Around The House, Bring on the Color

It’s been a rough winter so far; as if the cold, ice and snow were not depressing enough, every time I turn on the TV or open the paper I’m barraged by increasingly dire predictions about job losses and business downturns.

Well, who knows what’s coming? Maybe I will live out my worst irrational fear and end up a bag lady on the streets of Manhattan but, for the moment, I still have my life, and I hate to feel that I’m a hapless victim of circumstance, so I’m turning to my own foolproof antidote for depression — for me that would be Color.

Just for a moment, let’s give the doom and gloom a rest — bring on the color. As far as I’m concerned color changes everything — it’s my drug of choice; guess I’m just a color junkie. So, I decided to do some exploration on the web and discovered, not surprisingly, a wealth of information and some fascinating sites. If you are looking for an inspired color choice to paint your dining room or you’re just “into” color, you’ll enjoy checking these out.

Color forecast for 2009

My first stop was the Color Marketing Group This is a site aimed at professionals. The CMG is a group that studies trends in color and forecasts what colors will be “hot” in the coming years. If you are planning to launch a new widget in 2011, you would be wise to turn to them for advice on what colors to choose for your product. It’s very expensive to join the CMG but there was some good free information on their site. For example, according to their marketing studies, color increases comprehension by up to 73%, color increases brand recognition by 80%, and color can be up to 85% of the reason people decide to buy. I could have told them that last one, although I can’t speak to the possibility that color increases comprehension. I certainly have experience with color being the deciding factor in whether to “buy” or not. In doing hundreds of design presentations, my experience suggests that people are so influenced by color that they can barely process a schematic design if it is presented in a color they don’t like. On the flip side, they will be enthusiastic about colors they like regardless of the design.

So what are the hot color trends for 2009 that the CMG is predicting? Well, purple is first on the list. They see purple as an “entrenched trend” -— not just a fad. They suggest that it’s been boosted by the election and the hope that the nation will come together, pointing out that mixing blue and red yields purple (seems like a stretch but, hey…). Secondly they posit that “blue is the new green” meaning that blue is beginning to take over for green as the deliverer of the environmental message. Blue sky, blue water and a host of varying blues symbolize our concern for, and commitment to, respecting the earth.

For Fun and Inspiration….

Next stop on the web was Leatrice Eiseman’s color blog: She is the executive director of the Pantone Color Institute which for years has been considered the gold standard for determining true color. Interestingly, Pantone chose a shade of yellow (Mimosa) as their color of the year. The reasoning behind this choice is that yellow is generally seen as a happy color associated with sunshine, warmth and enlightenment; it’s cheerful and, according to Eiseman, is a mood enhancer. With all due respect to the Color Marketing Group, I think the Pantone Institute has the better idea for the color of 2009; bring on the yellow, we need all the happiness and sunshine we can get! Eiseman’s blog has lots of random tidbits of information about current trends, experiments with color and links to other color-related sites. It’s fun reading for the color-obsessed.

I found to be most interesting and informative. Navigating around the site I found a test for colorblindness as well as simulations showing what the world looks like to the colorblind (it’s really different!). There were a few pages explaining basic color theory and tips on how to anticipate the way colors will mutate in different light and in relation to adjacent colors – helpful when you are shopping in fluorescent light for fabric that will be used in a bedroom lit by incandescent light. There was a curious link to a YouTube video showing “HOLI,” a rambunctious Hindu Festival of Colors, and there was a link to the show at the MOMA entitled “Reinventing Color 1950 to Today” which included lots of video coverage showing artists installing and explaining their work. Lots to explore here. turned out to be a highly interactive site – you can join and submit color palettes and patterns.

People will critique each other’s palettes and give suggestions about how to create palettes and so on. There was a huge stockpile of palettes to peruse as well as contests and color experiments to participate in. FYI: Colourlovers’ forecast for the favorite colors of 2009 was in line with the CMG choice – pinks and purples.

Getting Practical

Color expert Kate Smith has put together a very useful and easy to navigate site called I was impressed with lots of practical help and inspiration for interior design. I especially liked that she compiled a list of 49 different brands of paint and briefly describes what distinguishes them from each other. Taking advantage of the links to videos and websites, I sampled a Martha Stewart video where she describes her inspiration for the line of paint she developed for Lowe’s – more interesting than I would have imagined. Then I watched the irrepressible Christopher Lowell talk about his take on paint color; he’s always entertaining. Smith covered the waterfront on paint all the way from a boutique brand of full spectrum paint I hadn’t heard of by Ellen Kennon (who apparently offers a free phone consultation if you buy her complete sample set) to the commercial paint giant Benjamin Moore who boasts an extensive website with many product lines for every kind of application as well as user-friendly tools to help you visualize what paint colors will look like on your walls. Beware, though, because computer screen resolution is helpful but not necessarily accurate in terms of exact hue. Also on the list were two favorites of mine: the English Company Farrow & Ball, traditionalists who offer a rich palette of evocatively -named colors, and Donald Kaufman, a colorist who specializes in a limited palette of full spectrum colors.

Too much information? Maybe so, but my web tour was very engaging, informative, and lots of fun. If you’re still stuck on what color to paint your dining room, I suggest you call your Designer!

Barbara Sternau is an Interior Designer with offices at 37 Main St., Tarrytown, NY

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About the Author: Barbara Sternau