Patrick Mele has rapidly become a designer to watch, and one of his greatest talents is a bold approach to colour selections. Mele says he’s never been afraid of colours, seeking out strong hues that can make major statements. The designer avoids muted and tertiary colours, preferring white, black, and vibrant colours that he repeatedly refers to as ‘crisp’.
We got a rare opportunity to explore the designer’s thought process as he broke down the colour choices he made in a recent project. The lessons he shared on colour selection are powerful:
1) Using Colour Families
The entryway of this home is a busy and vibrant space, but Mele explains how the palette is much tighter than it might seem at first glance. Mele’s goal was to make white the dominant colour and accent it with blue and orange selections. Those two colour families are complementary, and both gave Mele a wide range of strong choices. For blues, he picked cobalt, navy, Delft, and turquoise. For oranges, he favoured tangerine, grapefruit, coral, and more. Mele stresses that he picked rich tones over muted ones here.
2) Blue and White Is a Reliable Combination
Mele likens the combination of blue and white to timeless fashion choices that use the same pattern, like a white shirt under a blue blazer or blue jeans with a white tee. The range between formal and casual can also be recreated in interior design. Mele’s living room palette gets both colour and texture out of grasscloth for the walls in a very denim-like shade. The room’s wingback chairs and white accessories stand forth boldly in front of the blue cloth. Together, they make the room feel carefully designed. Blue and white, Mele says, is a less-fierce alternative to black and white. He notes that most people find it more welcoming.
3) Don’t Be Afraid to Repeat a Palette
Keeping palette selections tight has large and small-scale benefits. The transitions from room to room are smooth and each space feels cohesive on its own. Mele notes that in this house, form the foyer, you can see a collection of different rooms all decorated with the same colour family. Each one makes use of the palette in its own way, though. Note the way the blue used on the walls in the breakfast room is close to the wall colour in the family room, but provided in this case via paint. Orange upholstery here also creates a striking echo of the entryway.
4) Mix Up the Ratios
One brilliant way to maximise the variety of a limited colour range is to play with which colours are accents and which are primaries. Mele shows this effect off well in the home’s music room. Here, tangerine lamps and bright orange curtains dominate the colour scheme while blue and white are represented solely by an accent armchair. Mele stresses the importance of the accent so that the room remains tied to the house’s overall colour scheme.
Another great way to mix up the effect, and add some surprising contrast is to use materials that may not seem harmonious on the surface. For example wood and polished concrete, or stone and chrome can beautifully set each other off.
5) White Is Always Fresh
Mele is a great fan of adding more white to his designs, including his furniture selections. He calls the colour a ‘moderniser’ and a refresher. Furniture from every design period can be integrated into a harmonious, contemporary design by painting it white. The designer calls the result ‘a fresh, youthful spirit’.
6) Seek Balance Between Patterns and Colours
A strong pattern can create a beautiful effect, but to reach its full potential, sometimes the pattern needs to be combined with calmer, less powerful colours. Mele organised the colours in the master bedroom around a very strong pattern (reminiscent of Matisse) and let it dictate the colour scheme. “I wanted to let that pattern run the show,” Mele says. In order to give the pattern its space, he dialled back the vibrant shades already used on the ground floor. The result is a calm and quiet effect, even though, as Mele notes, the patterned fabric is anything but calm.