The Journal

Colour Theory with
Tom Mark Henry

For Tom Mark Henry, interior design is a craft driven by passion and human expression. Since 2014, the Sydney-based studio has developed a reputation for introducing a touch of the unexpected into their residential and commercial projects – often in the form of colour. We spoke to directors Cushla McFadden and Jade Nottage about how different hues can shape a space – as well as the mood of its inhabitants.

Photography by Andrew Worssam and Damian Bennett

Describe Tom Mark Henry’s aesthetic.

Jade: We have produced such a diversity of projects that it’s hard to describe our aesthetic in a few sentences. Our projects can be bold and brave or sit quietly with beautiful detailing – it really does depend on each client and the brief we are provided. What is common across all of them, however, is the exploration of unexpected materials and a rich layering of palette.

What values underlie your practice?

Cushla: We have many values that underline our business. Innovation is important to us – we strive to never rely on what has been done before and are always seeking to redefine experiences through design. We value transparency and honesty; we practice this in our communication between our clients and consultants as well as our designs, using the most honest form of materiality wherever possible.

Recent studies show that our surroundings have a very real impact on our wellbeing. Is that something you’re cognizant of as designers?

Jade: Absolutely, we are acutely aware of the impact our designs have on the end user. It’s so important to not get caught up entirely in how the spaces look, but also have they feel. A successful space is one that people want to spend time in, that makes them feel good, and we strive for that in all our projects. Getting this right in commercial design is particularly important due to the amount of time people spend at work.

"A successful space is one that people want to spend time in."

How can colour be used to set the mood of an interior for its inhabitants?

Cushla: The study of colour has shown that is greatly influences our mood. We’ve often employed colour to elicit a certain mood, such as calmness to a space, earthy tones to feel grounded, even investigating colours that enhance appetite and applying that to our hospitality interiors.

How has the use of colour evolved over the years? What hues are people drawn to right now?

Jade: For a while there we saw interiors where colour was scarce, but more and more we see colour being used as a critical design decision within spaces. The colours don’t tend to be bright and primary, but earthy and moody, colours that definitely resonate with our own personal aesthetic. Violet seems to be making a big resurgence which we love, although it can be hard to get the right shade. Terracotta and olive green are colours that seem to be sticking around in popularity, and also work beautifully with violet.

Are there any particular colours you personally love? Are you into tonal or contrasting palettes?

Cushla: Both tonal and contrasting palettes have their place, however we are naturally drawn to slightly dirty tones, such as burgundy, terracotta, olive, dark navy and mustard.

How can the inclusion of a colourful rug transform a space?

Jade: The addition of a colourful rug can have a huge impact on a space and is a great way to create a sense of visual zoning. Vast expanses of unbroken flooring can feel a little austere so breaking this up with a soft rug can be critical to the success of a space.

What is your advice about incorporating colour through more permanent structural elements like walls and flooring?

Cushla: Colour doesn’t have to be as scary or bold as people may think. When it comes to colour, even lighter shades will make a space ten times more interesting. It doesn’t have to be the brightest yellow; pale or tonal colours are just as successful on walls and flooring and closer to the neutrals you might expect to see.

We’d love to know what excites you about the future of interiors and design.

Jade: Design is definitely changing; it has to, in line with the ever-shifting economy and environmental factors. These challenges open up a new thinking and approach to design briefs which is exciting, albeit challenging. We also feel the calibre of design is so extraordinary within Australia that we are excited to be involved in a community creating such beautiful and considered spaces. 

Where do you turn to for inspiration?

Cushla: Travel is our number one form of inspiration. There is nothing like getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing different cultures, scenes, spaces and built environments to spark inspiration.


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