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Colour Confident: How to Choose Your Decor Shades

We’re in the process of moving. For reasons we’ve highlighted on the NEST–our blog–we had really no choice but to vacate a situation involving a melting floor and copious amounts of mould. But what’s great is, we’re moving up, not just out. Our new place is the top two floors of an old house, and we’re going to have our bedroom in the attic! The art studio/office will also be up there, with a big window where my desk will look out over our street. Our kitchen’s a bit tiny, which I have no doubt will lead to frustrated blog posts in the future, but we’re hopeful that we can work out a hanging system on the wall for pots and pans. What’s novel is that the apartment is actually separated into very definitive rooms—our current place is quite open-concept—so we’ll be able to have some fun with decorating. Thus far, we’ve managed to gather a number of things for our place with over 90% of it coming from, thrift stores, and freecycle groups. But when you’re not buying a coordinated furniture suite, and most of the items up for grabs are really outdated, you have to have some imagination. The first step, without a doubt, is choosing a theme and colour palette.

For those of you out there who find colour to be a little daunting, here’s the most basic first steps for you:

1. All colours are derivative of the primary colours: primary colours are red, blue, and yellow. Secondary colours are made by mixing together two primaries, and the results are orange, green, and purple.

2. Colours have a friend on the colour wheel called their complimentary colour. That’s why, defying all logic, yellow and purple look good together: they’re complimentary. Same with orange and blue, and red and green.

3. So when you go to decorate a room, you have a few colour options:

a-Decorate all in shades of the same colour: navy blue, sky blue, blue-tinted white.

The colour wheel. Credit:

b-Decorate in shades from one-quarter of the colour wheel: yellow, to green, to blue.

c-Decorate with one or two main shades, then have a complimentary colour to add some pizazz.

(Note: this is a really simplified how-to, and if you have a creative idea that you think looks good but doesn’t fit in this tutorial, try it out anyway. You can always start over!)

It’s option ‘c’ that I love to do the most, and this is why we chose the bedroom colours that we did: Caribbean blue, a fresh pure orange, and some hints of butternut yellow. Our theme is folkart owls, deer, and mushrooms, but done in these updated colours. For the most part, all we have so far is a comforter, bedskirt, and ideas…that is, until we painted our nightstands.

These nightstands were a freebie, found online through You can see they are a)from a different era, and b)made of fake wood. Actually, they’re made of real wood but someone painted them with fake woodgrain. I don’t understand the logic behind this. No matter: we set to work fixing them right up…

First step is usually a sanding, using a really nubbly sandpaper to give the surface some ‘tooth’, a fancy word for scratches. After that, a coating of primer will be your best friend: primer sticks better to slick surfaces, plus it is toothy, itself. If you’ll recall, I am a big advocate for letting your primer dry: don’t rush layers when you’re painting, or you’ll end up with more work in the end, trying to cover up the mistakes that arise. We did  two coats of paint on the nightstands. We asked at the store for the best paint to stick to a poorly primed, nasty surface. This is because, as much as I preach good priming, I am not a detail person…I know the primer is important, but I may not work on it all day, meaning that my paint needs to be good and sticky. It also needed to be resilient, as the surface of a nightstand is exposed to water glasses, coffee cups, pens, notebooks, and various lotions and toiletries.


Whatever line of paint you go with, there will be different mixes and different finishes; go with the recommended formula in terms of wear-and-tear, but for the finish, I’m a fan of semi-gloss. Sometimes a high gloss paint can be a bit translucent and give you more grief with bold colours.

The nightstands now go perfectly with the $2.00 thrift store lamps that I found, and so we now have a good start on our grand bedroom vision.


What a change a bit of paint makes, right? We are debating on using an applique technique to decoupage on some paper owls, but I think we’ll have to see how everything looks in our new apartment. If you want to keep apprised, follow our nesting journey on our newlywed blog; in the meantime, I DARE you: be brave and bold, embrace a rich colour and try pairing it with its complimentary. Then comment below and include a link to photos, if you can.

And always remember: colours are trendy. They always change, so there’s really no way to choose colours for the long haul. Almost guaranteed, your shades and tones will be outdated in five years’ time. What does this mean? It means have FUN and don’t worry too much about playing it safe: even the most subdued taupe will eventually be considered blatantly gaudy. If you’re going to raise eyebrows, raise ‘em with something that will make you love your home.

Jordan Kent-Baas is co-author of the award-nominated blog Project: Priceless—The Free Wedding Experiment, and Project: Priceless—the NEST (the newlywed experience). The wedding experiment harnessed the power of social media to create a 140-person wedding for virtually no cost, while the NEST chronicles Jordan and Brian’s experience as frugal newlyweds. She is a social media fanatic who works in marketing and communications, and aspires to one day be a full-time author. Jordan lives with her fat senior pug and her sweet handsome husband, Brian; she has a passion for crafting, and exploring new activities around the city. Jordan has a dream of one day being a really good cook…in the meantime, she keeps a frozen pizza on hand just in case. You can connect with Jordan via her blogs at, on Facebook at, or on twitter, under her handle @projectpricelss.

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