Refresh your rooms with color
At the 1996 Academy Awards, Sharon Stone came waltzing down the red carpet donning a Valentino trumpet skirt paired with—gasp!—a plain charcoal Gap turtleneck. And voila—mixing and matching was, and still is, en vogue, in both fashion and interior design. It’s now common in a home to see bold graphic prints alongside a dainty, small-scale floral arrangement, or a contemporary leather sofa juxtaposed with a Louis XV armchair.
“Everybody’s embracing an eclectic style in their homes today,” says Robin Strangis, interior designer and owner of Loring Interiors in Minneapolis, “which is why understanding how to use color appropriately is more important than ever.” As a member of the Color Marketing Group and the author of Color Idea Book (Taunton Press, 2007), Strangis says, “A room needs to have something that holds it together, and if it’s not the style, it has to be colors.”
There used to be hard and fast rules about incorporating color into your home. Consider this advice, from the book Colour Schemes for the Modern Home, by Derek Patmore, printed in 1933: “[T]he chief tendency in interior decoration is to avoid so-called warm and restless colours such as red and orange, and to prefer the use of cool colors.” Wow. How times have changed! Now Tangerine Tango is Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2012, and reds are hot, hot, hot. (See sidebar for more on today’s color trends.)
However, with great freedom comes great responsibility. How do we use this (relatively) newfound color freedom wisely? We asked local interior designers Strangis and Lucy Penfield to share some insider tips about how to refresh a room with color.
Get In The Mood
“Color is a powerful tool,” says Penfield, of Minneapolis-based Lucy Interior Design. “It evokes emotion and memory, and it sets the mood, ambiance, and tone for a room.” When a client says they want to incorporate blue, for example, Penfield challenges them to “dig a little deeper.” Do you want a deep blue that reenergizes, or do you want to unwind after a long day with a cooler shade of blue? Look at pictures, swatches, and your wardrobe. Note how different shades of blue make you feel before you select your color scheme for a room.
Benjamin Moore, Natura Paint
Paint for Impact
Though paint is the most obvious way to refresh a room, don’t just slap your favorite lime green on all four walls and call it a day. Use color to create focus by calling attention to the room’s most interesting architectural features. Try painting the brick surrounding your fireplace, for example, or accentuate your crisp, white crown molding by painting the walls a darker shade. Painting the ceiling can also have enormous impact in a room. Use a lighter color on a low ceiling to create an airy feeling. Or, draw down a lofted ceiling by painting it a darker shade.
Be Wise (And Surprise), Accessorize
Throw pillows, vases, dishware, art, and picture frames are excellent ways to create continuity as you weave color throughout a room. Start with one element you love and use that as a jumping off point. Maybe it’s a color from the fabric on a chair, a favorite piece of art, a vase, or a rug; then build from there. “Repetition is important if you want to have an impact,” Strangis says. “You don’t have to feel bound to use the exact same color; you incorporate various shades within the same color family throughout the room.”
“The finishing touches are what artfully pulls the room together,” Penfield says. “Carefully selected accessories create richness and add that personifying quality you’re looking for.” You can also mix together unlikely colors—such as pinks and reds—to create surprise elements and add depth throughout the room.
Put it in Neutral
To get the most impact from your accent colors, balance them with neutral tones. This strategy also allows for a visual break in the space. For example, grays, cool blues, and soft greens are neutral tones that offer a calming backdrop to today’s popular citrusy orange and rich purple accent colors, Penfield says. “The impact is never as strong if you just focus on your accent color.” Also be mindful of the amount, or proportion, of color you’re using in the room, adds Strangis. “Ensure that there is a nice balance between the neutral and the accent colors,” she says. “You don’t want the accent colors to overpower the room.”
Avoid Tunnel Vision
When designing with color, don’t make decisions piecemeal. “Think about the house holistically, then think holistically within the room you’re designing,” Penfield says. What tone and mood is being set in the adjacent rooms? “You can’t act in a bubble, or your home will feel disjointed,” Penfield says.
Let’s be honest: Midwesterners tend to err on the conservative side when it comes to color. The best rooms, however, are those in which people aren’t afraid of color, Strangis says. “So many people hesitate, or go with wimpy or pale versions of the colors they choose and it never really works. The space ends up looking like you couldn’t commit and feeling washed out.”
Be bold. Be brave. Express yourself.
Hot, Hot, Hot Color Trends
Karen Wistrom, vice president of marketing for Minnesota cabinetmaker Dura Supreme, is also a certified interior designer and a longtime member of the International Color Marketing Group, an organization of color professionals that tracks trends and forecasts color.
According to Wistrom, the economy is the predominant factor driving color trends in 2012. “People are looking for color palettes that are going to be longer lasting instead of trendy or changing seasonally,” she says. “Gray, for example, has emerged as an extremely popular color in the past few years. It is a safe, neutral color that transcends time.”
Not all is dismal, however. In fact, she says, that same bleak economic picture pushes people toward accent colors that are rejuvenating. Thus, color-watchers also predict counteractive brights in Pantone’s dynamic pick for color of the year, Tangerine Tango, and CMG’s color of the year, Boyz-N-Berry, a deep rich purple with red undertones.
Another palette with legs: eco-earthy. “The desire for all things eco-friendly,” says Wistrom, “translates in the rising popularity of landscape colors, such as earthy greens, blues, and reds.”
Colby Johnson is a Minneapolis freelance writer.