Colour conversation with Helen Venables, MD, House of Colour
Helen Venables had her colours analysed 20 years ago and knew instantly she wanted to use colour and style to empower women. Now the managing director of House of Colour, she talks here about her ‘amazing journey’ and the power of colour to transform lives
When was your first introduction to colour analysis and what led you to become head of House of Colour?
I came across House of Colour over 20 years ago when I was deep in postnatal depression. I had completely lost my way and believe it or not having my colours analysed was the turning point and the start of my recovery. From that time, I knew I wanted to use Colour and Style to empower women, in particular, and sometimes the stars just align, don’t they? I was offered the opportunity to train with House of Colour as a consultant and was quickly very successful. The passion I had drove my business. Later I was offered the opportunity to buy the business from the retiring Directors with some colleagues, I jumped at it. It’s an amazing journey and a steep learning curve.
How has knowing your best colours changed your life?
Well it’s actually had a profound effect as well as bringing a lot of fun! Knowing you look your best without having to think about it is liberating and regularly receiving compliments from complete strangers is always a nice surprise. But the deeper benefits come from an increased sense of confidence. It’s totally transformed the way I look at the world and my place in it. I used to be really insecure, but that has turned around completely. Knowing I make great choices every day about how I show up in the world means I don’t spend any energy thinking ‘Do I look ok?’ It has also saved me SO much money! Everything I buy to wear goes with everything already in my wardrobe so it’s a virtuous circle and SO easy.
Can you describe a typical day?
I’m lucky enough to not have a typical day. My working life is really varied. I work out of House of Colour’s HQ facility on a beautiful landscaped business park with a great team. I might be interviewing prospective candidates to join us as new consultants. I am still involved in delivering our world class training, which I love. I see clients and deal with customer satisfaction. We are accredited by Investors in People to the Gold standard and are providers of Training Excellence with the Professional Development Consortium so I may be working on ensuring our standards are met at every level of the business. I record video blogs for internal and external communications and write and/or review material for our PR consultant. I might be out and about involved in PR activities – Radio 4 or the Sunday Telegraph for instance. So, there is literally never a dull moment! It suits me perfectly and I consider myself very lucky.
When was your earliest colour memory?
I can clearly remember the terracotta tiles on the floor of my parent’s mews cottage and we left that house when I was 2.
How does colour make you feel?
I have always loved colour and it makes me feel alive. I enjoy using the different colours from my Spring palette to change the way I present myself. Bright navy and dove grey feel formal and sophisticated and I love adding a touch of coral or corn yellow to that look. Geranium pinks combined with banana and mint always make me feel feminine. My reds are fun and give me energy whilst anything from the bluey, greeny, turquoise end of my palette makes me feel free and ready to take on the world.
How much is your seasonal palette reflected in your home?
My husband is an Autumn and without knowing it he feels very strongly about choosing Autumn colours for the home. I find it easy to live in and I bring Spring touches with cushions, blinds and pictures. Our bedroom curtains were the only thing we’ve seriously argued about – he wanted deep Kingfisher and I wanted a light, bright spring Aqua – we found a beautiful dupion silk which changed from one to the other depending on the way the light hits it!
Are there any colours you particularly dislike?
I used to struggle with mauve, but I have seen so many individuals look so amazing in every colour that it has changed that. Every colour has the potential to make someone really shine and I love that.
What advice do you have for women considering colour analysis for the first time?
Come with an open mind ready to discover something wonderful. We are all born with a subjective preference for our own colouring but this can get eroded as we go through life. Our mothers dress us in their favourite colours and as we grow up, shopping with girlfriends or sisters, we end up buying the colours they like. It can mean that we lose our own sense of what really suits us and at colour analysis we rediscover this. It's lovely but does sometimes mean a change which we can find challenging.
Helen analyses Annabel Simons from the Country Wives website - a Summer!
You’ll have lots of inspiring stories of how consultants have helped women change their lives but do any stand out for you?
I clearly remember a client who during her colour analysis we discovered was an Autumn. As I rated all the different Autumn colours on her, we got to Kingfisher - a lovely Teal colour, and the 2 other women in the session and I all gasped ‘You look beautiful!’ All in chorus as if we had rehearsed it. It was just one of those extraordinary moments. My client dissolved into tears but that Kingfisher drape was the start of a journey that led her to having counselling for deep seated issues around her self-esteem. She had never been able to accept she was a beautiful woman and that moment confronted her with it in a way she couldn’t avoid. The power of colour!
Who do you think wears colour well in the public eye?
I’ve often thought Helen Mirren looks great! (Here wearing Summer colours!)
What’s the secret to looking good after 50?
Without question start with the right colours. Get them professionally analysed so you are confident you understand the right palette for you. Make sure you wear make-up in line with your natural colouring and review what you do with your make up regularly. As we age we need not to get stuck in a rut or we look outdated without realising it. Our skin also changes as we go through the menopause and we may well need a different formula for our foundation. I can no longer wear a mineral based powder but a BB Cream is now perfect for me. A fabulous hair cut is vital and making a positive decision about whether to go grey or not will help your confidence too. As our body shape changes, it’s really important to understand your personal style – House of Colour does this too – so you know how, not only to dress your body, but also to express who you are. Last top tip: always wear the right colour lipstick. As we fade we need to bring the visual interest back in to stay visible and gorgeous!
If you had to pinpoint your favourite colour, what would it be?
That’s easy…. Turquoise. I have always loved it, it has always made me feel free and it just happens to be one of the very best colours on me.