were used as early as 45,000BCE for decorating human bodies, pottery and cave walls. Indian yellow pigment was supposedly made from the dried urine of cows who feasted on mango leaves! Because of its association with the sun, gods and goddesses in ancient Egypt were depicted in yellow - but in Christianity, yellow traditionally is associated with deceit: the colour of choice for Judas. Perhaps that's why the phrase 'yellow-bellied' lives on to describe cowardice and lies.

In more modern context, yellow crops up in dozens of popular songs: Coldplay's Yellow is a love song to the shining star of one's life, whilst the Beatles' Yellow Submarine speaks to a psychedelic desire for escape. It is, all in all, a colour that shifts depending on its context; a shade with no singular meaning or significance - which makes it perfect for using in any interior design scheme.

'The Weather Project' by Olafur Eliasson, exhibited in 2003 in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern also plays with shades of yellow. This site-specific installation employed a semi-circular screen, a ceiling of mirrors, and artificial mist to create the illusion of a huge, luminous sun. Visitors lay on the floor like sunbathers worshipping the simulation of the sun. Critic Julia Starck writes, 'Eliasson sees contemporary weather forecasts, with their use of meteorological tools and television, as representations of society's orientation in time and space. The artist has spoken about his conception of time in which only the "now" exists.'

This idea ties in with Zoe's design for Solstice: looking at the moments in time where the sun appears to stand still in the sky, in which nature is almost tangible in its ephemerality, causing us stop, breathe, and appreciate it. It's true that the summer months bring this sense of meditative pause - and how brilliant that this could be achieved in a home using wallpaper and paintwork.

We whittled the huge selection of yellows out there down to Peter's Ochre by Francesca's Paints, and Morning Room by Paper & Paint Library. 



Pink and yellow might seem like an unlikely marriage, but actually - since they sit in close proximity on the colour wheel and share red as a neighbour - they can look lovely together. The combination brings to mind rhubarb and custard sweeties from childhood, or the bright, sugary tones of Wes Anderson's set design. It's no coincident India's Pink City, Jaipur, heavily influenced the look of the Grand Budapest Hotel.

Like yellow, the colour pink inspires feelings of buoyancy and calm - if 'everything is rosy' or you're 'tickled pink', you know things are moving in the right direction. To complement our Solstice ~ Summer wallpaper, we've opted for three slightly complex shades: the two paler pinks, Praise by Francesca's Paints and Felt Cute from Coat, have yellowish undertones which pair well with the plastery background of the Solstice paper. And then Lavenham by Fenwick & Tilbrook brings more contrast in its proximity to lilac.

Praise could just as easily be described as a yellow or a white and is the most divine of colours. It is part of Francesca's Paints collection, Poison Into Medicine, which was inspired by Piero della Francesca's The Nativity in the National Gallery (1470-50). In the left distance, beyond the Nativity scene, his painting of light is luminous and most praiseworthy as the sun rises to the dawn of a new day and new beginning.


Last but not least, Fenwick & Tilbrook's Temple Linen is a green-blue that calmly offsets the rich yellows of the Solstice paper. It's close to certain shades of Eygptian blue which was made by combining limestone and sand with a copper-containing mineral such as azurite or malachite. The solution was then heated to between 800 - 900 degrees Celsius which formed an opaque blue glass, which could then be crushed up and mixed with egg whites, gums or glues to be made into paints or ceramic glazes. This blue remained popular for the majority of the Roman Empire, however the process was difficult and it often created more of a green than a blue (a little like Temple Linen), so was discarded when other methods of producing blue came about.

Solstice ~ Summer by Zoe Gibson is available exclusively at CommonRoom. Shop for samples here.

We hope this has given you some decoration inspiration. We love seeing how you use our designs in your homes. Email your pictures to us at info@commonroom.co, or tag us on Instagram using #mycommonroom.


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