Colour me happy - Q&A with Martha Roberts of The Colour File


Colour is the inspiration behind all we do here at Dilli Grey - how could it not be with the kalidescope of India at our fingertips?! We wrote about the incredible Bar Palladio last month; this week we are calling on another colour magpie, Martha Roberts, who we met at our Elizabeth Street pop-up a few months ago. We immediately found a mutual affinity for all things colour; Martha loved our jewel-colour brights and we loved her blog - The Colour File.

In a Q&A interview with Dilli Grey founder, Vickie, Martha fills us in on her life-long attraction to the brighter end of the spectrum and how India changed her colour DNA...

Vickie: So tell us a little bit about your background and where your love of colour stems from?

Martha: Colour matters to me so much that I can’t actually remember a time when it wasn’t the centre of my universe! Some of my earliest memories are colour memories, from my second birthday cake decorated with deep purple icing to scrabbling around on the floors of buses to collect glorious discarded multicoloured tickets on a trip to Guernsey when I was five. 

However, my art teacher told my mum at a parents’ evening that I wasn’t artistic, so any potential career involving colour was kind of mothballed from that point onwards (I went to music school instead). That didn’t stop me loving art, colour and interiors and I’ve always been a prolific collector of beautiful things, from car-boot sale jugs to bolts of fabric that I have no idea how I’m going to use but just HAVE to have! It was only when I started The Colour File last year that I finally had an outlet for my lifelong love of colour; firstly through the blog and then through my Psychologies column and my book, Shelfie, which is being published in July. It’s taken over 40 years for me to give colour its rightful place in my life but it’s better late than never!

What are your biggest colour influences?

My colour influences come from all sorts of places and scenarios but one of my biggest influences was staying in India for six months when I was 18. Anyone who has ever been to India will understand how significant a place it is for people who adore colour. From the moment I got off the plane, I was struck by how crazily, mesmerisingly colourful it was. Every day I was there I couldn’t believe my luck at being able to spend time in such a magical, colour-filled place. I’m convinced it changed my DNA in some way, putting colour-love at the forefront of everything from that point onwards. I’d always loved interesting colour combinations anyway but being in India made me see how colours sing most strongly when they are together, especially when they clash (pink and red, orange and red, red and yellow, or all of these in combination). India wantonly flings colours together, breaking rules but getting away with it and it’s this brave, maverick approach that has informed my own approach to colour. The other thing that was born out of my India trip was my love of faded colours – pretty much all my clothes ended up faded after drying on a washing line in the baking Indian sun and I fell in love with the look. I often buy faded objects now, like old samplers or vintage tablecloths, which have been rejected by their previous owners for the very reason that the colours aren’t ‘true’ anymore. The pastel-coloured logo of The Colour File is influenced by my love of faded things. 

We find that colour has a powerful impact on our clients when they see our colour palettes and collections often quoting that they make them feel really happy or realy calm and relaxed. In your colour column for psychologies magazine this comment on colour must resonate, what are your thoughts on colour psychology?

Colour psychology is fascinating - what interests me is that on the one hand there are studies that show very definite human reactions to colours (like the lowering of heart rates in inmates exposed to Baker-Miller pink paint in a correctional facility in the 1950s and studies that relate colour psychology to buying habits) but on the other hand it’s utterly subjective. For example, although we may instinctively see blue as a ‘sad’ colour, the fact is that one person’s ‘unhappy blue’ can be another person’s ‘inspirational blue’. Our views often have a cultural link or a very personal one (such as the colour of our school uniform). I think this is so liberating. From where I’m standing, the lack of ‘rules’ is basically permission to like what colours you like, to avoid what you don’t and to not have to make any excuses either way! It’s fantastic that Dilli Grey’s clients are so connected to how your products make them feel. I think this visceral reaction – the kind that makes you grab your heart with joy – is what colour should invoke and you’re clearly getting it right.

So much of our colour influence at Dilli Grey comes from travel and exploring new places. Are there any colour experiences you are keen to have...

What a great question and it’s really got me thinking…Many people travel to see beauty and colour in nature but one of the things I love the most is seeing colour in manmade constructs, whether it’s graffiti, art, fabric or architecture (I loved going to Miami and seeing the pastel-coloured Art Deco buildings). As a result, the places I most want to visit are likely to be those filled with manmade colour, like south and central America. I’d also love to go to see fabric being dyed with natural dyes in Guatemala (I wrote a blog on The Colour File all about it) and of course I am absolutely dying to get back to India. It’s been WAY too long and my DNA is crying out for it! There is talk of me taking a trip to the subcontinent with Dilli Grey’s Vickie…so watch this space…

A colour collboration! We can't wait!

Thank you Martha, If you don't follow Martha over on Instagram, do. Her posts are just the mood-lifting pop of colour we all need in our feed.

Talking of all things colour - our new clutches are arriving at Dilli Grey HQ next week, here's a sneak peek - stay tuned on Instagram and get ready to snap them up, they're limited edition!


1 comment


  • elle

    I love all these, but I think my favourite is the 2nd one down! :)


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