HOME COLORS FOR A BETTER EVERYDAY LIFE
You may not even be aware of it, but color impacts you every day. Imagine yourself sitting on a beach, watching the sea wash upon the sand. The cool hue of the water conveys a refreshing and relaxing feeling. Likewise, while sitting on that same beach, imagine the sun shining brightly—and the warming effect that it has.
But if color is influential in everyday life, it’s even more so in the home, where you’re surrounded by the same influences day after day. In no time at all, you come to associate a soothing blue bedroom with a calming retreat at the end of each day, a bright yellow kitchen with a cheery space in which to start the next.
There are, however, no longer any hard-and-fast rules for colors in certain spaces. Nurseries aren’t restricted to pastels any more than libraries are to hunter green. Instead, it’s more important to establish a color scheme that you’re comfortable with. (Here’s a hint: If you’re comfortable wearing a particular color, you’ll probably be comfortable living with it, too.) And, even then, the tints and shades you choose can play an important role in expressing your personal style. In a traditional residence, for instance, a pink nursery may be decked out in soft, pastel shades, while in more contemporary quarters, that pink may take on an intense, vibrant quality. And in a country-style scheme, it might shift to a rose-colored hue. In the end, it all comes down to comfort—from a visual point of view.
PICKING A PALETTE
Picking a room’s color palette can be intimidating. After all, you have more than the colors of the rainbow to choose from; there are all those tints and shades in between the primary hues. Need proof? Try going to the paint store and simply asking for “white.” You’ll find an entire collection of whites to choose from, ranging from those that have a warm, cream-colored cast to cool versions that have a frosty air.
To make color decisions less daunting, look around your room for some clues. Is there a favorite work of art that will be the focal point of the room? Or, perhaps, an heirloom rug? If so, use that focal-point object as inspiration, pulling colors out of it to spread around the room. On the other hand, if you’re starting from scratch, you might begin with your favorite color, then build on it just as you would a fashion ensemble. Creating a well-dressed home is, after all, no different.
When it comes to color combinations, there are definite classics. Blue-and-white, for instance, is a traditional favorite. But, to give blue a contemporary edge, pair it with bright lemon yellow or lime green. Or, for a country-style room, how about a denim blue hue complemented by the burnt orange typically found in the topstitching of jeans?
If you need inspiration for your own color combos, look no further than Mother Nature herself—the spring green of leaves with the browns of tree bark or the variegated shades of blue as you look from the water’s edge out to sea. Many of today’s manufacturers have made mixing colors a snap, too. Fabrics, for instance, often come in precoordinated collections that take the guesswork out of combining colors and patterns.
RED AND GREEN: VARIATIONS ON A SCHEME
SETTING THE MOOD
The mood-setting capabilities of color can be powerful. A bright tangerine exudes excitement, while a soft lavender is inevitably soothing. In fact, every color of the rainbow conveys some kind of mood. But, even within a single hue, various tints and shades can have completely different effects. A bold kelly green, for instance, can have a contemporary feeling, while a soft mint is typically more quiet and reserved.
Before putting your room in a particular mood, give careful thought to how the space will be used. Is it for working or resting? One requires energetic colors, while the other calls for more soothing hues. Is it public or private? For the former, you might want to use hues that will make most guests comfortable; bright colors, for instance, create a cheerful feeling. In private quarters, however, you can make more of a personal statement. The sky’s the limit!
Living and dining rooms are the most public spaces in any home. They’re where you entertain family and friends, be it small get-togethers or large reunions. Neutrals are comforting to almost everyone, from shades of cream and beige to bold black and white—even certain shades of green.
But don’t rule out the possibility of more colorful hues. Pale pinks and peaches (sometimes referred to as “cosmetic colors” because, like makeup, they complement the skin tones of those in the room) can be good choices in formal living rooms. Likewise, a deep red can work well in a dining room; this passionate, powerful hue stimulates conversation as well as the appetite.
Certain colors are restful and relaxing, but those aren’t the ones best suited for working spaces. Think about it: It’s ill-advised to nod off during a conference call in your home office and downright dangerous to fall asleep while stirring a pot on the kitchen stove. Instead, opt for hues that are energizing, ones that will enliven the atmosphere.
Good choices are shades that are intense in value, such as lemon yellow and cherry red or—if you’re courageous with color—lime green, even citrus orange. By the same token, contrasting tones can be stimulating, even something as simple as black, or any vivid color, coupled with white.
Cool colors—blue, green, and purple—are soothing by nature, particularly in subdued hues. For that matter, neutrals are soothing, too. But that’s by no means the extent of shades that can create an appropriately relaxing atmosphere in the bedroom. Consider pastels, for instance. If they’re apropos in a baby’s nursery, why not in a grownup’s retreat, too? Perhaps not juvenile pinks and blues but, instead, more sophisticated shades of peach and lavender? On the other hand, colors such as golden yellow and rosy pink can blanket a bedroom with an extra layer of warmth. In short, choose any color that’s comforting to you, and then take it to its most relaxing level.
There’s virtually no end to the number of ways that color can be incorporated into a room. You may, for instance, choose to use your room as a canvas, wrapping the walls in white or another pale neutral and doing the same with the major pieces of furniture. Then, add accent colors in rugs, window treatments, and decorative pillows—changing them just as often as the mood strikes. Or take the next step and keep neutral hues on the wall but add color in the form of a sofa and chairs.
If you have a passion for color, you may opt to drench a room from floor to ceiling, painting the walls as well as the ceiling. Or you might wrap a room with an eye-popping pattern. It all depends on your personal comfort level with color. One thing’s for sure, though: As your passion for color grows, your confidence level will, too.
It may be a floral-strewn sofa. Or a paisley covered chair. Even a brown leather ottoman does its part to bring color into a room via furniture. In fact, a favorite piece, whether it’s a new purchase or something that’s been in the family for years, can be the perfect springboard for an entire color scheme. Just be sure to balance the hues throughout the room. From that floral-strewn sofa, for instance, you may want to pull out the green accent color of the leaves, using it liberally in window treatments or floor coverings. Or offset it with generous doses of white. If, however, your focal point piece is a bright red sofa or server, repeat the hue sparingly—or not at all—so it will rightly retain the spotlight.
WINDOWS AND WALLS
If you’re gradually building your color confidence, one of the best ways to infuse a room with color is with painted walls. Not only is the expense minimal but, if and when you tire of the effect, you can paint right over them. Likewise, colorful curtains at the windows— even simple sheers—can add an instant dose of color and are easy on the budget.
It takes a little more color conviction to cover walls with a bright, retro-patterned wallpaper or hang ornate draperies along a window wall. The return, however, is well worth it. Not only will you infuse the room with color, but you’ll inject plenty of personality, too.
CHOOSING A PAINT COLOR
Too often, a room’s paint color is chosen from nothing more than a small strip from a fan deck. And, not surprisingly, the results can be disappointing. Perhaps your chosen hue looks too light, too dark, too yellow, too blue. The fact is, the same paint color can change dramatically depending on how much—and what kind of—light it gets. Is your room awash in natural light? Or do you only use it at night, when it’s illuminated with lamps and overhead fixtures?
To better pinpoint the right color for your room, it pays to do some homework first. Most paint companies offer sample-size cans that contain a few ounces, just enough to paint a small area. Go to your local home center and purchase a 2-ft. by 2-ft. piece of drywall. Take it home and paint your color choice on the drywall, then prop the painted piece against one wall of the room, studying it at different times of the day. Be sure to move the piece from wall to wall, too, examining each placement for its effect. If this sounds too involved, look for the poster-size paint chips that some companies offer. These simply adhere to the wall and can be reused without marring the wall itself.
FLOORS AND CEILINGS
In the past, floors and ceilings have typically been relegated to “safe” neutral hues. Floors were limited to go-with-anything cream-colored carpet, blackand- white tiles, and brown hardwood planks, while ceilings, more often than not, were simply left white.
That’s all changed, however, as more homeowners see these large expanses of space as prime opportunities to bring color into a room. Neutral floorings have been replaced with brilliant carpet and ceramic tiles, even vivid forms of rubber and linoleum. And area rug options have never been more varied, nor affordable. Meanwhile, ceilings are— more and more—being treated like a “fifth wall,” with just as much pattern and panache as their vertical counterparts.
Perhaps you’re more comfortable adding color in small doses. Or your budget dictates taking small steps toward a new scheme. Something as small as a decorative pillow or throw can punctuate a space with attention-getting color. To find the right accent hue, look to other furnishings—even artwork—for inspiration.
And don’t think that you have to match colors to a tee. It’s more important that colors blend. If, for instance, you pull out a blue from a painting over the fireplace to repeat on throw pillows across the room, they’ll be right at home together if they’re of similar tones and intensities.