Opinion piece: Rosie Dawson-Hewes has her own ideas on using colour

It started with a teal couch. I fell in love with it and convinced my husband it should find a home in our predominantly beige rental. That couch, although long gone, was the beginning of something bigger.
We were living in Mt Maunganui, in our seventh beige rental in as many years. We’d both spent more than a decade surrounded by various shades of tea. Now, I’m not knocking tea — in the right setting it can be a lovely warm neutral, the perfect palate cleanser. But when that bold-coloured couch arrived in our living room, we realised that the neutrals we’d lived with were just… not us.
Not long after the couch, we were super-privileged to buy our first home, and discovered that one of the easiest ways to make a room look and feel completely different was to paint colour over the half-brewed-tea walls. I painted our bedroom navy and found I didn’t mind spending a day sick in bed when I was embraced by such a warm, soothing hue. That deep blue made me feel, well, less blue.
But how did we, complete novices, pick the right colour? It’s kind of funny. We’ve always been collectors — our house is full of all sorts of trinkets and mementoes, physical manifestations of hobbies and memories, including Lego. So, standing in front of that huge wall of paint cards feeling more than a little overwhelmed, we had a trick up our sleeve. Or, more accurately, a brick  in our pocket. We figured Lego probably has a whole team of experts selecting their colours, so we picked one of our favourite models and matched our bedroom wall to it.
Now, years later, our colourful home is part of who we are. We bought it because it was originally used by a Rudolf Steiner doctor for colour therapy in the 1920s. Ironically, it was white when we moved in, but we’ve embraced its history and only one white room remains — for now.
You don’t need a colour-therapy house or Lego — that’s our story. But if you do want to try colour, just try it. There’s no need to go full maximalist, with pattern-clashing brights. It’s not an all-or-nothing relationship. Start simple or subtle; choose one thing — a favourite book cover, a piece of art, a weird ceramic object you picked up at an op shop. Your colour could be in the form of a rug, a cushion or a bedspread, or you could paint just one wall or one room (renters, you can do this too now, with your landlord’s permission). Just pick a colour you love and start. Then pick another. Or don’t. It’s up to you.
A dear friend and I always joke about our polar-opposite houses. Hers is painted all white and mine is all colour, but neither is right or wrong. Her house tells her story in the same way that mine tells ours.
So if you feel colour calling you, be brave. You might love it. And if it’s not your jam, that’s okay too. I saw a quote recently that said something along the lines of, “What makes good art good is that you love it.” The same can be said for your home. There’s no good or bad colour.
Your home is your retreat, your source of joy and inspiration. It tells your story. So it actually doesn’t matter what’s in it — colour or not, the latest trends or things you’ve had for decades. As long as you love it.   

Image The Togo print by Hanna Peterson for the Poster Club, from $95,

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