Decorating with a Diverse Colour Palette

A mixture of openess and bright colours enhances the light in this home

Credit: Tracey Ayton

A variety of bright colour accents are used to lighten up this kitchen

A smart renovation transforms a house into a home that’s light, bright and cheery

“If it’s light out, give it to me,” says interior designer Andrea Johnson from the bright kitchen of her South Surrey home. The radiant mother of two considered the often-dreary weather when planning her main-floor renovation five years ago. Her goal? To “achieve a sense of openness and maximize the most light throughout the house.” 

Open Space and Colour

Kitchen with whites, greys, and blues.
(Image:Tracey Ayton)

Johnson added a sunny bent to her home’s interior by using lots of white with cheerful pops of yellow, blue and orange, and by using tricks to create the illusion of more space. “Because we live in a very grey climate for the most part, I love to bring in colour where I can. I want my home to feel happy and vibrant,” she says.

The only structural change she made was removing the wall that divided the dining room from the kitchen. “Now that the wall is gone, the light from the front of the house filters to the back, making it feel brighter and more open. The kitchen also feels bigger than it really is because of the white cabinetry, white counters and open shelving.”

To maximize the most light throughout the house, Johnson chose white blinds, forgoing fussy curtains or fabrics that would cover the windows. 

White vase with green fern.
(Image: Tracey Ayton)

When the family moved into the 20-year-old home on a quiet cul-de-sac the interiors were awash in “Pepto-Bismol pink” – pink carpet, pink walls and pink baseboards – so a renovation was in store. The transformation from pink to polished, surprisingly, “took about a month,” says Johnson. Her secret? Preparation. 

Pitcher with freshly cut lemons.
(Image: Tracey Ayton)

“Getting the ideas first, before starting the renovation, was a huge thing,” she says. She spent a long time leafing through magazines and clipping out pages that appealed to her.

Identifying patterns in the styles you’re drawn to is key, says Johnson, so you can zero in on what you like. “I knew exactly what I wanted in here. Having a clear vision made everything else fall into place, then it was easy, just a matter of ordering things.” 

Kitchen Inspiration

The easiest decision was the kitchen backsplash. “Years ago I saw the backsplash in a showhome that Sarah Richardson did in White Rock, and I fell in love with it. I just knew that it would work for how I wanted the kitchen to look – to make it fun but tie in with the lightness of the cabinetry and the countertops.”

Colourful pillows lay on a black
couch. (Image: Tracey Ayton)

Where Johnson splurged on the durable quartz counters and marble mosaic backsplash she saved on the Ikea cabinetry and accessories – like the wicker basket and chrome canister on either side of the stove that cleverly, and stylishly, hide the oils, vinegars and utensils used for everyday cooking. 

The open shelves, she insists, are quite easy to keep clean. “All of this,” Johnson says, gesturing to the contents of her glossy white shelves, “other than a few decorative pieces, I’m using all the time. When it’s out in the open it has to be simplified. I find it very easy to keep clean because I keep it minimal.” Everyday dishes and glassware line the shelves and her beloved coffee machine is a permanent fixture on the counter. “I cannot live without my espresso machine.” 

Another must-have item is the dishwasher. “It’s a Miele dishwasher and it’s so quiet that we forget it’s on,” she says. It was important to Johnson that her family spend quality time together in the main living area – whether enjoying a family meal in the dining room, doing projects at the kitchen table, or watching TV in the living room – without the disruptive whir of the dishwasher. 

The bright kitchen nook has an old Ikea table that isn’t too precious. “The kids do their crafts on it and it doesn’t matter to me if it gets marked up; it just makes it look a little more interesting.” Above, a capiz shell pendant (Johnson bought it before they were in fashion), provides a soothing rustle when the wind blows through the shells.

Dining Room Formal

The neutral colours of the table, chairs and walls accentuate the colourful pillows, shades and lamp shades. (Image: Tracey Ayton)

The dining room, which seats up to 10 and houses extra dishes and wine glasses, retains an air of formality, with its glossy dark brown furniture, but maintains the element of fun with burnt-orange pillows, funky turquoise lamps and 
randomly placed damask wall decals Johnson ordered online. The decals are a cost-effective option that Johnson points out are “a nice way to bring in some interest without committing to wallpaper.” 

Living Room Accessories

A warm fire in the living room.
(Image: Tracey Ayton)

The living room also employs interest without commitment by using accessories to bring in colourful accents. The fireplace is flanked by a pair of turquoise fu dog statues and chrome accents while keeping larger items neutral, like the white TV console and chocolate sectional sofa. “A sectional is a great way to maximize space,” she says, “and the frame of the sofa is narrow and it doesn’t have back cushions, just throw pillows, so it makes it feel not as bulky in a small space like this.”

The round coffee table, also on the smaller size, aligns with the bright and beautiful esthetic, is easy to get around, and is safer for young children than a square table with sharp corners. “I love the chrome with the marble,” says Johnson. Other chrome elements, like the chrome sconces she bought from a good friend who owns Kerrisdale Design, and the chrome arms on the white occasional chair, help tie the room together. 

Entryway Impressions

The front foyer.
(Image: Tracey Ayton)

Even the front entryway incorporates the colours and finishes of the rest of the main living area with its chrome candlesticks, white ceramic birds and blue-and-white Chinese urn. And the glamorous mirrored chest, which she uses for storing work and gifting materials, reflects light and makes the space “feel more open.” 

Surveying her home, Johnson says, “It isn’t a big house, so the more light the better – a sense of openness was what I tried to achieve.” 

Contrasting Colours

Oranges piled in a shell-shaped dish stand out in the white room. (Image: Tracey Ayton)

The cheery space, that she refers to as “contemporary and youthful, with a mix of patterns and bursts of colour,” has a definite feeling of openness in form and spirit, through the well-designed whitewashed layout and the unreserved use of vibrant hues and lustrous finishes.

Designer Insight
Andrea Johnson’s Bright Ideas

  • EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED Things come up that can alter the original plan so you need to be flexible. And as far as budget goes, says Johnson, it’s true about always adding an extra 10 percent or more to the original projected cost. 

  • HIRE CREDIBLE TRADESPEOPLE There is nothing more disappointing than purchasing beautiful floors or counters only to have them installed improperly. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you are unhappy with the work – you’re the one that has to live with it.

  • FIND INEXPENSIVE WAYS TO DRESS UP A ROOM Try using low-cost decals instead of wallpaper, and take advantage of online ordering with sites like Etsy, where Johnson is always on the lookout for new accessories. Get creative by reinventing furniture pieces with new fabric, or by adding new accents to change up the look of your home. 

  • CREATE CLEVER STORAGE Think outside the box when storage space is scarce. Johnson installed wall-mounted paper organizers for the kids’ schoolwork and hooks for the dog’s leashes, which hang on a sliver of wall near the back door that is hidden from view.

Originally published in BC Home magazine. For monthly updates, subscribe to the free BC Home e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the bi-monthly magazine.