Monday, April 5, 2010

Understanding the Language of Color

Color does more to set the mood and style of a room than any other design element.  In fact, how you feel in a space is directly related to it’s color.  Rooms that feel off balance are usually painted in colors that are at odds, either on the color wheel or in value, temperature, or intensity.  Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, lets do a quick overview on what some of the terms we’re throwing around today mean.  When I say “value”, I’m talking about the lightness or darkness of a color.  Keep in mind that light values expand space while dark values contract space.  A color’s temperature deals with it’s warmth (or lack thereof).  Yellows, oranges and reds (or any combination) are warm colors and make a room feel cozy.  Blues, greens and violets are cool colors and are considered receding because they have a calming, spacious effect.  Intensity refers to the brightness of a color, or how much white or black is added to it.  Designers consider intensity to be the great unifier of color, you can essentially combine any colors if they are similar in intensity.  

Some people (like my Mom) are naturally gifted at arranging color palates so beautiful they can make any room sing.  If that’s not your cup of tea, have no fear, there’s lots of places you can go for help! 

Get a book

I spent quite a good deal of time browsing at Barnes and Noble this past weekend…it’s one of my very favorite places.  I must say I discovered some real gems, and two of them were all about choosing color palates.  The first, ‘The Color Scheme Bible’ by Anna Stramer, highlighted 200 interesting color combinations based on the feelings they evoke.  My favorite was the “Bohemian Eggplant” color palate, described as eccentric, rich and original.  It included selections like deep eggplant, chocolate, lavender, orange bloom and bright tangerine.  I fell instantly in love when I saw the combination.  If you already have a good sense of what your style is, but need some help putting together a palate you’re absolutely crazy about, I’d definitely recommend checking this book out.  

If you want a more thorough presentation of ideas, try ‘
The Home Decorators Color and Texture Bible’ by Adrienne Chinn.  This book offers complete schemes including flooring and fabric ideas in addition to color combinations.  Both books ran about $20…use them to transform your home and you’ll find them to be priceless.  

Ask a Friend

Chances are you’ve got at least one friend whose overall style you admire, be it her flawless fashion sense or her impeccable home.  Don’t be afraid to run some ideas by her!  If she’s a good friend she’ll likely be eager to help, and even if she’s more of an acquaintance she’ll probably be so flattered she can’t help but put in her two cents.  Think of a starting point before you approach her…a piece of furniture, a color you’re considering, or a fabric sample, and see what she has to say.  If you don’t like her suggestions don’t feel pressured to go with them, you’re the one who has to live in this space after all.  A simple “thanks so much for your help, I’m gonna think about it some more and make a decision” will suffice.   

Get Professional Help

If your budget allows for a designer, professional painter or other design specialist, than we’d absolutely suggest considering one.  While it’s not necessary for everyone, it may end up saving you a lot of money and helping you really achieve the look you’re aiming for.  When choosing a designer or painter keep this old adage in mind: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.  The cheapest possible option may end up costing you much more in the long run if the final outcome doesn’t meet your expectations and needs to be re-done.  If you’re going to go with a professional make sure it’s someone you trust to deliver beautiful results…view their portfolio, ask for testimonials or Google them to see what comes up.  Don’t agree to anything you don’t love, but make sure you give them a chance to do their job and try to resist the temptation to make a judgment before the project is finished.  If you’re in one of the Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York or Nashville, TN areas and looking for a design specialist, check out our website at  If we can’t help you, we’ll try and suggest someone who can!


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