Years ago, when I was teaching Art History to my interior design students at the Willsey Institute, we’d visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art to view the various historical furniture styles. As the executive director, I had made this field trip part of the course curriculum because of its visual impact.
Color can make that big a difference for good or not. It takes courage to use color if you have always been a neutral person. Badly used colors can destroy the unity of a room. The trick is to make color work for you. Each should blend with and increase the effectiveness of the others and most important, they should be colors that you can live with for the long haul. That’s the difference between the world of fashion design and home decor. You have this “in”, colorful, eye catching outfit that makes you look and feel great. Would you wear it every day? How long before you’d get tired of it? The good news is you can wear it as often as you like and then go to your closet and put on something else.
In your home, what is “in” today will surely be “out” tomorrow. Colors are cyclical. How else would the industry get you to buy new products? So – the obvious solution for most people has been to choose white, off white or beige colors because they are “safe”. But the trend today is to use more substantive color on the walls, so even these neutrals have become outdated. There is, however, a middle ground. Sages, greys, golds and deeper tans have now become “neutral”. Contrasted against white (I like Benjamin Moore Dove White 06), for architectural trim such as doors, frames, wainscoting, and decorators white for ceiling, they can be extremely effective and timeless.
Color choices are hard for most people and affect every public space in the house in many homes with an open floor plan and rooms visible to one another. Colors need not be repetitive, but should flow. Since color choices number in the hundreds, if not thousands, how do you choose?
I always chuckle when people come to me for advice about picking a paint color when nothing else is selected. You literally paint yourself into a corner when you do that. As a designer, I generally begin with the area rugs or patterned carpets. Select fabrics in colors and patterns that coordinate, for furniture and window treatments, and then choose paint colors. For the do it-yourselfer, this method narrows the field of choices and makes it significantly easier.
If you’re working with existing furniture, make that your starting point. Pull a major color out of the fabric that pleases you. Get paint swatches and select a tint or shade in that color family. If you have trouble visualizing how it will look, buy the smallest amount you can and paint it on one wall. Live with if for a day or two before you call in the painters.
And always choose colors that make you feel good. Don’t be afraid to be a little daring. Have the confidence to make a statement’ but don’t go crazy with fads. If you think of color like seasoning on food, you can add a little spice to your life and your home at the same time.
Here’s a short color glossary to know what the pros are talking about:
- Hue – the name of a color
- Value, Tone, or tonal value – The degree of lightness or darkness of a color
- Tints – softer, lighter tones made by mixing colors with white
- Shades – deeper, darker tones made by mixing colors with black
- Intensity, chromatic intensity or chroma – the degree of brightness or dullness of a color
- Luminosity – the degree of light-giving potential of color.