Color Love: How to Choose Bright Colors for Walls
Aug 11, 2012
Photo: Courtesy Pittsburgh Paint voiceofcolor.com
Color consulting has become the most popular service I offer. It's not really surprising, because color is one of the more difficult aspects of design for most people to visualize. One type of client I encounter is the color lover. He or she has a bold personality, loves to wear intense colors, and wants the same for the walls but isn't sure how to do it. This person is often confused about why it's so easy to wear bright colors but hard to choose them within their home. There are a few reasons why this is true.
1. Surface Area
A bright orange scarf looks terrific on a woman with dark, warm-toned skin and green eyes. But dress her head to toe in the color, and she might be perceived as eccentric or garish. The same thing happens in the home: a bright pillow is very different from four saturated walls.
2. Highlights and Shadows
Walls in a room generally are large and face four different directions. They may be affected by multiple light sources, both natural and artificial. The more saturated or intense a wall color is, the more variation will be present in how our eyes perceive the color under various lighting situations. That means brighter highlights and dingier shadows, more contrast and energy.
3. Psychology and Anthropology
Human beings are of the earth. Our visceral responses to color are rooted in nature. Think about bright colors in nature: flowers, birds, reptiles, stones, seashells. These are small objects. To feel calm and "at home" in an environment generally requires a subconscious sense of placement in nature. We may derive energy and inspiration from very bright colors, but they need only be present in small doses to have this effect.
So what does all that mean for the bright-color-lover choosing paint for the walls? Tone it down. Those tiny, bright swatches that draw your eye on the wall of chips at the hardware store look very appealing at 1-by-2-inches. But if you cover your walls with those colors, the effect can be garish, juvenile, and overwhelming. There are many color chips on that sample wall that truly are inappropriate for walls, in any circumstance. Especially if they're being used by someone without a thorough understanding of color in the home.
Here's the same room from above, altered to show what it would look like if the walls had been painted a true turquoise (like Tint of Turquoise, 101-5). See how the dull-on-the-chip Breezeway (ATC-56, above) creates a beautiful sense of color in the room without "being" the color?
Here are the colors side by side. Resist these kinds of in-hand comparisons. The more complex (generally more neutral) color will always look dirty by comparison.
So how do you get from candy color A to correct color B? If you're going it alone, find your favorite color. Then go several degrees "duller" on the sample wall. So if you start with an intense royal blue, you'll end up somewhere in the blue-gray range. Don't trust what it looks like on that sample wall. (See comparison above.) Get quarts of your top two or three choices and paint them on a few large posterboards. Place them around the room and live with them for a few days. You'll see that the duller colors work much better with wood tones, natural stone, and neutral fabrics. They're more inviting. And they allow the bright colors in your favorite art and accessories to take center stage. Walls are not usually the focal point in a room, so don't give them the most color emphasis.
This guideline doesn't make color selection simple, but it does limit your choices a bit. There are the subtleties of neutrals that come into play even more when choosing a "dull" or complex color. If you really want your colors to harmonize, to make you love your existing things even more, I'm here to help. Just email me for an appointment. —Diane Kolak, Home Color Consultant
TAGS: color consultant traverse city michigan designer how to choose paint colors bright colors dull colors complex neutrals
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