How to Choose the Right Colors

images (9)That's the question, and it applies to both interiors and exteriors of homes and other buildings.

What's the answer?

I remember reading and enjoying an article in the New York Times from a while ago by one of my favorite authors, Lee Child, a master in creating compelling characters and situations in the "action" genre. If you're looking for entertaining, fast-paced reading his work is a lot of fun to read.

His article, "A Simple Way to Create Suspense" is essentially about his process in creating suspense in his writing.

How can that possibly translate to selecting the best colors for our homes or workplaces? Ask yourself the right questions! Since just about every question you can ask about color will have some kind of answer-and ideally help direct you to a useful solution-try starting with these:

  • Where is the place?
  • Is your subject the interior or the exterior?
  • What do you, or others using the space, want to do there?
  • Do you have specific goals, or is the need a more general one?

But naturally there are some guidelines that will help direct you to the best combinations of colors for your purposes. Qualities of space and use like wall size, texture, lighting (natural and artificial), and surroundings in general are some of the considerations.

Begin each project by defining a sense of purpose and goal, which is where the questions and the guidelines come in. a client's personal preferences play a role as well but typically are just part of the picture. Color trends, while interesting, often inspiring, and fun to follow, really have little to do with arriving at the most effective and supportive color palettes.

The excitement and "suspense" is in the process and the evolution of results; testing accent colors, for example, will lead you to transform a simple, earthy color into an interesting environment. Using colors that are just a little too bright can make a space uncomfortable and stressful instead of enjoyable and nourishing. A one-inch color chip is never a reliable indication of a whole room or even one wall!

So, a few tips

  • Overestimate the impact: Use your favorite super-bright colors as accents in furnishings, accessories, or smaller wall surfaces
  • Textured wall and ceilings tend to "absorb" more color, while smoother surfaces reflect more color.
  • Lighting will affect your results, whether inside or outside. So be sure to see what colors look like in different times of day and evening.
  • Consider less vivid colors for your larger surfaces
  • Consider using the same color on walls and ceilings to minimize distraction, especially in smaller spaces.
  • Remember that your floors are large surface areas so consider floor color, including carpeting, when you're thinking of wall colors.
  • Exterior: considering the roofing color (I'll explore this specific subject later in a separate article)
  • Balancing warm and cool colors, and bright and soft colors, is important to create a comfortable and interesting space.

One of the most important parts of the process is Testing! Use a roller and be sure to apply two coats to get the most accurate color representation, just as you would do when painting your walls.

Then, Enjoy the Process!

Providing color consultation services to homeowners, business owners, and design/build professionals, color specialist Barbara Jacobs focuses on the needs of her clients for places where they work, play, study... and more. An IACC accredited color consultant, Barbara will consult on the best colors for your interior, exterior, and even product colors.