Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Art School for Color

I know many of you have a love-hate relationship with the paint store. I can relate - I love color - I love the chips - I hate to choose. I do it for a living and I hate to have to narrow myself down to the ONE. It feels like a wedding day after a hasty romance. You're in the store, you bring the chips home, you spend a little time together, and then all of a sudden (longer for some feet draggers) it's time to commit. For most people, there is tremendous fear and anxiety about choosing the WRONG one, heaven forbid and having to get divorced, which in paint parlance, simply means painting over your first husband, er, color. I have never done a great job in convincing anyone that this is no big deal - "so you paint over it!" doesn't put people at ease. So instead, let's talk about how to make a good choice in the first place.

There are entire books - indeed entire libraries of books dedicated to color selection. There is traditional color theory that you learn in design school. There are color personality tests. Often overlooked are the personal color histories that each of us have. What was the color of your first bedroom? That room in school with the mean teacher? The stuffed animal you clutched everywhere at age 7? The color of grandma's apron? The color of the lobby of your first apartment building, the one you could barely afford? For me it was a dark peach, and I can never go there again.

It's important to look at the colors in your life - we experience color and smell and taste and sounds as associated with memories and experiences. I love Kohr Bros orange-cream from my childhood summers at the shore. I adore La Rocca grey from time in Italy with my husband. Mine your memories for colors you are drawn to. Invariably, the colors you have positive associations with will already be in your closet, and in the art work you've collected over the years.

"Alright, so I like grey. I like light smoky grey. WHICH LIGHT SMOKY GREY??" I can hear you asking me this, with expletives. I hear you. Narrowing down is hard when you're trying to envision a 500 square foot room from a 1" x 1" square from the chip wheel with thousands of colors and perhaps 100 greys. You need to cheat. You can go to art school, or, you can just look at the art you already love. Our favorite art work grounds our space, and says so much about who we are and what inspires us. It's what separates us from a hotel lobby - our personalities - where we have been in life - what we think about. So your art is an essential part of any room design - and it's also elemental in developing a color scheme.

Photo compliments to the blog deslightbydesign

I recently worked with an avid modern art collector who was stumped on paint color. Her walls were white. But she didn't live in a gallery - she lived in a home with two children and she deserved walls with more punch. So we plummaged the art. We found base colors, accent colors - even trim colors - all within the art she loved and planned to use for each room. There is something magical about color - it always finds itself. What I mean by this, is that if you use color from a work of art on the walls, your eye make the connection between the art work, with the woman wearing the yellow tulle dress, and the butter cream walls that surround and support it. Wall + art work are now cohesive to the eye.

I'm usually not a fan of accent walls. Nothing to me says, "I don't have the guts to paint the whole room this color," when you only have one citrine wall. But when you're using art as a reference, it makes sense. Art can anchor an accent wall - give it a reason for being. My client, the one I mentioned above, had a series of prints with the faintest hint of teal in a botanically-themed work that was primarily gold and black. Set against a teal wall, the teal came alive in the art and the accent wall was the perfect backdrop to highlight the art, and create an anchor for what is a very long room.

You never go wrong when you start with something you really really like. It doesn't matter if it's art from Pier I or a gallery in Chelsea from the 1960s. If you like it, use it as your guide - even take it to the paint store to find a matching hue - you can't go wrong.


Bernadette said...

Love it Paige! I am married to an extremely talented colorist - thankfully for me!

Paige Rien said...

that is lucky! looking forward to talking shop with kenny about this on 7.4!!