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Grown up pastels

In theory, I'm not big on pastels: they make me think of replica 1950s interiors, with gaudy pistachio and candy floss shades, or shabby chic Cath Kidston-esque florals and hipster cocktails served in tinkly old china cups and saucers. 

All a bit girlie for me, so I wasn't sure what I'd make of Selina Lake's new book 'Pretty Pastels' (Ryland, Peters & Small)... and then I opened it.

All images by Catherine Gratwicke and taken from 'Pretty Pastel Style' by Selina Lake, with permission from Ryland, Peters & Small

While there is lots of pink and hand-made bunting (which Selina, admittedly does do very well, even if you're not mad about that sort of thing; for reference, see her last book 'Homespun Style', which I really loved), there are some very modern pastel-themed pages to inspire too.

I love the juxtapositions in this room, above, which takes pastel merely as a starting point and then runs with it. The Art Deco-y table is such a strong design that it could look like a pastiche in a period-matched setting; instead, the modern sofa and clean white walls give it the gravitas it deserves. The blue floral fabric picks up the pink and black, but subtly – which links it to the table and creates cohesion without a whiff of twee. Adding a flash of red in one of the chairs and a cushion also works really well (anyone who ever told you not to mix red and pink... ignore them): this manages not to be overly matchy-matchy, which can look cloying, while hanging together soothingly.

The simplicity of this corner is beautiful. A few yellow accessories is all it needs to join up the dots with the chair. If the piano was jet black, it could risk looking bumble-bee bright (and nothing wrong with that if you can pull it off), but I like that the wood is, instead, very, very, very dark brown and softly battered. But also that the yellow-painted chair, the bowls and the black electrical equipment are pristine. Opposites like these little details give a room balance – again, without meticulous matching.

Again, the trick here is in the contrasts: girlie colours, but elegant, grown-up lines in that gorgeous lamp. And a flash of anchoring black to tone down the floral vibe and stop everyone floating off on a puff of candy floss: a lovely way to do pretty without it looking fluffy.

This kitchen uses neutrals interestingly: dove grey (on the back wall), white (the Ikea drawers) and cream (on the wood-panelling). It's not an obvious combination, but the effect is that these tonal variations add depth and texture without crowding the space with colour.

Pistachio, teal, turquoise and hot pink – with a sparse white backdrop. What a spectacular combination.

'Pretty Pastel Style' is published by Ryland, Peters & Small at £19.99 on 14 March 2013.


  1. Looks to me like the book title doesn't really reflect the content. I dismissed it because of the title but the content looks really nice. Subtle, gentle colour-schemes sounds more like it.

    1. I think it's a really nice book; some is on the girlier side of what I'd personally choose but I do really like these colour schemes