How to decorate with Dulux Spiced Honey…if you don’t like brown

A childhood of being dressed in ‘autumn’ colours and living in a beige-coloured house was enough to give me a lifetime-and-a-half of neutrals.

But with Dulux recently announcing that Spiced Honey is its 2019 Colour of the Year, I’ve been wondering if it’s time to challenge my own prejudices…

Why I don’t like brown interiors

One thing my mum and I could never agree on was her love of autumn colours (chestnut brown and sludgy green, mainly) and my intense loathing of them.

As well as being dressed in them throughout my childhood, our front room was taupe and our breakfast room was beige.

Even our rich picture gallery red dining room eventually turned oyster (I practiced the piano in there and I’m sure my inspiration waned at that point).

Aside from a brief sojourn to Kelly Hoppen hues in the early Noughties, I’ve steered clear of this palette ever since and have exercised my right to go as bright as life will permit me.

Dulux Spiced Honey: Colour of the Year 2018

I thought it was all going so well, with colour trends like Pantone’s Ultra Violet and the global love-fest for Millennial Pink and Gen Z Yellow. Delicious.

And then, waddyaknow? A caramel-coloured outlier comes hurtling confidently into the mix: Dulux’s Spiced Honey. I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting next after the global colour explosion of 2018 but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t THIS. 

At first I retreated into some kind of colour-induced shock. Think ‘disbelief’, ‘ incredulity’, even ‘irritation’.  I hadn’t spent years collecting colourful objects to go neutral. Neutral?!

But then something occurred to me: I like to think I’m a growth mindset kind of girl and here was I emphatically saying ‘No!’ to something. Neutrals might not be me, but I reckon being closed-minded is even less so.

Then a few other things happened to make me reconsider my caramel-phobia.

Reasons to change my mind about Spiced Honey

1: Sarah Mailer, AKA Girl About House, convinced me!

On her blog on 3 fresh ways to style Spiced Honey, interiors expert and friend of The Colour File Sarah Mailer says that the colour is like ‘a metaphorical hug’. Who doesn’t need more of that?

When we chatted she also reminded me that accepting and incorporating any colour into your home is about making it your own, even if it’s not how it would conventionally be used. Colours can perform different ‘parts’, like in a play – sometimes they’re centre stage and at other times they are bit parts or extras. However, all of them are fundamental to the production playing out before you.

17FD5EB8-EAD8-4BBD-A26A-3CEA5C74468D2: I was inspired by nature

The Dulux look-book for Spiced Honey showed it working harmoniously with other neutrals (as you’d expect, see pics below) but I had a hunch there had to be another way.

Not long after, I bought a bunch of mixed dahlias (see left) and saw how their colours worked harmoniously with the buff brown wrapping paper.

Having thought that embracing Spiced Honey would inevitably confine me to a life of complementary browns and taupes – and was therefore to be avoided at all costs – I suddenly saw that this didn’t have to be the case

3: Challenging my own colour aversion

Sometimes in life you have to edge (or even violently shove) yourself out of your comfort zone.

I saw my Spiced Honey experiment as ‘neutral aversion therapy’ to challenge my own long-held prejudices and to be more ‘growth mindset’.

Colour has the power to transform so many things, even the belief that you’re entrenched in a position and incapable of change.

4: Marianne’s infectious enthusiasm 

I wrote a Psychologies magazine colour column on beige and tan and asked Marianne Shillingford, Dulux’s Creative Director, for her views (I also told her about my plans for a Spiced Honey experiment and she said, ‘Do it!’).

Like everything else colour-related that Marianne talks about, her words were food for thought. So, after a colour-crammed 2018, ‘Why Spiced Honey?’

“Over the past couple of years we have been returning to the familiar colours and materials of nature which make us feel safe in times of trouble. We have seen these golden earth shades appearing strongly in design and here is a new sense of optimism and resilient emerging in a society that is fed up of being bombarded by fake news, divisions in society and a constant demand to be ‘always on’ through social media. We’ve had enough and we need to be energised and uplifted. Spiced Honey captures the mood of the moment perfectly. Just like honey, it’s soothing but it gives us energy and you don’t need a lot to make a difference.”                                           

5: Brown is EVERYWHERE

As you may have noticed, whether it’s in fashion or interiors, shades of brown, caramel and camel are very much on the ascendant (think ‘that’ Holly Willoughby dress for M&S that sold out within milliseconds).

I’ve become increasingly aware that when it comes to brown and its neutral friends, I may run from it, screaming, in the other direction, but ultimately I can’t hide.

Best to learn how to live with it.

Decorating with Dulux Spiced Honey

You know that feeling of anticipation you get before you open a paint can, even when you know what colour it’s going to be because you’ve used a tester pot (one of 12, right?)? If you’re anything like me, the following will run through your head:

  • ‘I know I chose it but will I actually like it?’
  • ‘Will it make the room look too small?’
  • ‘Is it going to be too dark/light?’

Or, in this case, ‘Is it going to be too brown?’

Actually, I think I went through a moment of denial before I prised the lid off: ‘Maybe it won’t be brown after all.

Maybe it’ll be a browny-pink. Or a browny-blue…’ But there were no two ways about it. Even I couldn’t kid myself that this was Millennial pink, Yves Klein blue or even white.

It didn’t help that second-in-command, SIC (my son, aged 12), came wandering in as I was doing the cutting in and declared, ‘WHAT is THAT?!? Brown?! In YOUR bedroom?!?….Are you feeling OK?’

I couldn’t disagree: on top of the bright green that it was replacing, it looked like a bad 1970s-inspired migraine-meets-worst-nightmare (see below).

I went to bed thinking, a) ‘It’s OK: with the lights off, I can’t see it’, and b) ‘I’ll go over it with white emulsion tomorrow and pretend this whole brown scenario was all a hideous dream.’ 


The big Spiced Honey reveal

You know that split second before you properly wake up and you’ve happily forgotten something that’s playing on your mind before your growing consciousness harshly thrusts you back to reality?

I had that the next morning, lying in bed in my brown room, eyes shut in a child-like ‘La la la, if I can’t see it it never happened!’ act of denial. However, when I finally conceded I had to get up (if only to buy white emulsion), I wasn’t expecting to have woken up like some kind of born-again Spiced Honey evangelist.

The reality was that, overnight, the colour had settled and made the room feel like it was filled with warmth and sophistication.

Then when I opened the curtains and the morning light streamed in, the colour lightened to what I felt looked like buttery-soft suede.

Cue me running around the house like the colour nerd that I am, gathering up multicoloured art, accessories and soft furnishings to see if my hunch about Spiced Honey forming a delicious backdrop to brights would be correct.


In the pic above, I think the white hospital bed from Loaf is set off perfectly by the wall colour, as is the painting (centre) by Paul West and a sea plastic collage by Michelle Costello (AKA Smartie Lids On The Beach), not to mention the Kurt Geiger Rainbow Party Envelope bag around the neck of a vintage 1920s satin dressing gown. I played around with various cushions, too, including some from the Futon Company (blue velvet with orange and pink roses) and some lent to me by Sarah Fortescue, another colour-lover who was as excited about the experiment as I was (see below, left).


What do I think of Spiced Honey now?

I don’t know about you but I’ve totally surprised myself at how much I am enjoying Spiced Honey – and how much it works with colour.

I really wasn’t expecting it. I dragged myself into my self-assigned task with a real sense of petulant trepidation (colour MATTERS, OK??), expecting to feel like I’d been pinged back to the 1970s.

Instead, I’ve been going round telling other people to use it (like here), whether they’re neutral-lovers, colourphiles or somewhere in between. For me, the experiment paid off. The styling of my room is ever-evolving so expect more photos and iterations soon.

This is a colour I’m going to be building upon, layer by layer.

I know – I’m just as shocked as you are. Tell me: do you think it’s worked? I’d love to know what you think.

In the meantime, here are some tips from my Spiced Honey experiment.


Tips for using Dulux Spiced Honey

‘Own’ your paint colour choice

If a paint company produces a look book that doesn’t use a colour how you’d like to use it, don’t be put off. If you have a vision, go with it.

Your first port of call might be a mood board to give you confidence that it might work.

Incorporate pictures from magazines or the internet on a board with a swatch of the colour so you can see how they’ll sing together.

Visit Girl About House for some examples of fantabulous mood boards.

Give new colours a chance to prove themselves

And by that I mean, paint at least one wall before you decide it isn’t for you.

This actually applies to whatever colour you’re decorating with, but especially if the colour you’ve chosen goes against the grain of what you’d normally go for.

It’s easy to get colour cold feet and convince yourself you’ve made a mistake but it’s important to run with it – and give it a chance.

Painting a wall a colour that you decide isn’t quite right is rarely going to be the biggest interiors mistake you’ll ever make. It’s not like buying a sofa you suddenly decide you don’t like…

Don’t be scared to ‘go bold’

You know what I’m going to suggest: put colour with Spiced Honey. In fact, put colour with ALL your neutrals.

If it’s too much of a commitment to team it with permanent fixtures like curtains or furniture, dip your toe in with temporary colour fixes such as flowers (my favourites are dahlias, ranunculus, mixed tulips or gerberas: every season has a bright mix to offer), cushions, throws or even a shelfie loaded with colourful objects such as books.

Colourful interiors inspiration is EVERYWHERE, including on the High Street (take a look at Tesco Home for affordable colour to pair with Spiced Honey).

Use art to bring colour to Spiced Honey

Whether it’s a colourful poster from Paperchase, some contemporary art or an investment piece, I think artwork is a brilliant way of bringing Spiced Honey to life.

There are a number of artists whose work is the perfect pairing with this colour, including Alex Rhys, Tipperley Hill, Jessica Ford, Lauri Hopkins, Garima Dhawan and Lisa James (my talented cousin).

  • Dulux Matt Emulsion in Spiced Honey is £27.56 for 2.5L, available to purchase at Dulux From January



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