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.

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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.

 

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.

 

 

 

Pink Doors and Why They Work

February 5, 2018 § Leave a comment

pinkdoor

Pink — a trend we’ve been watching for the past couple of years — is no longer labeled, as my mother used to say, SS&G (sweet, simple, and “girlish”). On the contrary. The color keeps popping up with some staying power, and where it has grabbed my attention the most is at the front door.

This Pleasant Pink by Benjamin Moore is a comfortably sophisticated hue that blends rose with peach and a touch of gray undertone that keeps it from looking too bubble-gummy or baby’s room. Antique brass metal hardware (as on the London door above) will give the color an aged quality that keeps it from looking too trendy.

Why does pink work so well as a door color? Because it compliments many exterior house colors and coordinates with pinks and whites and purples in the landscape plantings. Here are a few ideas:

Behr’s Road Less Traveled from the 2018 palette is a soft mushroomy gray brown that coordinates nicely with stone walls and wooded environs and looks fabulous with white trim and a pink door. And although cherry blossoms do not last very long, for a few weeks out of the year your house will have traffic slowing down to take photos.

Another house color that looks great with a pink door is gray– it’s a classic combination. This gray, Benjamin Moore’s Stormy Monday, paired with pink creates a quiet traditional combo whose matched undertones make the marriage work. Pink perennials in the yard draw your eye to the coordinating front door.

Three other colors paired with pink create quite the wow factor and a stunning bush of pink lilacs ties the whole look together.

Charcoal Bluea Sherwin Williams color, offers the most drama. Not for everyone, but a dark navy house can be very striking, and the softness of the pink door creates a balanced look paired with silver-toned metal door accessories.

Farrow & Ball’s Slipper Satin is a gorgeous color to paint both siding and trim. Paired with a pink door and a dark brown porch deck and oil-rubbed bronze accessories, you’ve got your drama.

Finally, we have a dark charcoal, Glidden’s Flagstone Grey, that also coordinates well with stonework and contrasts beautifully with pink.

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As you contemplate freshening up your home’s exterior this Spring, see if a glossy pink door with fresh hardware might be the answer to enhanced curb appeal. If you change out the door hardware, don’t forget to match the porch light– an inexpensive upgrade that can make a huge difference. Add a fresh door mat and pot of pink annuals on the porch step and brace yourself for compliments.

Happy Thinking-About-Spring Day, Everybody.

 

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.

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Houzz

 

 

Creating Colorful Curb Appeal

January 23, 2018 § 2 Comments

Need curb appeal?? Well, this remarkable ranch re-do will show you how some strategic changes to the front of a rather ho-hum house can make a huge impact, and if you’re planning on selling anytime soon, pay attention. There are some quick easy fixes that may apply to you.

Here is the Before shot: faded vinyl siding, old aluminum windows, dated storm door, dirty white shutters, old iron stair railing, and tree overgrowth. Have you seen a million houses like this one? Yup. Me too. Not exactly a head-turner.

Laurel LaBauve at SoPo Cottage addressed the front facade with a new porch portico. Adding dimension to the front face of the ranch made a huge difference and created a cottage style instantly. She could have stopped there, but onward to new windows (fresh, white, two-over-two) that brought more light into the house and gave it a cute, vintage, styled look. Excellent choice!

Next up? The vinyl siding. Why does the after vinyl look so terrific? Laurel revealed her secret: something called Vinyl Renu, a product that, Laurel reports, brings new life to the color and sheen and is supposed to last 10 years! I’m in! What a difference. If your house has vinyl siding and it needs a refresh, here’s the stuff.

Switching the shutters to black board-and-batten was another great cottagey move. If they’re vinyl, you fooled me. Note: Leaving the brand new windows bare with no shutters would not have been a bad thing. A little more contemporary. But the contrast of the black with the light blue siding and white trim is sharp, and the house looks finished.

Then there’s the front door color. Yellow. One of my faves as it sings Happy House as you walk up the front steps. And the coordinating flowers in the new window boxes (also a cottage style fun-to-have) pull the whole look together. (If you need color help, let me know!)

Even if there is no budget for major changes, here are a few easy fixes that will still make a big difference in your home’s curb appeal. Take-aways for home sellers:

  1. Trim the trees back so that the house is free of branches and there’s a clear view of the house from the approach. Pay attention to the landscaping, weeding, and overgrown bushes. It’s amazing what a little green thumb elbow grease will do.
  2. Rev up the vinyl siding with Vinyl Renu to give the color a fresh look.
  3. Add shutters if there’s room and particularly if the house is a light color. Black will give the house a dressed-up and polished curb appeal.
  4. Add coordinating accessories like porch lighting and a mailbox.
  5. Paint the front door a warm contrasting color and tie in the landscape (annuals, flowering shrubs) and any outdoor accessories like Adirondack chairs or deck furniture.

Click here to see how the INside was transformed. Bravo! Laurel, you are quite an inspiration.

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!

 

 

 

Balancing Color, Pattern, and Neutral

August 21, 2017 § Leave a comment

wm-james-carriere-martha-angus-katie-mccaffrey-breakfast-nook-0917Breakfast Nook

There is so much to love about this breakfast nook (designed by Martha Angus and Katie McCaffrey), I’m going to dive right in.

What’s to Love?

-The light gray walls. By staying with a light cool neutral on the wall color, you allow the pops of warm vibrant color to do just that: pop.

-The simple breakfast nook construction in the same wall color. What happens? The banquette disappears making the room look bigger and less chopped up.

-The wood floor. No doubt it carries throughout the public space making the whole house feel open and unified.

-The table from Paris (yeah, I know). The point is that the table is a unique piece and it’s not only functional but a conversation piece and a memory back to a really nice trip.

-The black and white print. Sure, you can add a vibrant picture there, but the neutral wall hanging allows the colors to take center stage. And they do.

-The yellow leather cushion. It’s yellow but in a fabric that’s easy to wipe up. Essential.

-And those pillows! In colors that coordinate with each other but refuse to look matchy-matchy. (And you just know that the rest of the house pulls colors from that lovely summer palette.)

Take Home Message:

If you want to show off color (or many colors), don’t overdo it. Leave spots empty and devoid of pattern for the eye to rest. And pick a palette of colors (5 is a good number) that you can carry throughout the house in various ways — wall color, furniture, art. The result will be a home that is balanced, unified, has flow from room to room, and that makes you happy every time you open the door.

 

 

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