PaintPRO, Vol. 6, No. 1
January/February 2004

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Other articles in this issue:
Solvent Regs in California
Gel Stains
Kitchens & Baths
Clarity With Colors
Drywall Primers
Rollers for Decorative Effects
Estimating, Etc.
Contractor Profile: Hester Decorating
Paint Industry News
Product News
Product Profiles
Painting Tips


PaintPRO Archives




Paint Color, Color Coordination

Color's intensity and combinations create a mood, a mood we can control with the sweep of a brush and a good can of paint.
by Stacey Enesey Klemenc

Color speaks to us without uttering a sound. From attention-getting red and outrageous orange to tranquil blue and cheery yellow, it influences our lifestyle and triggers our emotions. Color’s intensity and combinations create a mood, a mood we can control with the sweep of a brush and a good can of paint.

With all the television programs and magazines focused on decorating, today’s shoppers have a great wealth of information at their fingertips. “There are questions consumers need to ask themselves, such as what type of feeling do they want the room to have — light and airy, warm or cool — since the wall color has a big impact on the overall feel of the room,” says Andrea Piontek, senior color stylist for PPG Architectural Finishes.

Here are a few tips from a panel of colorists to help achieve different results:

In general, warm tones — such as red, yellow and orange — advance toward us, says Barbara Richardson, director of color marketing for ICI Paints. Cool tones — blues, greens and violets — recede away from us. “Before you start a project, ask what end result is desired. If they want to add space, use cooler colors. If they want a cozier space, use warmer colors.”

Color also can have a functional role in a bathroom, says Piontek. “In a small bathroom, with 8-foot ceilings, avoid dark colors on the ceiling, which will visually lower the space. A light color on the ceiling will give a visual lift to the room.” Bright white will really raise the roof.

Aimee Desrosiers, director of marketing for California Products, agrees. “A lighter color will make the area seem larger if there are no defining lines in the room.” If the room is small, she adds, avoid wallpaper borders. “A border around each edge can make a room look even smaller.”

Whether warm or cool, a color’s intensity helps set the tone. Pastels lend to a room’s open and airy feeling while deep tones define the limits more solidly.

In addition to color choices, other elements affect our perception of individual rooms. For instance, “A textured wall will have a tendency to make a room shrink in more,” says Mary Lawlor, color stylist for Kelly-Moore. Textured walls, such as those with a blown-on cottage-cheese look or with a thick knock-down finish, are quite popular in the areas her company services, which includes California, Texas and the Pacific Northwest.

Lighting, both natural and artificial, also impacts the appearance of the chosen color. You need to advise your clients to take into account how the light changes throughout the day when deciding on the color and intensity. After the dominant color is chosen, it is important to select an accent color or two that will help unify the space.

In today’s kitchens, there are plenty of cold surfaces that are all the rage, such as ceramic tile, stone countertops or stainless-steel appliances. “Warm it up and balance it out with a warm color,” says Richardson, colors that reflect “things in nature that are warm like sand, sun and autumn leaves.”

Faux finishes that contain the warm tones of seasonings, spices and woods also are warm additions to a cozy kitchen. “Think of the depth of those colors,” she says. “Use the flavor of those colors to tie the whole area together.”

When selecting a shade for the bathroom, “remember most complexions look best with a peach or apricot background,” Piontek says. “It gives that rosy glow to your overall look.”

“If you have bath in a cold area of the house where there’s no southern exposure, you’re better off with a warm color,” Desrosiers says. If your clients have their heart set on blue, she adds, steer them toward a warmer blue. And accessories, such as towels and drapes, in warm colors will make the room that much warmer.

“Different things energize different people,” Desrosiers says. Some people use the bathroom as a sanctuary, a place to unwind and relax. Calming greens and blues can energize them. “Others need motivation or a jolt to get them going. They need something bolder, spicier, like a red or yellow. It all comes down to one thing: color is very personal.”

For the general population, though, the more heavily saturated colors, especially oranges, yellows and reds, tend to make you feel more energetic, Lawlor notes.

Color schemes also have energy values, Richardson says. “The busier the color scheme and the warmer the colors, the more energy created.” For instance, triadic (three colors) and complementary (one cool and one warm) color combinations are more energetic than a monochromatic scheme (variations of one color), she notes. “If you want a calm setting, use fewer colors and cooler colors.”

Subdued cooler colors — the greens and the blues — make you feel very tranquil. The more the color is neutralized, the more restful you’ll feel, Lawlor says.

In addition to greens and blues, Desrosiers notes, many people feel relaxed with colors associated with water, like a sandy seascape color. Plus, she adds, earthy colors make many feel “warm and homey.”

One of the biggest influences on the 2004 color palette is “the need for optimism. With the combination of the day-to-day pressures of work and the world events, the consumer is looking for peace and solitude, a refreshing retreat,” says Piontek. “As technology takes over, the consumer palette needs to be softened to counteract the harshness of metals and plastics.”

In short, “Keep it simple if you’re looking for sophistication,” Desrosiers says. “There are plenty of nice taupes and off-whites that can be used harmoniously in a room. A lot of people like to stay with neutrals and classic colors like burgundy and navy blue. They’re not trendy and they don’t go out of style.”

“Neutrals that move toward other colors invoke a sophisticated feeling,” Lawlor says. “They’re no longer a boring beige or gray. Nowadays, it would be a gray nudged toward purple or a beige moving toward a pink or yellow.”

And finally, people are breaking loose and experimenting: “Cautious consumers break away from a period of fear and head to brighter, yet sophisticated color in new unexpected combinations,” Piontek says.


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