I once had a Geography teacher called Olive Myrtle Searles; as the adage goes, you always remember a good teacher. She was short, round and seriously old school in her authentic passion for her subject. Our classes would be accompanied by personal slides of her trips around the world, interrupted occasionally with embarrassed giggles as “Oh, here’s me in front of the pyramids, that shouldn’t be in here!” punctuated proceedings. Or “Oops, here I am again in the Australian outback!” To this day I remember ridiculous amounts of random facts about the various countries of South America, not to forget the finer points of coffee farming in Brazil, thanks to her enthusiastic teaching. Why do I mention all of this? Because somehow, my geography teacher couldn’t have been called anything other than Olive. It’s a word, a name, a colour that carries with it an inherent sense of seriousness, commitment and gravitas. Olive means business. Employ it haphazardly at your peril.
As a colour olive green has a timeless, eternal quality to it. It doesn’t shout for attention, rather, it takes a quiet, confident stance that’s reassuring in its solidity. And, perhaps because of its long-standing associations with khaki army fatigues, it also embodies a very practical dimension.
A cool and casual hue with an in-built sense of the outdoors, olive is not as formal as navy, nor as sophisticated as grey, and yet I feel it falls somewhere in between these two hues. As such, it works extremely well with both of those shades. Navy adds a cool crispness to any scheme that features olive, while grey would confer a dose of smart chic. Caveat: Olive on its own can become too heavy. It needs something to lift it and add an element of surprise. Palest pink or even a pale turquoise would certainly lend a contrasting yet complementary lift. And of course there’s always white, guaranteed to suggest a balancing swathe of calm. However, too much white, or too little olive with white, could result in rooms that feel too cold. In other words, olive is a colour that requires, nay expects, a certain investment in it, it seldom works its magic if used half-heartedly.