A few years ago I got my colours "done" as a present from my mother. It wasn't highlights at the hairdressers so much as a wardrobe overhaul called Colour Me Beautiful. My mother, you see, was tired of seeing me always in uniform black - she didn't buy into the Miuccia Prada trend back then. While I was sceptical about the two-hour session, it has stood me in good stead whether in sales, department stores or at the make-up counter. I was deemed a "cool winter", advised to wear jewel colours and given a flip chart not unlike a Dulux colour card as guidance for purchases. Initially, it provided a lot of laughter for friends when I showed them my full colour analysis (which included make up, accessory and jewellery advice) but my embarrassment later turned to smugness. I noticed that when I sported an emerald green dress, amethyst blouse, aquamarine top, statement silver rings or ruby red lipstick, it was always noted and complimented. When I've strayed off the wintry track people say I look tired, wan or pale. In short, it's been a wake up call that I'm wearing the wrong shade. If only house decoration, and painting, was so easy.
I've started to hate my white and beige surroundings and want to inject some colour into my life or walls. In fact I'm starting to come round to the Sixties design maverick Verner Panton's idea that there should be a tax on white. His life's work was to "provoke people into using their imaginations". That could be a bit scary. While I'm all on for colour, which one and where to start? Some friends seem to be able to take a stroll into Ace, pick up a pot of gloss and get going. Not me.
As Johannes Itten, who taught colour theory at the Bauhaus school in Germany in the 1920s, showed, it is deeply personal and intensely subjective. He explored the concept of the personal aura and the idea that everyone has an individual set of colours. I tried to work out what mine were by listing those I hated first - orange, muddy brown, retro green - in fact, all the shades which the Irish designer Orla Kiely has revamped and made trendy. I love all shades of blue, have an affinity with red and love the colours of sweet pea - from pastel pinks to deep purples; they remind me of my mother's Constance Spry-style garden. However, I couldn't envisage painting my living room in any of them.
I decided that the couch holds the key to a living room's colour scheme and accessories and have been shopping to find a new one. The first sofa I saw was a huge, dark chocolate brown suede job from Fendi - rich, cushiony and would work well with the safari accessories I longed to buy - trunks, ostrich eggs and more kilim carpets. According to the colour therapists, brown, while it is grounded and evokes nature, is apparently a symbol of "a retreat from the outside world and a lack of self worth". Not so good.
Next up was a black sofa I spied in Ikea - having been desperate to update my accessories I thought this might look good against a blush pink colour scheme. Black, while being a mysterious and protective colour, can apparently "also prevent us from changing and growing". I'd seen that personally in my own wardrobe. In the end, I opted for a silvery grey sofa I'd been longing for for months at The One. The colour reminds me of Christian Dior's boutique in Avenue Montaigne, Paris. While not exactly an exuberant shade, it's an unusual one which blends well with duck egg blues or even soft pinks and would work well with Venetian style mirrors or lacquered tables. I didn't think twice before wielding my credit card; it was an instinctive choice. It was only after I paid for it that I found out silver "balances, harmonises and is mentally cleansing". I couldn't define home better if I tried.