Monday, January 19, 2009

It's Time To Come Home ~ Color

Now that we've discussed the applications available for your walls, let's look at colors - not only for use in those applications, but also in the other accessories you may bring into a room. It is not unusual to ask a client what colors they feel good wearing, because you can translate those same colors used in clothing lines into the home. Color is an emotional choice and chances are if you are happy wearing certain colors, or think you look good in certain colors, you will surround yourself with those colors in your home. Also look to accessories like pillows, bedding and area rugs for color inspiration.

Some of the color trends being seen in paint, wallpaper, fabric, bedding, accessories and furniture are:

Reds will be split between the strong blue based and yellow based hues.

Orange continues to show up with brown-downed shades, but also include a brighter tangerine and an updated coral.
Photo courtesy of Pottery Barn

Yellow will range from bright to antique golds.

Green continues to be widely used, in all hues, taking its influence from nature. Greens create a cool, calming feeling and give you that outdoor connection.

Blues are a constant. While robin's egg blues are declining a bit, there are softer tints of blue along with bold bright blues. The newer versions of navy are considered on the formal side.
Purple as more of a red based raspberry like hue, as opposed to the blue based purples that have been previously popular.

Brown is getting a little bit lighter with sand and tan colors. As with the greens, the nature inspired browns are still being used.

Long term, the trends are forecasting neutrals, the spa-like blues and nature based greens, although they are grayed-down and earthy.

Some basic color vocabulary includes the following terms:

Hue - Hue identifies the general family of a color, such as red, yellow, blue or green. The traditional color wheel is made up of 12 color families: red, red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, yellow, yellow-green, green, blue-green, blue, red-violet, violet and blue-violet.

Color Wheel - Colors on the opposite side of the wheel from each other are called complementary colors. In combination, these colors create striking contrasts. For less contrast choose colors next to each other on the color wheel.

Warm or Cool - Different colors in the same family may be described as "warm" or "cool". Colors with yellow undertones will seem warmer, while the same color with blue or red undertones will appear cool. Cool colors - blue, green, violet - invite relaxation and thought.
Warm colors - red, orange, yellow - encourage conversation and play.

Value - Value describes how light or dark a specific color may be. On color strips, lighter values are at the top, mid-tone value is in the middle and darker values are at the bottom. When you combine colors from a single color strip, you are creating a monochromatic color scheme - perfect for creating a sophisticated, spacious look in a single room.

For color, there are a few simple rules to keep in mind.

1. The most important aspect of selecting color is not so much "what matches what", but what colors make you feel comfortable in the space.

2. The fun part of adding color is how you can use it to showcase or correct architectural elements. You can change the visual perception of a room's size, shape and personality by the use of color. You can make a room seem larger, smaller, taller, shorter or even airy, all with color. For example, to make a small room seem larger, paint walls and ceiling the same color. To make a long, narrow room feel more square paint the end walls the same darker color and the side walls lighter. This will advance the end walls, which will make the room feel less bowling alley-like.

3. Dark colors do not necessarily make a room feel smaller. Rooms that are oversize or in need of more furniture will benefit from a deep warm color on the walls. It will give the room a feel of coziness and also completion. Damaged or flawed walls will look best when painted with a warm dark color, as they will absorb light helping to hide the imperfections. Do not use a glossy finish, as this will accentuate flaws. Dark colors also make for a great backdrop for an artwork collection.

4. Neutrals can create exciting and interesting spaces. Wide stripes in neutrals as opposed to narrow stripes in high contrast colors will make a space feel larger. The key is to eliminate strong contrast and excess visual starting and stopping points. Small rooms will feel larger by using the same color on the walls and ceilings. This eliminates a visual stopping and starting point, which give a room the illusion of size.

Photo courtesy of Thibaut
Once you think you've decided on a color or colors that you are considering for your room, it is best to purchase a sample and paint it on a sample board or a wall in the room itself. Each paint manufacturer now offers sample pots of their paints, and they range in price from $2.00-$5.00. Well worth the investment.

Another way you can bring color into your home is with accessories. Throw pillows are an inexpensive way to change out your decor and bring different colors into a neutral space. Consider repeating the color in your accent pillows to a nice, soft throw or other decorative items, like pictures, vases or floral arrangements.

Repetition of color represents a simple way to unite open concept spaces. Repeating the same hue throughout an open space is a simple way to join connecting areas. This can also be done with accessories.

Some other color tips:

Looking up - if a ceiling seems too high, and it would make the room cozier to bring it down a little, try using a color that's a shade or two darker than the wall color. To visually raise a ceiling, use a color that's a shade or two lighter than the wall color.

Looking for more - light colors and cool colors (blues, greens and purples) make a room seem larger. Try these colors in long narrow hallways or small bathrooms.

Looking for less - would be the opposite; dark colors and warm colors (reds, oranges and yellows) make surfaces pop out into a space.

This series of articles is intended for entertainment purposes. Any resources listed are not an endorsement, but resources I have researched personally and professionally for ideas, trends and client projects. I welcome comments, e-mails or questions about the articles, or even your own home d├ęcor dilemmas.

Photo courtesy Calico Corners
Copyright 2009 Kathy Passarette, Creative Home Expressions

Kathy Passarette and Creative Home Expressions are based on Long Island, New York, and offer interior decorating, home staging, interior redesign, color consultations and much more. Please visit our website at for more information on our services and fees.

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