Homes & Design Photo Credit: Janis Nicolay

Expert Advice: How to Decorate with Pastels

Erin Chow of The Cross Interior Design gives us the scoop on how to add pretty pastel colours to the home.

Erin Chow will never forget her first design project. “I was just out of high school and moved into my parents’ basement suite,” she recalls. “It was a 1960s house so as you can imagine, there was wood everywhere, from the paneling to the cabinetry.” A fresh coat of paint and some new wallpaper revamped the dark, outdated space…and helped Chow find her calling. Now an interior designer at The Cross, she still favours a lighter palette—particularly pastels. “They have a neutral, serene feeling,” she explains, “but also make a bit of a statement.” And no, that statement need not be relegated to the nursery. “People think pastel, they think children,” Chow says, “but there are lots of different ways to incorporate pastels in sophisticated design.” Read on for seven of her best tips on how to do just that.

7 Tips for Decorating with Pastels

1. Get Acquainted
Accessories are the perfect way to introduce a pastel palette. But start small: “Try a pillow or piece of artwork with some pastel tones,” Chow says. “Don’t commit to a pink sofa or paint a wall right away.”

Accessories, like this dusty rose throw pillow in designer Amanda Hamilton’s home, are a great way to experiment with pastels. (Photo: Phil Crozier.)

2. Think Understated
You may never paint a wall in pastel shades—Chow hasn’t yet! Instead, she chooses wallpaper with subtle pastel touches. “It’s a great way to incorporate just enough colour without dominating the whole space.”

Pastels pair perfectly with rough materials and neutral shades. (Photo: Janis Nicolay.)

3. Man Up
Keep pastels from looking overly feminine by pairing them with “rougher textures and darker tones.” Unexpected materials like brick or steel add visual contrast.

The wallpaper in this master suite—designed by Chow and Megan Baker—adds a subtle pop of pastel purple to the room. (Photo: Janis Nicolay.)

4. Or Show Your Soft Side
For a less stark aesthetic, mix pastel accents with neutral shades—Chow prefers whites and greys. Materials like linen, marble or white distressed wood elevate the look.

5. Less is More
Chow recommends restricting yourself to one or two pastel shades in a room, unless your aesthetic is otherwise very austere. “Scandinavian designs use a lot of different pastels,” she notes, “but because they are so minimalist, it works.”


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Turquoise Eames chairs illustrate how pastels are used in conjunction with Scandinavian design—and make use of a trending colour. (Photo: Janis Nicolay.)

6. Cook with Colour
The kitchen offers an opportunity to play with brighter pastels. Chow adds pops of colour with appliances and loves Smeg’s line of powder blue toasters, mint mixers, and blush kettles.

7. Plan Long Term
Turquoise is on trend for the moment, but if you want a look that lasts, think pink. For Chow, “dusty rose shades are more classic”—that’s why she chose them as the accent colour in her bedroom at home.

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