Victorian Dublin: Colour Cues

Hallway of Victorian Dublin home in Ranelagh by Interior Designer Deirdre O'Connell

We are blessed in Dublin with the prominence of preserved Georgian (1714 – 1837), Victorian (1837-1901) and Edwardian (1901 – 1939) period homes lining so many streetscapes.

The lucky owners and occupiers are custodians of these exquisite properties, maintaining their statue and statement, while ensuring the houses form contemporary, comfortable family homes for a modern age.

For interior design schemes, colour is a wonderful opportunity to enliven rooms, big or small, adding beauty, grace and charm. Whether the guardians prefer a classic elegance, or a more contemporary chic interior, the use of colour via paint, is an easy, effective and relatively inexpensive way of decorating rooms.

Long gone are the days of Reckitt’s blue and Raddle Red, as seen at No. 14 Henrietta Street, Dublin, the gorgeous Dublin 1 Georgian mansion, which over the years, turned tenement, turned slum. It now showcases the heart-breaking and poignant history of the city’s poverty as a unique Visitor Centre. A must visit for any Dubliner or visitor to the Capital, the weird thing for me was the most beautiful shades of ultramarine blue lining the dilapidated walls of the house.

Reckitts Blue was used for sanitary reasons, as it looks clean and pure. While it roughened and decayed, different tones and shades of blue appeared, and over time it’s finish is now akin to little jewels in the sea. Thankfully, while those sad days are long gone, this colour is invaluable, and I adore this nugget of colour history.

Choosing colours for Victorian properties can seem overwhelming given the grandeur of some of the rooms. The paint companies are way ahead of us on this, and have many heritage colour ranges which you should focus on using. Below are some colour suggestions and tips to help you hone in on a colour decision.

Hallway of Victorian Dublin home in Ranelagh by Interior Designer Deirdre O'Connell

In this classically elegant hallway in a Victorian period home in Ranelagh Dublin 6, I choose Farrow & Ball Oval Room Blue No. 85 on the walls, Wimborne White by Farrow & Ball on woodwork, and Farrow & Ball Off-Black on the banister and handrail. Bespoke joinery and the bench seat is painted in Colourtrend’s Lorelei.

In this contemporary period Living Room, I choose to feature the light grey-green of Colourtrend Winter’s Breath on the walls, painted up to the picture rail, which was highlighted in constract with Colourtrend Silk Seal. Farrow & Ball’s Wimborne White is above the rail and on the ceiling. The dark bookcases and radiator cover are moody in colour, in Farrow & Ball’s Downpipe.

Suggestions for the brave:

Look at Masquerade by Little Greene for it’s delicate, powder-like peachy hue, and their Bone China’s for deepening shades of blue. Look at Farrow & Ball Setting Plaster, for a dusty blush tone. Farrow & Ball Railings is so dark and beautifully moody, and their Card Room Green is deep and tonal.

Wondering About Whites?

While older, traditional homes can handle stronger colours, a modern approach with shades of whites and neutrals can create a bright, sophisticated gallery-like setting. So, yes, to white tones, as a backdrop to vivid stone fireplaces, rich coloured artwork, bright sofas, or natural wood antique furniture.

My firm favourites are all by Farrow & Ball. Strong White is cool and works hard in most rooms, it looks so different depending on the light. Shaded White is fantastic in smaller rooms of period homes, you could paint an entire house in it and feel very smug that you’ve created a lovely look. The warmer, creamier Pointing, named after the lime pointing used in traditional brickwork, gives a lovely soft, subtle feel.

Figuring it out: Just go for it!

To choose a colour? Get inspired online or in magazines and choose a couple of photographs of rooms you absolutely adore. Store them, and sit with them for a few days, you’ll find your taste might change over time. Follow the colours of your most revered image and use this as your colour guide.

Pick up a few colour cards at your local paint shop. You don’t need to grab all 20 brands, choose two or three. I opt for Farrow & Ball, Little Greene and Colourtrend. See can you match your colour to the guide, or ask for assistance from the shop or an interior designer. Take home a few sample pots and paint on a decent sized rectangle. Go with your gut, or the consensus of a few of your trusted friends, to make your decision.

Then, go for it! Your painter will work their magic with quantities and the rest, as they say, is history. And as with history, worst case you repeat the whole process again if you hate it ! But doing the bit of above research, I’m 99% sure you won’t.

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