Color by Design

Tips and Tidbits – Color Applications

Welcome to the sixth of a series of short articles about color: Learning about color, choosing colors, living with color, and color around the world. This month: Tips and Tidbits of color application in interiors.

GENERALITIES The most important success for color depends on a plan…! (and know some basic good “rules”)

Develop a color scheme & then stick to it – throughout the house to create unity within and between spaces)
One place to start…your likes / dislikes
Another place to start…Your existing colors (have you looked in your closet lately?)
OR…schemes are often based on colors in fabric / wallpaper / rugs / art work – use them as inspirations
Avoid neutrals to be “safe”
Do not think everything has to match
Too many colors in a small space can cause confusion – have ONE dominant hue & 2-3 subordinate hues or neutrals
Choose backgrounds first (walls / ceiling / floors…) then furnishings…then accessories
One or at most two hues should be used in the largest areas (walls / ceiling / floors) – should be least noticeable
Using unusual colors in “permanent” materials (ceramics / laminates / etc) = costly to replace / have less flexibility.
Neutrals enhance & strengthen the other colors around them
Large areas look best when covered with low intensity hues
Large areas of space tend to enhance the intensity of a color
To make your whole house seem larger / spacious…use only 2-3 light hues with varying shades throughout
Stick to your chosen color plan – shop for and assemble all colors / materials before you do anything…
Paint problem architectural features the same color as the walls –they will “blend in” and not stand out…
Same with furniture – choose upholstery fabric the same or a closely related color as the walls
To change the apparent shape of a room – paint one or two walls a different color
Never use contrasting colors or patterns on different walls in a room – unless you want to change its “shape”
Light colors will seem to push out a wall or add height – light colors recede away from you
Dark colors will pull in a wall or appear to lower a ceiling – dark colors advance towards you
Always study your scheme in the artificial light (and daylight) that will be used in the actual space
Artificial light softens colors – the color may be too harsh in full daylight
Incandescent lighting normally adds a warm glow to colors
Fluorescent lighting changes the hue of colors in a variety of ways – depending on the color type of lamp used
Exposure of sunlight in a room affects the color
Rooms that face North or East or little sun could feel warmer with shades / tints of reds & oranges
Rooms that face South or West and receive a lot of sun could appear cooler with shades / tints of blues / greens
As a generality, humans feel the most comfortable around firelight (warm tones of yellows / oranges)
When pale yellows / yellow-oranges and shades of orange (peach) are grayed = unified backgrounds
Textural patterns are good to use to conceal imperfections but tend to minimize the space – don’t use bright or dark
Surfaces with rough textures make colors appear darker than surfaces with flat or smooth textures
If ceilings are high….paint them the same color as the walls
Keep in mind that ceilings always reflect light darker than the walls or floors
EXTROVERTS like colorful surroundings – brighter and warmer hues. They will be bored in “quiet” colors
INTROVERTS manage best in surroundings with a lower degree of stimulation – cooler and more subdued colors

Dark colors may be used in some situations:
To absorb glare and hot light
To create mood
To make a huge space seem smaller and more intimate
To fill an empty space
Dark colors absorb light and make a room appear smaller.
Dark colors show irregularities on a surface and minimize space

The cheapest way to do the most good is with…a can of paint:
Old furniture can be rejuvenated
Lower electric bills by using…
Lighter colors for greater light reflection
Warmer colors will make you feel more comfortable at lower temperatures
Neutrals allow for more flexibility & change

Color Applications by areas

Consider the relationships between rooms – Open plans require unification of color palettes or well-planned contrasts.
Warm Schemes – generally associated with comfort & “home” / Cool Schemes – use carefully by adding warm accents

Public Spaces (Entry or Foyer / Living Rooms / Dining Rooms / Kitchens / Family Rooms / Entertainment Areas)
Successful use of slightly warm to neutral with stronger accent tones limited to small areas
Limit use of intense color schemes (these areas are used by many people at a time, for longer periods) Subtlety is recommended.
Pale tones: yellows (beige, cream, tan) w/ some contrast but not extensively bright accents
Consider activities taking place: games or exercising may indicate a need for cooler tones

Sleeping Spaces – If treated as an extension of a public space, use color as indicated above in Public Spaces.
Option: Treat space with slightly more intense color
Color is usually seen during waking hours – when intense color less likely to be a source of irritation.
However – avoid intense color on large areas (walls, ceiling) to avoid possible adverse effects.
Flexibility of change: color used in bedding can be changed with the seasons etc. This is a lot easier than changing major elements of color.

Children’s Rooms
Infants respond favorably to bright colors: consider toys and small areas for intense color
Children have color preferences just like adults. Consider including them in the color decisions of their environments.

Kitchens – May be occupied for less time so color may be used more generously
Counters: Consider ease of seeing food and/or equipment (lighter tones)
Cabinets and Flooring: Warm wood tones are generally liked. Consider adding more color to these areas.

White is commonly used (associated with cleanliness and sanitation)
Add color for user comfort:
Strong Colors: Consider the impact colors may have on skin tones.
Neutral environment with accent colors introduced for interest are effective.

Work / Office Areas
Cooler colors: promote calm meditative thought
Warmer colors: typically associated with “Library” and are often more “masculine.”
Consider both: warm scheme with accents of cooler tones


Future topics of interest …
Making color choices
Color and Art
Color around the world

Cynthia Peacock is a professional Interior Designer (member of the American Society of Interior designers, ASID) and Principal of her own design firm, PEACOCK Interior Design, LLC. Cynthia has worked on a wide variety of outstanding projects (residences, offices, hotels, ships) in her 16 year career as an Interior Designer, and finds that color is the constant challenge, joy, and reward. If you are color-challenged, and need gentle guidance, Cynthia may be contacted