09/16/2013 11:59 EDT | Updated 11/16/2013 05:12 EST

Sarah Richardson shares three tips for picking, mixing and matching hues in decor

TORONTO - With a love of paisleys and an affinity for mixing florals and stripes, Sarah Richardson has plenty of passion for prints which often accent rooms she helps refurbish.

The designer has brought her own distinct imprint to a new collection of about 70 fabrics for Kravet, which manufactures fabrics sold to the trade — a project two years in the making she described as a "huge dream come true."

"What I love about fabric is it covers all the surfaces," said Richardson, host of the new HGTV Canada series "Real Potential" which premieres on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET. "It's what you sit on. It's what you touch and it's what you interact with every day.

"Anyone who knows my work knows I love patterns and prints and combining a collection of different fabrics together," she added.

"My goal in creating the fabric line was to create something that would allow people to easily mix and match fabrics — to get my signature look in their homes without needing to hire me or any of my design team."

For individuals looking to refresh their decor heading into fall, Richardson shares tips for selecting the right hues and ways to pair fabrics and colours within a designated space.

1. Determine your design esthetic. When it comes to decorating a space, Richardson said people often ask what the best way is to create a "jumping off point" for a room.

For those ready to make the leap, she recommended finding a fabric which appeals to their individual style sensibility. This can not only help to narrow the focus on choosing the right hue, but can also help to drive decor direction in the rest of the space, such as those who may be looking to drench walls or coverings in a fresh colour.

"I always think that you should zone in and see if you like the colours," Richardson said.

"If you like the way a fabric looks, you can extract the colours that you find in that fabric and you can match them to paint swatches. Instantly, you have a paint palette that's ready to be applied to your walls that you know is going to work together because they go together in the actual piece of fabric."

Richardson said she always strives to balance comtemporary and traditional elements within each room she designs, a mantra she applies in selecting fabrics featuring contrasting styles within a shared space.

"I look to balance masculine and feminine in terms of bringing two people in a house together so that everybody's represented in each and every room," she said. "A more simple and masculine stripe with a prettier floral would be a prettier look that I would try and approach."

2. Opt for a neutral foundation. Richardson said selecting a combination of neutrals as a base for large-scale furnishings is safe, classic and timeless.

"You know you can live with it. It's not like doing a hot pink sofa that you know you may not love next year."

Richardson said there has been a shift away from beige, oatmeal and flax-toned hues as the prime neutrals. Heading into fall, expect to see grey emerge as the big colour and neutral alternative, she added. Richardson recommended pairing the smoky shade with soft yellow for a "fresher take" on neutrals, mixing cool and warm colours within the room.

"I tend to look to the natural landscape for all of my inspiration for palettes and for combinations," said Richardson.

"If you think of the colour of hay in a field or the colour of sunshine or the colour of clay, those are all warm, earth-toned elements. Then think of the cool elements. Think about water, think about the sky, think about the colour of rain, fog, snow, stone, rock. That's how I differentiate the palettes.

"I think if you can train your eye to see in terms of your natural world, it allows you to create a slightly more subdued palette that is livable, adaptable and definitely something that will stand the test of time."

3. Select a standout colour. Primed to add colour to help enliven staid surroundings? By keeping big-ticket items like chairs, sofas, drapes and any other items with longevity in neutral hues, Richardson recommended opting for a lone hue as an accent to inject into the room.

"Don't try to add a rainbow," she said. "Choose one colour that you want to add to layer in to bring your neutral palette to life and you've made a great dynamic statement. Should you change your mind, if all you've done is introduce it in small accessories, keep your neutral palette.

"Next year, maybe you want soft yellows. Maybe you want a vibrant blue. Anything can be added if you start with a neutral foundation," she added. "If you start with a bold colour, you can't say the same thing."