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Hear the word ‘pastel’ and you may think pale pinks and retro florals, but as a new book shows, they are only part of the story. Kate Burt reports

It’s been a long old winter, bringing with it the urge to hibernate in cosy, dimly-lit spaces; Farrow & Ball’s murky greys, the ubiquitous Down Pipe et al, have had a good run.

But soon it’s springtime and the season of daffodils, Easter eggs and – hopefully when this cold spell ends – some early sunshine calls for brighter colours to shoo away the gloom.

Warming things up doesn’t need to feature strong, big shades, however. And bright white can be rather stark – even dull and  grimy in spaces starved of natural light. Neutrals are the obvious in-betweeners, but – well, they’re hardly joyful and spring-like, and it takes some design panache to avoid blandness or a Nineties vibe. But there is another option…

“Hear the word ‘pastel’ and you may instantly imagine the sugary pink of a little girl’s bedroom or the cheerful, springtime shades found on retro floral fabrics,” says interiors stylist Selina Lake in her new book, Pretty Pastel Style (Ryland Peters & Small, £19.99). But pastels can be elegant and grown up, she argues: “ Today, these saccharine visions are only part of the story, because pastels are enjoying an exciting, dynamic revival.”

Lake goes on to enthuse about how these soft shades are incredibly good at “warming up a room and making a small space feel bigger”. They can sweeten a whitewashed room, and even add edge when paired with a splash of neon. Contrary to knee-jerk associations, rather than being twee or girlie, used thoughtfully pastels can make a bold statement in a gentle way – and they’ll definitely shake of those winter blues...

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