melinda ashton turner

It’s the basis of where it all starts! We have styles and periods that we are drawn to but it’s our preference to certain colours that divides us.”

During her tenure as Style Director of Inside Out UK, Melinda Asthon Turner realised that presenting an image of a room alongside a selection of paint swatches created more questions than answers.

It was this light switch moment that kicked off a career in colour and her accompanying site, The Colour Field.

The concept of The Colour Field is to deconstruct a room’s colour palette by using percentages.

“The choice of colour is infinite but the space in which you have to place it is not,” she said. “By placing colours within perimeters you’re able to control the visual balance.

“In deconstructing an interior colour palette you’re able to explain and understand how you can control and exploit it.

“There are many surfaces and elements to consider when designing an interior, so by breaking colour into sections or portions you’re able to create a balanced scheme. It’s a methodical way to understand how much to use and where to place colour.”

The former speaker of Decoration + Design Industry Seminar Series has since relocated from her Sydney studio back to the UK where she’s currently working as an interior stylist and art director under her own name, Melinda Ashton Turner.

In between designing two stands for Decorex, judging a photography exhibition for Design Junction, and judging Creative CoOp at 100% Design, Melinda took 10 minutes to chat with us on the importance of understanding colour theory; how we can use colour psychology in our design work; and her top 5 colour trends for 2014/15.


Originally trained as an Interior Designer, Melinda Ashton Turner has been working as an interior stylist and art director since 1990. The talented décor specialist boasts an impressive portfolio that includes Style Editor at Australian Vogue Living, Decoration Editor of Homes & Gardens UK and Style Director of Inside Out UK. On a freelance basis she has worked for magazines such as Elle Decoration and Living Etc as well as being the weekly columnist for both The Sunday Times and The Guardian Weekend.


Why is it important to understand colour as a designer?

Colour can communicate more the words and imagery together and touches us on a primal level. We, as designers and stylists, have the ability to control, enhance and improve people’s environments. By understanding the minutia of colour and their relationship with each other you can tailor individual colour palettes specific for clients.

Companies sell ‘off the shelf’ schemes but there will always be one customer who wants to alter it and it’s here, knowing what to change it to and the portion of it that is the most difficult.

Colour gives beauty and life to everyday objects that we generally overlook so learning to play and manipulate it, you’re able to create combinations that surprise and enhance an interior or item. But to understand colour you need to understand light and how it affects colour. You can’t have one without the other.

You have a section on colour psychology that details the moods each colour incites or evokes, how did you discover this? And how can we use this information?

We’re innately aware of what colours we like when you’re children but can’t necessarily articulate why we are drawn to one in particular. It wasn’t till studying interior design that I understood the power colour has over our lives.

The first question I ask when working with a client is what mood or feeling do you want to achieve. The answer will direct you to certain portions of the colour wheel. I suppose I see it as being given a puzzle; I like pushing the boundaries within a colour to achieve a psychological response. I think it would be patronizing of me to explain how the bluest of skies in summer, or winter if you’re lucky enough, affects us emotionally.

We feel happier and calmer but it also has the ability to make us feel cold and as new-age as this sounds, we have to look within ourselves and ask how we ‘feel’ when we look at certain colours.

It’s that feeling in your gut that will guide you where and how to use colour.

Each season, new colour trends emerge dictating the tones we should consider when designing a room, should we pay close attention to these trends? How should we translate/incorporate them?

Every year I visit Maison et Objet in Paris, and for anyone who’s been will know that your eye’s will start to bleed at the amount of visual information you’re surrounded by. I’m often asked if there were any particular trends that shine through and I’m always hesitant to answer.

To say any set of colours is being favoured in particular would lead people to believe that others are not and this isn’t the case.

When we refer to colour trends we’re referring to a small percentage of the colour palette; the top 15% approximately. This cream of the top changes from year to year, but underneath, all colours still exist and are still popular.

We can’t get confused with thinking that trend colours equal popular. It’s for this reason I’m cautious on how trend colours are used. How you choose to incorporate trends into your home depends on your personality and budget.

If you are one who likes incorporating trends into your home, introducing them in the way of accessories or paint, this changeable and doesn’t require a costly investment.

Differentiate between what you like and what the trends are, then choose how you would like to introduce them into your home. Pick and choose what suits you.

melinda 1What is colour theory?

It’s the nuts and bolts of colour! It explains the difference between warm and cool colours, tints, tones and shades. It’s the structure of the colour wheel and the harmonies of colour groups for example, complimentary and triadic.

Most of us just look at colour but we don’t really `see’ it, why is it important to dissect and understand colour and how it moves us?

I learned a valuable lesson early in my career. I was given my first room to decorate and I was out to impress my boss. Off I went on my merry way choosing colour, upholstery, placing accessories and hanging curtains.

Once finished she gave a critique, I came undone at the very first question, “why did I choose that colour for the wall?” I chose the colour that I thought she’d like or would choose!

This was a mistake I never made again. I didn’t trust my own instincts. I learned to tap into and articulate my feelings of how colour, shape and texture move me.

So when choosing colour don’t be lead by trends or by a prescriptive colour palette. Delve deeper and ask how those colours make you feel, not simply the case of whether you think they work well together.

Looking at the colour and asking yourself why you like it, will help you decide where and how to use it. The same method can be applied to mixing old and new furniture but that’s for another time.

And finally, what are you top 5 colour trends for 2014/15? And why?

Keeping in mind what I said earlier, in 2014 I predict the cool muted tones of blue, violet and green along with warm greys, earthy yellows and sagey green will show through.

They will represent the security, the feeling of being grounded and nature. This is a result of wanting to be safe, taking refuge and sanctuary in what we understand, they aren’t challenging or confronting colours.

And I’m hoping to see the end of all things neon!

melinda 2