Often, when I arrive on the scene of a client’s home, I find that there is a conflict going on! Yes, sometimes, it is a husband and wife battling it out over their own design opinions. However, the conflict I’m talking about is between the warm and cool colors in their home. Often, this occurrence can create a feeling of unrest that the homeowner cannot quite identify. We throw around the terms “warm” and “cool” so often, but in reality, what do they actually MEAN with regard to interior design? EVERYTHING, that’s what! You heard me labor last week over a silly paint color in my foyer, right? Well, that’s because choosing the right color can mean the difference between success vs failure in a space. In essence, COLOR is POWERFUL!
Have you ever heard of the optical”‘trick” of staring at a specific colored dot, such as red, then looking away at a white wall or piece of paper to see what other color dot shows up? What you would see in this case would be a green dot, and it is the complementary color of the red dot you first saw. This experiment demonstrates that color truly does have an affect on our brains.
When I say that a color is “complementary”, what exactly do I mean? Since childhood, we have all heard of the “color wheel”. On one side, we find blues and greens – the cool colors – and on the other side of the spectrum, we find reds, oranges, and yellows – the warm colors. If you look directly opposite a color on the wheel, you will see its “complimentary” color (such as red and green). Now, this is not to say that all shades of a specific color ALWAYS fit with the color wheel rule. In fact, there is great variation in most colors, making them warmer or cooler, depending on their mix. For instance, green and purple are hybrids, or blends, of each of the colors on either side of them. An example would be deep, hunter greens, which have more blue in them, causing them to run cool, versus bright lime greens, which have more yellow in them, making them fit more into the warm category.
So, what does any of this information have to do with interior design? There are several answers.
If you use two complementary colors of similar intensity in a space, such as orange and blue (opposite each other on the color wheel), you can create a feeling of unrest or discomfort in a room. Your eyes cannot decide which color to concentrate on, so your brain remains in a state of confusion, so to speak. This is the “conflict” that I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Often, a client will have too many different color groups working in the same space, and although they cannot quite pinpoint what they don’t like about it, they know SOMETHING is not right. It is critical that we avoid “strife” between colors, deciding on a more peaceful balance. In doing so, the tone is set for a successful home interior.
So, how do we accomplish this task?
First, you must decide which side of the spectrum you want to concentrate on… warm or cool?
COOL colors are soothing. They calm our emotions and allow us to do our best thinking. So, for example, bedrooms, where we want to relax and sleep, as well as offices, where we want to concentrate and problem-solve are often excellent spaces to insert cool colors. Colors such as blues and greens often work well in these spaces.
WARM colors are energizing and stimulating! Therefore, they work best in spaces in which people will often be socializing, such as living rooms and kitchens. Red is a classic example of an effective warm color. On the flip side, it would not typically be advisable to paint your bedroom walls red, since it has been proven that it may actually cause you not to sleep well!
So, how about blending these colors together… can you? Yes and no. If you want to use both warm and cool colors, it is only advisable to to do so in controlled moderation. For instance, if you want to primarily use cool colors, feel free to use a small punch of warm accents to “mix it up” a bit, as in the form of throw pillows or lamps. Just remember that you are trying to create interest, without creating unrest.
Another option that I am more prone to encourage is to begin with a nice neutral tone, and then add in the colors you want to highlight. An additional benefit of utilizing this method is that whenever you are ready to make a change in your color palette (even from cool to warm, or vice-versa!), it makes the transition much less costly and time-consuming. As a general rule, the ratio of neutral to warm or cool color should be around 80/20.
Overall, the main agenda is to find a color palette that makes you FEEL good in your own home, and then don’t veer off track. If you stick to your colorful guns, you will find that your house is a place that makes you feel just as it should…. AT HOME!
NOW, GO HAVE AN “It’s So Fabulous!” DAY!