This 'heartbreak paint palette' is how to decorate after a break-up

Experts say the colours we choose for our homes can help bring hope after difficult life events

yellow cotton bed linen
(Image credit: Piglet)

Can a paint colour help to mend a broken heart? Or turn our homes into a sanctuary when we're stressed out with work? 

According to a new survey into when and why we decorate our homes, a massive 81 per cent of people who had decorated after a major life event – including heartbreak, bereavement and new job stress – said the paint ideas in their new-look home had helped improve their mood. 

Calming neutrals and soft pastels are our go-to colour picks for creating a sanctuary at home, but it's not just the look of the colours that's important – it's how they make us feel. We dug into the research and talked to experts to discover the feelgood palettes that can help give us a lift when life gets us down.

What is the 'heartbreak palette'?

living room with pink walls and grey sofa

(Image credit: Future)

According to colour expert and Dulux creative director Marianne Shillingford, a heartbreak palette consists of colours that make 'home feel like home again' after a difficult life event. While the exact shades that make you feel better will be personal to you, Marianne says that 'soft pastel shades of green, gold, pink and blue are gently stimulating and uplifting, like a smile or warm embrace from someone you love'. Dulux has created 15 new colours, in a curated palette designed to reflect feelings of hope and fresh beginnings.

'Green is a soothing colour that connects us with nature, helping us to feel grounded. Similarly, there's a reason we love blue so much as humans; we live on a blue planet and shades of blue are always calming,' Marianne explains. 

'Pink gives a rosy glow that is so uplifting; it has the energy of red without being so overwhelming. Gold or yellow, like our colour California Days, is a flash of pure joy – a dopamine bright that provides a feelgood flash of colour.'

Marianne Shillingford Creative Director
Marianne Shillingford

Marianne is a decorating expert who is passionate about the power of colour to change lives. As well as her current role as Creative Director at Dulux, she is the founder of the Colour in Design Award, which encourages a new generation of color-forward design talent.

Why a room refresh helps us recover from heartbreak

Dining room decorated with pink and blue floral wallpaper with dining table and green chairs

(Image credit: Future PLC / Adam Carter)

'Redecorating after a breakup is a great way to help you start to move on. The whole process of rearranging your home and giving it a new look can be therapeutic and empowering,' explains Dr Lalitaa Suglani

'Decorating can provide you with a cathartic outlet for your emotions and a way of feeling in control, as you choose how you want your home to look and feel. Reorganising and decluttering are also a healthy way of regaining control and feeling relief.'

Getting out the paint and brushes doesn't just help after a messy breakup; a new survey from Dulux showed that 59% of us redecorated after a major life adjustment – and there's sound psychological sense behind our drive to get decorating.

'Life-changing events alter your perception of who you are, your values and your priorities. We travel through a cycle of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance,' explains Dr Suglani.

'The acceptance phase is where we get to reflect on things that have happened, but also where we want to go moving forwards. Therefore change, whether positive or negative, gives us the chance to start afresh.'

Dr Lalitaa Suglani psychologist
Dr Lalitaa Suglani

Lalitaa is an award-winning psychologist, leadership coach, international speaker and co-author of two best-selling books on how to live a happy and successful life.

How to find your recovery colour scheme

Tapping into the times when you've felt happy and secure, then recreating the colours and mood within your room schemes, is the key to creating a home that makes you feel good.

'Decorating is not just making something look great for an Instagram snap. It's making something feel great for you and where you are now,' says Marianne Shillingford. 'My question is, how do you want to feel? What do you want to happen in this space? 

'The answer might be that you want to decorate your dining room so that your family eats and talks together. Or you want a space decorated in calming colours, where you don't think about your job. Colour can really unlock that for you.'

colour wheel ideas, harmonious colours, lilac bedroom with mid green chest of drawers/wardrobe, pink and red stripe cushions, ice cream artwork

(Image credit: YesColours)

Step one is to talk about what's missing from your current space – does it need more colour, texture or pattern? Do you need to add personal items and mementoes that give it a sense of your personality and passions? Nostalgiacore is the anxiety-reducing interior aesthetic that uses personal mementoes to bring a sense of security to your living space.

Next, think about the colours that you're naturally drawn to and why you love them, and decide how to add them to your space.

'We worked with Love Island influencer Teddy Soares, who had just had a terrible breakup with a girlfriend and wanted to make his home feel like home again,' says Marianne. 'His place was painted completely white, so we really investigated what colours he came back to. He started to look at his Portuguese and Nigerian heritage, and picked out the soft neutral Pebble Shore and verdant green Village Maze.'

'Adding colour to my walls has helped to create an uplifting space and act as a reminder that there’s so much brightness to life,' Teddy says. 'Change can be scary, but these colours have brought optimism to my home and have created such a huge impact in a short space of time.'

Decorate your feelgood space

Bedroom with arched paint effect behind bed and scatter cushions on bed

(Image credit: Future Plc / Chris Snook)

The living room and bedroom are the two spaces we're most likely to decorate after a breakup or other difficult life event. Maybe you want to paint your sleeping space with design tricks to help you become a morning person, ready to face the day. Or like interiors influencer and maximalist, Tara Slinger, you want to paint in positive colours that motivate and empower you.

'Redecorating is associated with self-care,' says Dr Lalitaa Suglani. 'Not only will it help you to feel more comfortable and improve your state of mind, but redecorating can boost your mood.'

And while you may want a grounding and calming palette to bring you comfort, don't forget to add a little fizz.

'We also need colours that are flashes of joy, so that might be painting a piece of furniture or one beautiful shape on the wall in a lovely dopamine bright,' says Marianne Shillingford. 

'It's not a complex algorithm. We are simple humans; we know what we like and we return to those things. When we are challenged in every element of our lives, what we crave is joyful, simple solutions.'

Here's to decorating our way through heartbreak, one paint stroke at a time…

Heartbreak paint palette

Andrea Childs

Andrea began her journalism career at Ideal Home and is currently Editor of our sister title, Country Homes & Interiors, which celebrates modern country style. Andrea is passionate about colour and how it can transform both our homes and our sense of wellbeing, and has completed The Power of Colour course with the prestigious KLC School of Design. Andrea's career spans interiors magazines, women's lifestyle titles and newspapers. After her first job at Ideal Home, she moved on to women's magazines, Options and Frank. From there it was on to the launch of Red magazine, where she stayed for 10 years and became Assistant Editor. She then shifted into freelancing, and spent 14 years writing for everyone from The Telegraph to The Sunday Times, Livingetc, Stylist and Woman & Home. She was then offered the job as Editor of Country Homes & Interiors, and now combines that role with writing for