All things bright and beautiful; inside...

After years of monochrome understatement, colour is creeping back into modern interiors. The bolder the better, says James Sherwood
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Indy Lifestyle Online
IF MAGNOLIA paint were being tried at the Old Bailey, the defence council would have an open and shut case. "Call Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen of Changing Rooms Did you persuade vengeful neighbours to paint an entire room lime green with malicious intent? Did you wilfully clash black zebra stencilling on scarlet walls? Was it not grossly negligent to deface a perfectly pleasant picture window with sari chiffon drapes?" One wouldn't even need to call Jocasta Innes. Magnolia is as innocent as Deirdre Rachid. It is also as bland and defenceless.

We've seen a gentle side-step towards colour in interiors. It may be the whisper of sugar pink on a nearly-white wall. It may be a harmonious spectrum of baby blue through to violet chenille cushions on a creamy sofa. Ilse Crawford editor-in-chief of Elle Decoration, has been subliminally suggesting "soft modernity" in her pages for months. Colour is a key way to take the edge off contemporary interior design.

"After years of rented accommodation, I vowed never to have magnolia walls ever again," says Emily Kennedy, flatly. "I can't live without colour," she says, with scarlet lips grinning from ear to ear. Kennedy's Tower Hill flat is blocked with four acid-bright colours: egg yolk yellow, fuscia, lime and Moroccan blue. It can only be described as a heroic interior, as subtle as a cartoon or a Sixties Warhol screen print.

Kennedy bought her low-rise former council flat in 1997. "The flat was crying out for colour," she says. "When you have small, compact rooms, you can either paint the entire place off-white to give the illusion of space or you can give it cohesion with a colour scheme."

It may be hard to believe that fuscia, lime, blue and yellow make a harmonious environment. The sitting room is three walls hot fuscia pink and one Moroccan blue. A streak of egg yolk yellow careers down the hall and the bedroom clashes lime-painted flock wallpaper and fuscia drapes. "I do have some restraint," says Kennedy. "For example, I love scarlet and hot orange, but there is such a thing as too much. So I just added touches of scarlet in my vases and orange in funky little knick-knacks like ashtrays and bowls. All the major colours I chose were the same level of intensity. They were at the same level from the bottom of the Dulux colour chart. So there is method in apparent madness."

"Colour is part of a new feeling in interiors, a new freshness," says Sally O'Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Living Etc, the colourful new interiors magazine. "When we launched, it was a conscious decision to attack colour. We are for that age group who have bought for the first or second time, and by that I mean they have bought something they really care for and can let their own style loose."

Kennedy's flat was previously owned by the same family for 25 years. If walls are whitewashed, features of a room are highlighted. Here, with so much colour pulling the eye in every direction, you are distracted from the brass door handles, brass radiator grilles and occasional dado rails: all of which Kennedy will systematically remove. A further focus is the eclectic art collection Kennedy has gathered over the years.

As a BBC researcher specialising in arts projects, Kennedy has an eye for contemporary art pieces. Kennedy's father is an artist. Two of his pieces. stark three dimensional wood collages, hang in the yellow hall. The chaotic pieces of art on Kennedy's walls break-up the colour blocks and constantly draw your eye to the neon-bright walls.

Every piece of furniture here has a story. A butcher's block table was picked up in Brick Lane and fitted with castors. The sofas cushions were made by Kennedy. A stainless steel table was picked-up for pounds 10 from a student designer in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where Kennedy studied. A gold plaster cherub was the only possession a friend won from her divorce settlement. Kennedy sprayed it gold and now hangs her diamante tiara and necklace from its frame.

Apart from the carpets, another legacy from the previous owners, every last thing in Kennedy's flat is coloured. The kitchen has multi-coloured bright plastic utensils hanging from the slats of a blind in a still life. The bathroom towels are lime green and Moroccan blue. Violet plastic hot water bottles hang next to the kitsch plastic shower curtain. The spines of her Penguin classics are the only bits of black you will find in the entire scheme. Even Emily Kennedy herself is rainbow bright. She's one of those London girls who can wear a lime green shirt, plastic rose hair slides and chunky Minnie Mouse heels before noon. "I think an interior should be an extension of your personality. Look at me. Please! Do I look like a magnolia kind of chick to you?"