How Current Events Affect Color and Decorating

September 18, 2008 § 20 Comments

For the past several years, post 9-11, we’ve cocooned in our homes painting them rich warm cozy colors like dark chocolate and rich rusty red, colors that evoke warmth and safety and home. Lately, we seem to be moving out of that intense color phase and into a new light phase with wall color being the first casualty. But I think we’re seeing more than just a design pendulum swing.

Those of us listening to clients and observing the trends are seeing a design fork in the road. One goes to neutral walls (there are millions of “whites” now) and pops of brightly colored hues, a la 1970s for those around then. One example of that is a spectacular room by HGTV’s color guru David Bromstad shown here.

The other is a move toward a palette of soft sophisticated hues all in very light values and all the same value from room to room. The hues may include grays (very hot this year) but also gray greens, warm beiges, light taupe and lavender, and very soft delicate colors that almost defy description. These breathless tints are paired with lots of white and often dark floors, like the photo below of one of designer Chris Barrett’s fabulous bedrooms.

My theory is that people are craving an uplifting light-filled, relaxed, decidedly happy-looking environment to come home to instead of the cozy dark cocoon look from years past. With everything awful in the news, from hurricanes to the stock market, people need visual relief if that’s all the relief they can get. And creating a light cheerful backdrop for the family may be one of the few things left under our control. And paint is relatively cheap when it comes to redecorating.

Note that in many traditional homes where antiques and fine furnishings are featured and where design trends come and go unnoticed, the wall color has always been creamy beige. Providing a very light neutral backdrop to show off all the wonderful items in the room is a traditional approach that will never go out of style. But for those of us who get inspired by color and who feel color and what it does for us and who change wall color almost as often as we refresh our wardrobes, I’ve had it with dark, at least for now. I need light and I’m off to buy primer. I’ll let you know how it goes.

§ 20 Responses to How Current Events Affect Color and Decorating

  • Pam says:

    Hi Barbara,
    I have a question about feature walls or mixing color in different rooms but with an open design.

    My home has an L shaped living room, dining room. At the southeast side of the L is a staircase that goes upstairs and the two interior walls of the L have doorways into the kitchen. Which walls can a paint a darker hue or different color? The windows are on the south wall and north wall (top end of the L).

  • bmeglis says:

    Hi Pam,

    Well, there are a couple of ways to go with the accent color. You can paint both interior walls, keeping all the outside walls a neutral color. Or you can paint the long wall (West) using that as your focal point. Either way will work as long as you have enough light. Sounds like you do.

    Hope that helps.

    Your Home & Color Coach

  • Candace says:

    Following Feng Shui Tips will get you the need results and change the emotions that are felt in all rooms.

  • Jean says:

    Oh, I couldn’t agree more with this posting; as my husband and I find ourselves having these very tendencies right now – soothing, more washed-out blue and green colors for our walls… almost beachy – for our own decor choices after our major home renovation. Along those lines, our home was actually renovated two years ago now and, due to our absolute exhaustion in making so many decisions at once – while also having a baby (our second child) during the whole process – we’ve just let the decor and finish work drag on far too long.

    Right now, one of our big decisions is what color to paint our new front door. We find it really sets the mood for us on our daily return home from work/school and entry into what should be our little family nest. The one that’s there now has been a beaten-up, white mess for years. We would love, love, love to go with a really glossy and yummy watery or hydrangea or softer periwinkle blue that is reminicent of a shade that you would see in maybe Nantucket or some beachy town. Friends of ours have a wonderful gray clapboard house with a fantastic mid-intensity periwinkle shade front door. It’s really exactly what I covet and I get such a wonderful feeling when I approach their front door and enter their home just because of that door.

    In our case, our already painted (and not-changing -anytime-soon) exterior paint color – which is a dusty greenish-gray – is proving to limit our door color choices. I have a photo of our home to send, but don’t think I can attach it hereto….and it’s quite difficult to opine on a front door color in this case without seeing our house color (which obviously dictates what is acceptable undertone colors and tones in any blues in consideration). I have also seen a photo of a yellow door with what looks to be our house color, and I can see how that could work and be a happy, positive color to come home to. Maybe that’s worth considering? I also know that we couldn’t go wrong with a glossy black or dark, dark blue that almost looks black – that this would look very smart and classic – but we were hoping for something happier than black and very dark colors. (Oh, and I should add that we’re definitely not interested in reds, although in a different neighborhood than ours, with earlier era homes, I could probably see a nice eggplant color working well with our exterior color.) We live in Maryland, just over the Washington, DC border.

    Oh, and our brand new front door (not yet hung) has a vertical double-row of four lites each going down the door (3/4s of the door is lites) with a recessed wooden panel at the bottom third and mailslot between the recessed panel and lites. So, the door has more glass than wood anyway, so less painted area. Hardware was already purchased (maybe short-sighted of us) and is oil-rubbed bronze (basically, dusty black). Thanks, in advance …and please instruct us on how we can send the photos to you. Thanks!

    Jean & Andrew

  • bmeglis says:

    Hi Jean (#4),

    I would love to see a photo of your house — I think I know exactly what you’re looking for but would love to make sure. You can either drop a link to a photo site (like Shutterfly) in this reply box or send an attachment to my email. The one that is least likely to get clogged up is Unlimited space there.

    I look forward to helping you find the perfect door color.

    Your Home & Color Coach

  • peggy says:

    I have questions about our house. If you can open these, please let me know!

  • Colors are part of our everyday lives and I agree that we could all use colors that will bring us some peace and relaxation. Being involved in color on a regular basis I find that most people hardly ever think of using colors on the walls.

    It seems that white is the color of choice for most and they wonder why their home is not a soothing or comfortable environment.

  • bmeglis says:

    Hi John (#6),

    Thanks for your comments. I totally agree. And thanks for helping to add color to people’s lives.

    Your Home & Color Coach

  • arie says:


    thanks for sharing

    I prefer like the bright color than traditional..

  • kim says:

    My daughter, age 9, LOVES the color turqoise. She wants to paint her room and make it a little more like a teenage room. She vibrant and loves to decorate. The room has bright white, thick trim around the windows with 6-panel white wood doors. What colors would you suggest? I’m nervous to choose the wrong turquoise and would rather one that’s not so dark or drastic but a compromise between that and a softer pallette.

  • bmeglis says:

    Hi kim,

    Sorry for the long delay. Hope you have returned. I think turquoise is a great room color for a girl approaching the teen years. But I can appreciate how you don’t want to tire of the color. Have a look at Ben Moore’s Tranquil blue 2051-50. I think it’s both sophisticated (for you) and fun enough (for your daughter. Mix with hot pink or orange accessories and lots of white and you both have a room you can love.

    Your Home & Color Coach

  • DD says:

    Great blog. I see you help a lot of people out, so we would like to help you out! Let us know if you ever need help with identifying Persian Rugs or Oriental Carpet designs. Keep up the awesome work 🙂

    • bmeglis says:

      Hi DD at,

      Thanks for visiting my site. And thank you for providing information about the mysterious world of rugs. I’m sure your service will be popular with decorators and homeowners alike. Good luck to you!

      Your Home & Color Coach

  • Julie says:

    Hi Barbara,

    I love the lavender walls in the Chris Barrett bedroom you have featured. Do you know what color that is? I’ve looked around a bit and can’t seem to find the right match.

    • bmeglis says:

      Hi Julie,

      I don’t know what Chris Barrett used on the bedroom walls in that photo, but have a look at Ben Moore’s feather soft (1431) or spring flowers (1430). You might get the same effect.

      Your Home & Color Coach

  • Debbie says:

    I have maple kitchen cabinets, black granite on counters and light oak floor. I keep wanting to paint it a light blue/purple or lavender. Is this a bad idea? Everything is so blonde and yellow looking. Any other color suggestion? I have a south facing window so nice and bright.


    • bmeglis says:

      Hi Debbie

      Violet Mist (1437) might be nice. A grayed down blue/lavender will give the room sophistication — nothing too bright.

      See what you think.

      Your Home & Color Coach

  • Jade says:

    Hi Barbara,

    I’m going to sell my house; since the windows and the siding are old, I’m replacing them, hoping for a better curb appeal. I’m really stuck about what color I should pick for the siding. Would you mind to give me some advice from home staging point of view?

    My roof is midnight blue, which looks black/dark grey/dark blue depending on the lighting. The concrete foundation is painted grayish blue (Sears 577-B2). I’ve also have a brick chimney. Since it has a slight crack, I had it repaired so it’s now covered with masonry coat, which is grey.

    The new vinyl windows will have the most common white frame. The siding is from Royal Crest. Since there are already quite a few houses in my area with linen or wicker color, I’m trying to stay away from these colors. At first I was going to go with beige, but then I see a green (called Cypress in Royal Crest color chart) that I like. However, most of the home staging advice has stated that I should consider what the potential buyers like, not what I like. Cypress will make the new white windows stands out, while beige seems to be the safer color. It’s just that the house on my left side has white siding, and house on the right has vintage cream siding. Beige may looks particularly bland between them? Or I should go with the trend, and pick linen type of color as well?

    Sorry for the longwinded question. I’ll really appreciate any help.



    • bmeglis says:

      Hi Jade,

      I responded to your email about the chimney and door and suggested that you paint the foundation a little more neutral color (gray/tan) instead of blue so it won’t stand out so much. Unless you have neighbors with the same sand colored siding (you mentioned white and cream), then I wouldn’t worry about keeping the sand color. It will appeal to everyone. Then you can add color with a couple of big pots of flowers by the front step and a warm door color. You should be all set. The green siding is nice, but I wouldn’t go out of your way to change the color. Especially since you’re selling.

      Good luck!

      Your Home & Color Coach

  • Jade says:

    Hi Barbara,

    I’ve sent pictures of my house to your email address

    I would like to paint the chimney and the door as well, and I’m also stuck on the color choices for them.

    I would appreciate any advice.

    Thanks so much.


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