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.

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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.

 

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.

SW Color of the Year 2017

September 2, 2016 § 4 Comments

poised taupe SW 6039OKay then! If you hang around long enough…(as they say…)

Taupe is back. The color we’ve spent the last decade ridding our houses of is now Sherwin Williams’ Color of the Year for 2017. Poised Taupe is the color — SW 6039 — and you have to love the description:

“Earthen brown combines with conservative grey and the result is a weathered, woodsy and complex neutral that celebrates the imperfections and authenticity of a well-lived life.” — Anytime somebody celebrates imperfections, I’m in!

But here’s what you should know about taupe. It can change radically with the light and the time of day. What looks a little brown can turn pink, purple, or green depending not only on the time of day but also on the lightbulb. Just so you know. Taupe can have a pink undertone as well that clashes horribly with the orange of a red oak hardwood floor. Another caution. But paired with white like its fan deck sibling Gauzy White SW 6035, a silver metal (not gold or brass), hardwood with a gray undertone, and fabrics in other light neutrals with a pink undertone like Cultured Pearl SW 6028, and you truly have a soft, restful combination that harkens back to those glorious. taupe-filled 50s. That’s 1950s!

Personally, I’m going to ride this one out, but I can appreciate how we’re moving from the grays into the taupes (without the yellow undertone of a previous color swing). Like I tell my clients, just because it’s the Color of the Year does not mean it’s perfect for your house. If you are considering taupe, make sure you have a lot of natural light coming in the window and (hopefully) some modern furnishings, shiny metals and glass. Try to avoid pairing with cherry wood. If you have concerns, talk to me!

Meanwhile, let’s get painting.

Choosing a Siding Color to Coordinate with Brick

March 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

YellowwithbrickWhere a particular hue sits on the color wheel can make a world of difference when it comes to choosing house colors. Especially if you’re trying to coordinate the color with another material, like brick.

In this example, one yellow leans toward orange. The other one leans toward green.

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I don’t think I need to say any more.

It’s the House Color, Not Your Dining Room Curtains

February 28, 2013 § 2 Comments

brownhouseSometimes the best house color is one you might skip right over in the fan deck. Like this one: most likely Ben Moore’s Livingston Gold HC-16, a dark mustard-like brown with a definite green undertone. The kind of color you don’t want to see if you’re feeling queazy.

Although you probably would not choose this color for an interior room (for the reasons mentioned above), what a great house color for this old farmhouse with attached garage in natural cedar shakes. The combo is terrific — earthy, aged, and plucked from nature’s rock and wood palette of colors.

I slammed on the brakes to take a photo.

What’s All the Buzz about Undertones?

December 28, 2012 § 5 Comments

Determining a beige color undertone (defined by color expert Maria Killam as “a colour applied under or seen through another colour”) can be tricky. Beige can have one of several undertones: pink, yellow, or green are the basics. If you have dining room furniture with a decidedly yellow/orange hue and walls with a pink undertone like Benjamin Moore’s Georgetown Pink Beige HC-56, then yikes, you have a problem. Off to the paint store.

Bottom Line: Mixing pink-beige with yellow-beige (or yellow/orange) is a big no-no. Fix: Choose a paint with a different (non-pink) undertone like Benjamin Moore’s Monroe Bisque HC-26 that has a yellow undertone and looks great with the golden oak.

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If you avoid the mistake of mixing pink and yellow undertones, you’re on your way to understanding them. The other nuances of what undertones to mix and not to mix will come much easier. Note: Mixing pink and yellow vibrant hues is perfectly okay. It’s just the dreaded undertones that can trip you up. Beware.

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