Why I Love Faded Colours

High tea with vintage patchwork cosy.

During my gap year when I was 18, I worked in an orphanage in southern India. After washing my clothes, I’d hang them on the line in the blindingly bright courtyard where the relentless Tamil Nadu sun would beat down on them and dry them within what felt like minutes. Then one day I turned one of my tops inside out and realised that the reverse was now several shades lighter than it had been before. These garments had started off vibrant but had gone through a transformation, ending up pale and faded, bleached and whitened, like ghosted versions of their former selves. I was delighted!

Although I always have and always will love bright, vibrant colours, faded hues have been my favourite since that day. In a world where we are encouraged to buy clothes detergents that keep colours true and frame pictures behind museum-grade glass to stop the brightness bleeding away, I am still someone who thinks faded things rule. I am a complete faded object magpie.

When it comes to interiors, faded colours are really easy to live and work with. And although I take photos and collect ephemera in bold and jewelled colours wherever I see them, I see faded objects as The Colour File‘s trademark look. For faded, also read, ‘yellowed’, ‘preloved’ and often threadbare. When people take these to the charity shop or car boot sale because they’ve had their time, I’m there to give them a new lease of life (one man’s trash it definitely this woman’s treasure). Aesthetically, I don’t think you can beat these for a calming, colourful and sophisticated look.

Faded comes new as well as old, though – for example, I have had a long love affair with Manuel Canovas’s toile range, especially the La Musardierre fabric in Cyclamen (a romantic pink against pale green) and even when brights are in vogue it’s possible to find faded colours on the High Street, whether it’s Zara Home or M&S. On my Instagram feed and in this blog I’ll be showing you these wherever I can to help you learn to ‘love the fade’.

To kick-start things, I’m going to share with you some of my favourite faded looks. Please visit The Colour File often to see my new looks and discoveries. And follow my blog and give me feedback.


Martha x
The Colour File


An upcycled vintage corner cabinet
Once a dull piece of brown 1930s furniture bought at Chiswick Car Boot Sale, I gave it the kiss of life with Farrow & Ball’s Teresa’s Green and lined it with Colefax & Sons Hummingbirds (I managed to get a sizeable offcut from John Lewis when they let me loose with their massive wallpaper scissors – what a great day that was). A pleasing faded backdrop to some of my favourite faded finds.

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Pale and interesting vintage books
My Mum and Dad’s faded Penguin Classic books were a big part of my childhood. Shelf after shelf of them, I had little idea what they were about when I was really young – all I knew was that I loved what they looked like (I was definitely guilty of judging a book by its cover) . Piled up or cosying up next to each other on a bookshelf, the faded colours and patterns make my heart sing.



Crocheted and knitted granny blankets
Some are a random explosion of faded colours with occasional flashes of bright cerulean blue, ruby red or fuchsia pink, while others are bordered with black and others are a random patchwork of clashing yet happy-to-be-together colours. Whatever colour combinations or patterns, I cannot resist collecting these.



Vintage patchwork quilts
I went through a phase of buying these in abundance even though I didn’t have enough beds to put them on. But that doesn’t seem to matter. I change them over once in a while so I can enjoy them all in turn. However, my favourite is this threadbare beauty that I still stand and stare at when it’s flung out on my bed, even though I bought it more than a decade ago. The colours are phenomenal.

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