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Choosing Colors

November 27, 2017

As we're now losing the last of our beautiful New England fall foliage for the bare branches of winter, I can't help but think about the spectacular palettes we just witnessed. It's no mystery why people flock here for the fall, mother nature puts on such a show! The outdoors becomes so layered and the colors have texture, you can practically hear the leaves crunching underfoot.  How can you not be inspired when you're surrounded by such vibrant, rich colors? While nature makes it look easy, any designer knows it’s tricky to put together harmonious color schemes for our clients. Here are a few tips to help clients explore new color options for their home.

Take cues from their wardrobe

What colors does your client look good wearing, and tend to choose for themselves? The classic approach to buying a wardrobe in your ‘season’ works for clothing, and it can be put to use for interiors too. You want the colors in the home to complement the colors your clients can wear. It’s also a good way to gauge what they are already attracted to and comfortable with, even if it’s unconscious.

Determine the type of energy they thrive in

A low contrast bedroom provides a soothing environment, and a high contrast sitting area creates a higher energy

What's the mood your clients want to create for their home?  High contrast colors offer more energy, low contrast and neutrals have a lower energy and often a soothing tone. Every person responds to color differently, so explore how different colors affect their mood and use that response to determine what colors and energy levels are best for different areas of their home. You might find some differences between extroverts and introverts here, but you can’t make assumptions.  Ask questions!

Complement the lighting conditions

Ample natural light allows navy walls to feel rich instead of overwhelming

What is the light quality like in terms of both natural daylight and the available electric lighting in their space?  Colors can appear drastically different in daylight and under different types of light sources (you can read more about that here).  You will need to adjust the saturation of the color depending on sunlight, light fixtures and the shadows in the space. This is why it’s important to never just pick a paint color in your office – it's all about how it looks in the client’s home.

Go back to the books

Don’t forget color theory and the color wheel. Using these principles can help you choose colors that go together more harmoniously, and avoid other combinations that can fight.  Colors are never a single hue – all have undertones and often that is what determines if we like a color, or how well it plays with other colors in a space.  Have you ever watched the hardware store mix your paint?   Gray is not just gray.  Weave this theory into your conversations as you explore their palette.  For example, if you are creating a gray, blue and white palette, make sure your gray doesn't have an undertone of green or it will clash with the other colors. Adobe Kuler is a great tool for playing with color using these principles.

When it comes to picking colors, there is no simple answer, and no right answer! Make sure you always ask lots of questions, and remember that this is a personal process. And never be afraid to tweak a color once it's up – even the most careful designer can misjudge the effect a color will have once it’s in full scale. It's better to take the time to make an adjustment to a paint color than to have a client who feels that the color is a bit off.

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