Color – probably the most intimidating aspect of decorating. Everyone struggles with it. Do you know the difference between interior designers and the average homeowner when it comes to selecting color? Experience. Most people redecorate every 5-7 years. Designers work with color and furnishings daily. Consequently they are familiar with how colors work together, how the light affects color and how to use proportion and patterns to enhance a color scheme.
As anyone who’s been contemplating or working through changes in their home knows, information about color is everywhere. Shelves of books have been written about color (evidence my home library!) and every one is full of beautiful photos showing color in all it’s glory. (see some of my favorites in the Bookshelf page above) So, my series about color will not be all encompassing nor will it try to be all things to all people. My goal is to distill all the millions of words about color down to a manageable amount of information that will help you achieve your decorating goals for 2010.
Cindy wrote about decorating goals and her series will walk you through organizing and accomplishing them this year. As you decorate, the issue of color (resolution #6) is bound to raise its head. This color guide will help you master the use of color – or at least encourage you not to be afraid of it.
I know, this isn’t supposed to be a textbook. But familiarity with at least the basic terminology associated with color will help you feel more confident when looking at colors or in talking with the guy at the paint store, your friends, or an interior designer (if you decide to ask for help).
HUE: This is the easiest one. It’s another word for color, usually referring to the purest, clearest color.
SHADE: The color with black added. The black darkens the color so if you start with red, add some black, you’ll end up with a variety of burgandys. While not technically correct, common usage of this word in the decorating world has come to mean any variation of a particular color, i.e. rose or mauve or wine would all be referred to as a shade of red.
In addition to the clarity, dullness or brightness of a hue (color), it can also be warm or cool. It’s easy to determine warm or cool – warm colors make you think of sun and heat like red, orange and yellow. Cool colors on the other hand are ones that make you think of ice and water like blue, green and teal. Warm colors can be made cooler with the addition of blue or green and the reverse is true…you can add orange or yellow to blue and make it a warmer version.
Almost every color has an undertone - the hint of a color that has been added to the main hue. Starting with the same hue, add a little blue or yellow and the change is subtle and sometimes hard to determine but can become very obvious in large expanses like wall color or carpet. *DESIGNER TIP: If uncertain about an undertone, place the color chip or carpet or tile sample next to another chip or sample. Almost always the contrast will allow you to see that one is “more yellow” or “more blue” than another. Undertones are hardest to determine when the colors are the same value (lightness or darkness) – they might appear to be almost the same color but when compared side by side in a bright light (outdoors is best), undertones will become more apparent.
(As usual, due to differences in computer monitor color set ups, these close colorations may be difficult to see, but that’s kind of the point – undertones ARE difficult to see.)
MORE COLOR VOCABULARY
CONTRAST: Using an opposing color to intensify each color. Black and white is the classic high contrast combination.
Any color paired with it’s complement (opposite on the color wheel) will have the highest contrast and drama. High contrast rooms are full of energy and drama. Low contrast rooms are calming and relaxing. The stripe below is a low contrast combo – even though using multiple colors, their tone or intensity is the same, creating almost no contrast.
INTENSITY OR SATURATION: The pure hue is the most intense or saturated form of the color. Adding the color’s complement (opposite on the color wheel) will reduce it’s intensity and by adding black or white to that tone, you will increase or decrease it’s value (lightness or darkness). Colors at their most intense are usually confined to accessories or small touches in a room because most of us prefer the calming influences of the more restrained, softer tones of color.
Below are the same colors, less saturated (intense) and much easier to live with! The color strip also illlustrates value – another word designers sometimes use for the lightness or darkness of a color.
WHAT IT ALL MEANS
The reason all this matters is because when you start to pull a room together and you wonder what’s not working, it’s often going to be color related. As the series progresses, I’ll offer specific advice about how to use colors together and encourage you to be confident and adventurous in your color selections. Stay with me….there’s lots more to come (and not so ‘technical’).
“You might love and admire decorating magazines, yet when it comes to choosing paint colors for your own surroundings, you suddenly lose confidence and reach for the time-honored, easy-on-the-eye neutral shades that you’ve always chosen. A yen for lime green still lies at the back of your mind, but something stops you – and that’s a shame, because if it made your heart sing when you saw it in that store or on the page of that magazine, chances are it will do the same in your home.” (The Complete Color Directory by Alice Westgate)
We’re here to help you create rooms that make your heart sing every time you enter. Need some guidance or encouragement or specific advice? Contact us and we’ll help.