How Do We Pick Colors?

May 23, 2018 § 1 Comment

We are attracted to colors that are pleasing to us, and nature provides the best inspiration. Color palettes are everywhere, but not everything we see is pleasing to the eye. Why do some colors whisper sweetly at us whereas others, when combined, seem to claw at each other for dominance?

As color enthusiasts, we are all familiar with the color wheel as the foundation of basic color theory and the resource for learning the characteristics of various colors (or “hues”) and which colors work together.

ColorWheel

Hue Value: Besides the obvious differences between the colors in this rainbow wheel, one of the easiest characteristics to see is the value (whether one color is lighter or darker than another). Color professionals and other color lovers know this, but just in case… if we look at the second ring in from the outside, we can see that moving toward the outside of the wheel (adding black) makes the hue darker (a shade of the original). Moving toward the center of the wheel (adding white) makes the hue lighter (a tone of the original color).

Color Clarity: The clarity, whether a color is Crayola-crayon clear or kind of muddy looking, is another color characteristic that contributes to our particular color taste and definitely influences which colors go together and which ones fight.

Clear colors are vibrant and are used not only in packaging and advertising because they attract so much attention but also in some modern decorating and architectural color schemes.

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On the other hand, the same color (green) when altered by mixing its opposite color with it becomes quieter and more subdued and can blend easily into a landscape. That’s why “grayed-down” colors work well on an exterior – at least for the siding (doors are a different story!).

TIP Mixing clear colors with grayed-down colors (especially if they’re in the same color family – say green) does not work. The clear color suddenly looks garish, and the grayed-down color suddenly looks dirty. It is probably one of the biggest decorating mistakes I see.

Undertone:  One of the hardest color characteristics to identify is a color’s undertone, but every neutral has one. And what may on its own look like a simple beige or gray may actually reveal another color (for example, pink, green, yellow) when placed next to another color (or white).

In large quantity (like a floor), either tile above might read “beige.” But the tile on the left has a pink undertone, and the one on the right has a green undertone. It is important to decipher the undertones particularly in carpet, counter, tile, and other materials and avoid mixing undertones when you add fabrics, paint, and furniture, and other surfaces. The kitchen below is an expensive mistake.

mixingundertones

There are whole books and courses on undertones alone. I refer you to Maria Killam who literally wrote the book on Undertones. Professional designers, decorators and color experts need to be very familiar with undertones before specifying color.

TIP Don’t Mix Undertones!

So How Do Colors Work Together Successfully?

Almost any color will look good by itself or mixed with white. But we don’t pick colors to stand alone most of the time. We choose color combinations. And that’s where the fun is – figuring out which color combinations work together and how to use each color effectively, whether you’re designing a magazine cover or a living room.

Using the color wheel again, here are some combinations:

A monochromatic color scheme is an easy way to decorate a room as it uses many different shades and tones of one color (hue) like you would find up and down a particular color strip in the fan deck.

TIP If you use a monochromatic color scheme, make sure that the clarity of the color is the same throughout. In the words of Maria Killam, “don’t mix clean with dirty.”

Complementary colors are opposites on the color wheel and they tend to have energy when they’re together. So using them in an application makes a big splash like on a magazine cover when you want it to leap off the shelf at you while you’re standing at the checkout counter.

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Complementary Colors

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More Complementary Colors

Analogous colors are side-by-side on the color wheel and tend to be either cool (blues and greens) or warm (red/orange/yellow).

Cool colors all used together actually create a calm feeling, and they are often used in high-stress settings like hospitals.

And what better color scheme when you want to generate warmth and draw customers into a hot coffee shop than to use analogous warm colors like pink and orange.

TIP When you are using an analogous color scheme, show those subtle color differences off by pairing with plenty of white! White makes colors pop!

Sharply contrasting colors like black and white provide the starkest contrast, but white with gray and a pop of vibrant neon can really look striking, both in packaging and in a room.

Neutrals are not always beiges and grays as you can see from this neutral living room, but they don’t always show up on a typical color wheel. Many of you may be in what we might refer to as the Gray Period of recent years (gray replaced beige of decades past as the neutral of choice).

TIP Add texture (nubby pillows, shiny metals, soft fabrics) if you decorate with a neutral color scheme to add visual interest in a room without a lot of color and contrast.

Whites — who knew — are so numerous that if you Google “shades of white” you get 982,000,000 results. So there are whites, and then there are WHITES. Unless you are painting an art museum interior, I suggest avoiding a chalky white for your wall color. That particular white is so vivid it practically glows in the dark.

TIP Choosing an off-white (a “white” that leans more toward a color like beige, gray, yellow, or blue) gets you more mileage and will age more gracefully than a pure toothpaste white.

Color trends may come and go, but it’s helpful to know why certain color schemes work and how to make adjustments in ones that don’t.

 

The World’s Favorite Color? Where Have I Been?

February 22, 2018 § Leave a comment

Late to the party here, but better late than never. At least that’s what I said to myself yesterday when I scrolled onto THIS beautiful hue and found out that it was crowned The World’s Favourite Colour.  No great surprise since it represents some of the world’s most exquisitely beautiful treasures like Bali — an island so gorgeous its name alone sounds relaxing.

Last summer there was a questionnaire sent out — ’round the globe, as it were — to find out which color appealed to the most people. (I totally missed it! Arrrgh!)

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“The competition organised by Hull 2017 UK City of Culture and paper merchant GF Smith invited people to select their favourite shade online by hovering over an infinite palette of shades with their mouse until they landed on the colour they found most appealing.” 

The winner was this rich teal that nature inspires and artists incorporate to capture the beauty that surrounds us. 

The closest paint color approximation I could find was a Duron Paints shade, Sea Sphinx. Sea Sphinx

But there were others:

There are plenty of other ways to introduce the color into your decor — window treatments, accessories, and more art, of course.

On an accent wall of Marrs Green, this art pops!

And so does this one!

Though I have blogged about “teal” before, I guess there’s a reason. It appeals to vast numbers of people worldwide. It is a little bit blue, yet a little bit green. It’s the warmest ocean color and a color that appears in natural gems and plant life. It is rejuvenating in all its forms.

It looks great with the full green/blue spectrum and all its values, and it forms a calm backdrop to pops of heat. Marrs Green — The World’s Favorite Color.

 

Color Inspiration is Everywhere

February 19, 2018 § 2 Comments

 

While scrolling through the interwebs today I bumped into this tweet from Architectural Digest  highlighting 20 cute items from Walmart. Okay, that I had to see. And I have to agree — there are lots of really “super cute things” that I had not noticed while shopping for cheap soap dispensers.

But the item that caught my eye and sent me off to color dreamland was a gorgeous ribbed glass bowl in the most deliciously subtle tones of green. It reminded me of the Farrow & Ball color palette — you know — those paint colors that look like velvet in shades and tones that no other paint company seems to match. There’s something about them (trade secrets, I suspect) that gives a room or a piece of furniture a hue that whispers sophistication. Not one of them will show up in a Crayola box.

 

 

 

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Cooking Apple Green No. 32

There are two obvious things that distinguish Farrow & Ball from other more mainstream paint lines: the number of colors (way fewer) and the price (way more). And although many home projects and palettes of colors might not be worth the extra expense because the subtle tonal difference or undertone might not be noticed, I find that the blues and greens in Farrow & Ball are far superior for their soft, sophisticated richness.

Maybe it’s the largess of their English roots (Farrow & Ball is located in the United Kingdom). Or maybe it’s the fewer number of perfect colors (only 132) so that every color decision is a successful one. Or the fact that the company has maintained its original formulation. Or maybe it’s the mystique. But whatever it is … I love it.

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What makes F&B different

Regardless of the paint line you prefer, keep your eyes open for color inspirations. They are everywhere — even Walmart.

Is Your House an EXtrovert? Paint It

February 15, 2018 § Leave a comment

In the next town over, there’s a purple house. And when I say purple, I mean PURple, but not just the front door as we see in the row house above, but also the siding, the trim, the doors, the shutters, and even the concrete foundation. The whole house is purple. (I would show you a photo of the house, but I don’t want to embarrass it.) The result is a house that draws everyone’s attention and not in a good way.

On the other hand, if your house is already an extrovert — one that has character and interesting features you want to show off in all their glory, then go ahead and use paint. This article from This Old House presents ideas for how to bring out the personality in your older home and shows not only colors that grab attention but also where to put them and which ones go beautifully together.

There are lots of ways to use color. This beachy turquoise, perfect for a cottage style home in a coastal community, uses one hue — a medium tone for the siding and a darker value for the shutters and door. White trim completes the cottagey look. The result is a house that displays its positive features without overdoing the palette. This strategy is especially good for a small house.

Dark colors are trending now, and this gray-brown ranch is a good example. But instead of keeping the whole house a quiet, conventional wallflower, the homeowner displays its cheerful personality with tangerine shutters, front door and striped awning. The white trim makes the colors “pop,” as we say, and you have a real looker!

Speaking of citrus, look how this bungalow shows off its architectural features with Juicy Fruit colors and — wait a minute — a lovely deep grape purple foundation. Now that works!

My favorite color combination, though, and perfect for this restored Italianate house, is terra cotta siding; a darker value for the window muntins, eave corbels, and column accents; a rich natural wood front door (and rocking chairs — nice touch); and cream gingerbread trim.

These are only a few ideas for how to embellish your older home with color. Spring outdoor projects are coming for many of us, and one of us at least has house color on her mind. Ha!

Think color, my Color Friends! And stay cozy.

 

 

 

Beat the Blues with a Beach Bathroom

January 30, 2018 § Leave a comment

Nothing quite like a beach scene to distract from the snowflakes drifting by my office window. So here I am scrolling through photos of the most beautiful beaches in the world and dreaming of what it would feel like to be barefoot in the sand. Arguably one of the most beautiful of all of nature’s color combinations, there is something healing about blues and greens together. Not a big surprise.

But the funny thing (to me) is that I find myself thumbing through the part of the fan deck that I rarely use — occasionally for kids rooms — the bright clear Crayola colors. Maybe it’s a reaction to years of neutrals and grays upon grays, but my eye and my spirit are drawn to the crystal clear hues that one encounters about three feet in as you wade into the water. That color.

The rest of the palette is just as lovely especially all together. Whether you pick one as the floor tile color and another, maybe in a lighter value, for the walls, the combinations for color placement are endless.

Add in the the sandy white for bathroom fixtures, and the other colors for art and accessories, and  voila.

A little splash of paradise in the privacy of your own home.

modern-bathroom

Houzz

 

 

But I Love Grandma’s Furniture

January 20, 2018 § Leave a comment

Furniture that has been in the family for generations (or as long as you can remember, at least) carries memories of sitting around Grandma’s dining room table during holiday dinners and enjoying family and food and all that goes with that. So of course you accept Grandma’s dining room set when presented. Okay, now what.

Designer Stephanie Lees shows us how to marry traditional (whether inherited or acquired some other way) and modern styling. Yes, the two can co-exist nicely together.

Color is the most obvious creative solution. The navy grasscloth walls in that dining room contrast elegantly with the traditional white wainscoting beneath the chair rail. Camouflaged there is a white lacquer cabinet that showcases more family treasures that frame out the modern artwork above.

The green curtain panels in an unfussy simple treatment dress the windows with a pop of color that is carried over to the back of the traditional wingback chair.  Wingbacks –whether old or new — are classic. But the modern fabric placement takes what might have been a studious, grownup, wingback chair and made it playful. Those bamboo side chairs — if not your grandmother’s then just like them — can be recovered very DIY with new coordinating fabric by unscrewing the seats, stapling fabric onto the seat bottoms, and screwing the seats back onto the chair. Instant update.

Another key update that sets a modern tone to the room is the contemporary rug, again keeping with the blue & white palette but staying clear of any traditional rug design. Random color placement in the rug keeps the room from looking too formal, and it is key to pulling off this style marriage.

But just short of replacing whatever shiny, old, yellow-brass light fixture might have hung from the ceiling before with a new contemporary brushed nickel version (gasp!), the designer opted for a vintage Italian chandelier in crystal. Dramatic, classic, and oh so stylish.

You’ve given us lots to think about, Stephanie, as we incorporate inherited pieces into our own homes. Thanks for the inspiration!

@StyleatHome, @YourColorCoach, stephanieleesdesign

 

 

 

Peach Makes a Splashy Comeback

January 16, 2018 § Leave a comment

Don’t we all love HGTV! It’s such a wonderful antidote from mind-numbing news shows. So it’s not a big surprise that again this year we wander through the fantasy of winning the HGTV Dream Home — this one on the coast of Washington State. Here’s the gallery.

What strikes me most is the wall color in the Guest Bedroom. Peach! It’s been so long since we have seen this color on the cutting edge, and I have to say, Welcome Back! Although many will call this color pink, and you know who you are, it’s on the orange side of the “pink” hue giving it a warmer feel than the bluer-pink, which can be quite chilly.

Peach, this one by Sherwin Williams, is not your clear tropical hue. Its calm sophisticated undertone makes it perfect for an adult bedroom as long as it’s paired with contrast that will give the room some weight, and pardon the expression, masculine vibe.

In this case the designer, Brian Patrick Flynn, chose navy blue to anchor the room not only with a beautiful upholstered headboard but also with art and accessories. He pulls in nautical elements to remind the homeowner, as if they need a reminder, that they can probably see that gorgeous color palette out their bedroom window as the sun sets over Puget Sound.

If you’re not into as much white as the designer has infused into this bedroom, you might add more wood tones in the furniture, much as he did with a dresser on the opposite side of the room. Adding wood elements will balance the light and airy peach, but truly the navy gives the room its updated palette.

Peach can also be introduced into a gray palette in your own home without harkening back to the 1980s. Like yellow, peach is a warm balance to a lot of heavy gray, a trend we are exiting. See this other post for what to do if you feel a bit stuck with too much gray.

In the mean time, welcome back to Peach. We’ll see how long you stick around this time!

 

 

 

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