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Harmonious tonal decorating schemes

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Walls, cabinetry, ceiling, woodwork - Tranquil Blue, 2051-50.

Why tonal decorating is the short cut to a harmonious home 

By Jessica Doyle, Design and Interiors Editor at The Telegraph

Jessica Doyle has been writing about interior design for the past 15 years, for publications including House & Garden, the Financial Times, Homes & Gardens and Country & Town House. She is currently Design & Interiors editor at the Telegraph, where she has worked for the past five years, reporting on the UK's most stylish homes and the latest decorating trends. 

There's no doubt that colourful walls have been having something of a moment in recent years, not least due to the fact that being clever with colour can transform the mood of a room, and give it the illusion of better proportions. 
Colour-drenching - painting the walls, woodwork and sometimes the ceiling too in the same shade - is an effective way to blur the boundaries of a room and create a dramatic statement, particularly when executed in jewel tones or dark, moody hues. But for those who want to experiment with mixing colours, without going down the route of a maximalist clash, tonal decorating, using differing shades of the same colour, can be a stylish halfway house between the two.
Walls, desk, shelving, woodwork - Slate Teal, 2058-20.
Sliding doors -
White Diamond, 2121-60.
Upper wall - Crystalline, AF-485.
Lower wall -
Cushing Green, HC-125.

In a room blessed with elegant architectural details such as cornices and picture rails, painting those features in a slightly darker colour than the walls brings a smart, tailored look. Similarly, painting a window frame in a deeper shade - and perhaps extending that shade out slightly on to the wall around the window - will both make the window appear larger, and showcase the view outside.

Walls - Cloud White, OC-130. 
Windows - Hale Navy, HC-154.
Window frames and ceiling -
Smoke 2122-40.

When a room is lacking in period features, painting the bottom half of the wall (below where the dado rail would be) in a deep colour, and the top half in a paler shade, will help to create character. Using a hard-wearing paint such as an eggshell sheen finish, just on the lower half of the wall, is a good trick in a high-traffic area such as a hallway or kitchen.

Upper wall and ceiling - Paper Mache, AF-25.
Lower wall, woodwork and mantel -
Lush, AF-475.

It's an effect that also works with kitchen cabinetry: a deep shade on base-level cabinetry can be paired with a lighter version on the walls above, which softens the overall look and gives less of a stark contrast than bright white walls. 

Wall, ceiling, woodwork and upper cabinetry - White Wisp, OC-54.
Lower cabinetry - Providence Blue, 1636

The classic feature wall has fallen out of fashion: having just one wall of brightly coloured paint or patterned wallpaper gives the impression that you lack commitment, or haven't taken care with the decoration of the rest of the room. Tonal painting, however, with adjacent walls painted in slightly different shades, adds interest and wow factor, while still creating a considered, sophisticated look. It also helps to highlight the architectural features of a period house: for example, painting an alcove or chimney breast in a darker or paler tone than the rest of the walls.

Left wall - Blue Danube, 2062-30.
Right wall -
Buxton Blue, HC-149.

Don't forget the �fifth wall', too - covering walls and woodwork in the same colour, and the ceiling in a darker or brighter version, makes a strong statement and is an effective way to create a cosy, cocooning vibe.  

Walls and woodwork - Gentleman's Gray, 2062-20.
Ceiling and coving -
Naples Blue, 2057-30.

Once you've settled on the colour for your walls, enhance the tonal effect by choosing furniture and accessories that echo and highlight the paint. An artwork, rug or cushions with accent colours that match the walls can help to anchor a room and pull it together, without it looking overly contrived.
Choosing a wall colour that will chime with furniture you already own will ensure a calming look; but if the colour of a piece of furniture jars with newly painted walls, consider painting it a similar shade to achieve a harmonious effect. 

Walls  - Clear Skies, 2054-70.
Ceiling -
Moonlight White, 2143-60.
Woodwork -
Simply White, 2143-70

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