Monday, July 30, 2012

How to Describe Color

Have you ever felt at a loss trying to describe a color to someone? Communicating something as essentially visual as a color is challenging, especially because everyone sees color differently. With a little practice, you won't have to become a color expert to improve your color communication skills. Colors have basic characteristics, and if you learn to describe them, you'll be able to create a more accurate word picture. 


Here are the three basic attributes that you should include in your color descriptions:


Hue(s)
Hue is the color name,  such as red or green, further described by any additional hues (also known as undertones)  that you can identify, such as a blue-red. Already the listener knows much more than if you simply said a color was red. 


Value

Value is the color's relative lightness or darkness. Describe the color as light, medium or dark. 


Chroma

Chroma indicates whether the color is bright or dull.  The chart below shows how the chroma of red, yellow, green and blue can vary, according to whether it's mixed with black, various shades of gray, or white.  Notice the difference between the basic color on the far right of each section, and how it changes as more black or white is added.

Named Colors

Even when the work of describing a color has been done with a name that's generally understood, such as magenta, it helps to provide as much additional information as you can. Is the magenta dull or bright? Is it relatively light or dark? Does it tilt more toward red or toward blue? Named colors like magenta can have many interpretations, and the listener's understanding of what the word "magenta" means will add still another variable. It's no wonder that color communications are tricky.


Analyze the colors around you and practice the descriptions. The more you do it, the better you'll get and the more accurate the understanding of your listener when you want to talk about the color you're considering for the kitchen.







Friday, July 27, 2012

Go Ahead: Make Paint Color Mistakes

Many people are so afraid of making a mistake choosing paint colors that they go into paralysis and avoid painting, or play it so safe that they wind up with a bland and boring color that doesn't really please them. What a shame.

There's nothing wrong with making a color mistake. In fact, seeing what doesn't work, for whatever reason, is the best way to train your eye and learn what does work, and what you like to live with. Paint is the all time champion of decorating bargains, so it's a very inexpensive lesson, especially when compared with the cost of a couch. If you paint a room blue, only to realize that with a northern exposure, blue walls make the room feel cold, you'll learn from it and apply the lesson to future projects.

To reduce the cost of your experiments, buy the color(s) you're considering in the sample size offered by many paint manufacturers. It's just enough paint to apply two coats on a 2x3 foot piece of foam core so that you can view the color all around the room under varying light conditions. It also avoids the misleading color impression from the common mistake of painting swatches side by side on the walls. 


So don't be reluctant to try new colors. You can make mistakes on a small, inexpensive scale, encourage your creative instincts, learn a lot, have a wonderful time in the process and best of all, wind up with colors you really like.






Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Expand Your Definition of "Neutral" Colors


What does the term "neutral" mean to you? To many of us, the working definition of "neutral" means light to medium colors that play nicely with others, such as the ones you see here. 


To have a better understanding of neutrals, first let's narrow the term to what neutral really means, then expand it.

The Definition of "Neutral"

From a technical standpoint, the term "neutral" means without hue, making the range of colors from black to white on a gray scale the true neutrals. 



A midpoint gray (50%) with equal amounts of black and white is the ultimate expression of neutral, reflecting or transmitting only a little light. 

The Expanded View of "Neutral"

But as you know, there are many, many shades of gray, some light, some dark, some warm (red, orange or yellow added) and some cool (green, blue or violet added), all of which can be considered "neutrals". Would it surprise you to learn that there also are neutralized versions of every hue, even red?
  
Neutralized colors can be created in many ways, such as by mixing a pure hue with black, gray or white, and/or with other hues. As this chart shows, there are warm neutrals and cool ones. Not only that, neutrals can be light, mid range or dark. The relative amounts of the additional colors determine the final characteristics of a neutralized color.   

Most of us choose neutral colors for our home because they're much softer and easier to live than the pure hues. Whatever you prefer, pick an approach and stick with it. Don't use a neutralized color in one room and a pure bright color in the next. If you're going neutral, choose neutralized versions of all your wall colors. If your daughter insists on a purple room and your son has to have a  red one, try compromising with neutralized versions of these colors, and say they're much more sophisticated, which is true. 

Viewed by itself, the attributes of a neutral color can be difficult to see, but when you look at colors side by side, their true nature is revealed, particularly the all-important undertones, as you see in these two beige samples.



One very helpful tool for comparing neutrals is to look up their Light Reflectance Value (LRV) to determine which is lighter or darker. The LRV values for every color can be found on the manufacturer's web site, in the fan deck, or sometimes on the back of a sample chip. To see contrast between two colors you usually need a difference in LRV of seven points.

Explore the world of neutral colors. It's larger and much more interesting than "off white" and "builder beige"!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Color Matching: Set Yourself Free!

Many clients have told me that they want to find a paint color to match the fabric on their couch or window treatments, or the carpet, the counter tops in the kitchen, the stone in the fireplace, etc. Some believed that there's an interior design rule that requires matching, and some were uncomfortable with color decisions and afraid of making a mistake. Whatever the reason, I always tell clients not to worry about matching because nothing is special if, for example, the couch, carpet or drapes disappear into the wall color, instead of complementing, and being complemented, by it. 


Colors that match perfectly not only look boring and a bit contrived, except perhaps in the most high style designs, they can be difficult to achieve because of differences in the items themselves, such as the texture or sheen of fabric vs. paint, and the different types of colorants that are used to create them. On the other hand, a color plan with differences, whether subtle or dramatic, looks far more lively and interesting.  To learn more, follow this link:  Why You Need A Paint Color Plan


If you've been concerned about color matching, it's time to set yourself free. Good design not only doesn't require matching, it usually avoids it, preferring a coordinated whole, with enough diversity to create interest. 


Make friends with a basic color wheel, like the one on the left. If you want to showcase a beautiful fabric, consider a complementary color (opposite on the wheel) for the walls. In the picture above, someone is trying to find the perfect blue, but to showcase the fabric, they should also consider complementary colors or neutrals. It all depends on the look they want...


When you have color decisions to make and would like a little help, call me at 828-692-4355 to schedule a  consultation (two hours/$150).  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Installed vs Evolved Design



An Installed Landscape
When I first started using these terms, I was thinking of our imperfect, evolving garden vs. one that's professionally designed and installed. Most of the time you can tell the difference at a glance, like this formal garden that was professionally designed, installed (and maintained). Our evolving garden reflects our amateur mistakes, changing enthusiasms and the limitations of time and budget. It's far from the perfection of an installed garden, but it's a reflection of us, and we enjoy the process (most of the time), and the result. 


Installed Design - Benefits and Limitations


In the best installed designs, things are done correctly from the beginning. There's a well conceived plan tailored to the house that accomplishes all that a good plan requires. On the downside, installed designs are only as good as the designer. If they're filled with predictable ideas, they look like they were taken from a manual. If the owner has little or no involvement, it's likely the result won't feel personal.


The concept of the installed vs. evolved approach also applies to interior design.


Installed Design - Interior



Basic Installed Design
At its most basic, installed design is what you see in a motel or in a vignette in a furniture store, with a set of matching pieces, few, if any, accessories and no personality. The artificial look of an installed design can also result from relying too heavily on suites of furniture, or on the use of the companion fabrics manufacturers have created to reduce the angst many people feel trying to create pleasing combinations. 


The highest form of installed design is a turnkey landscape or interior project with a medium to large budget. There will be considerable attention to detail, but elements are chosen, at least initially, by the design professional, and may or may not be approved by the owner. The design has personality, but the result may not be truly personal to the owner. 
Luxury Installed Design


Evolved Design - Interior


Evolved design is what most of us have. Our furniture and accessories reflect our lives. In our house, the china cabinet was inherited from my grandmother Mills, the copper tea kettle from Uncle Bob and Aunt Joanne, a bookcase came from my mother. Along with the pieces we bought over the years, some things were acquired on our travels, while others were found at an antique shop or salvage yard, and refurbished.  We even made a few things ourselves. As we lived in different places, things moved around. A bookcase went from the home office to the sewing room, a lamp that was in the living room in our last house went to live in the guest room when we moved here. Sometimes the treasure that worked beautifully in one house would find itself homeless in the next, and we had to store it or rethink how to make it work. Some things that didn't have a proper home before, came out of storage to be enjoyed again. Nothing stays the same around here. 

While I appreciate the beautiful installed designs I see in magazines or on-line, and find lots of inspiration, I prefer that our home incorporate both formal and informal bits and always evolve. Not only is it one of a kind, it's more fun, personal, comfortable and relaxed. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Playing the Color Percentages


I don't know who it was or when it happened, but years ago somebody came up with formulas for working successfully with interior colors.  Now widely used, the formulas vary according to the number of colors in the room. 

A 90/10% Blue and Yellow Plan

Percentages for Two Color Plans  

Major Color                    Minor Color
    90%                                      10%
    80%                                      20%
    70%                                      30%
    60%                                      40%


How To Make a Two Color Plan Work

If your plan is based on close percentages like 60/40%, there should be relatively little contrast in the minor color to avoid conflict or a jarring impression. With high percentages such as the 90/10% example in this picture, you can use stronger contrast in the minor color to add a spark.


Percentages for Three Color Plans

 Major Color                     Minor Color                    Accent Color
        80%                                    15%                                       5%
        70%                                    25%                                       5%
        70%                                    20%                                    10%
        60%                                    30%                                    10%   


How to Make a Three Color Plan Work

With a three color plan, two of the colors must work together to create harmony in one of the following ways:
  • same coolness or warmth
  • same intensity (brightness or dullness)
  • same value (lightness or darkness)
  • by strongly sharing a common ingredient (neighbors on the color wheel, such as red and orange)


The Only Percentage to Avoid

Avoid a 50/50 color plan which creates tension because there's no winner. For any color plan to work, one color must dominate.


The Rule of (at least) Three

When you pick a color, try to use it at least three times in the room. For example, if you have a sofa fabric with multiple colors, pick one to use in a cushion fabric, in a ceramic piece, and in another item, such as art or in the drapery fabric. It is this repetition of color that creates rhythm and harmony in your color plan.

The Rule of Three in a Olive, Brown and Beige Plan

Color Percentages - The Bottom Line

While the concept of color percentages is helpful, it can be difficult to calculate them in the real world, especially since many of us use prints with multiple colors. I say, don't bother! I consider some so-called "design rules" a starting point only. Instead of worrying too much about achieving perfect color percentages in your designs, choose a color to be dominant, one to be secondary and, if you have a three+ color plan, a couple (or more) to play supporting roles. 


Friday, July 6, 2012

Should You Paint It Yourself?

The advertising by major paint companies encourages homeowners to consider painting a do-it yourself project, and when the work is straightforward, such as painting walls, it can be. However, there are many circumstances when the best approach is to call a professional.






Here are some things to consider when you're deciding if you want to do it yourself:

  • Purpose of the work and the size of the budget.  Budget can trump every other consideration...
  • Size and scope of the project. Is it manageable? How long can you take to complete the work without causing problems or serious inconvenience?
  • Time frame. Are you certain that you have enough time to do it yourself? If you don't paint for a living, you won't have a realistic idea of how long things take, and 99% of the time, you'll underestimate. Allow extra time.
  • Interior work. It takes far more skill to paint inside a furnished home than is required for most exterior projects. Do you know how to work cleanly and protect the adjacent areas? Do you know the best way to handle details such as hardware and light fixtures? 
  • Access difficulties. Are there tall ceilings or a stairwell that would be difficult to access? Do you have the right equipment and are you comfortable working high? 
  • Complex trim. Is there detailed crown molding, cabinetry or a fireplace that requires skilled brushwork?

  • Type of Material(s) to Use. Do you know the right type of materials to use for each surface, including how compatible each would be with the existing finish? Do you know when you need to prime? 
  • Ease of Application. What material does the project call for? Some materials, such as oil base enamel and clear finishes, can be challenging to use.
  • Cosmetic repairs. Preparation determines the quality of the result, especially when there are holes in the walls, cracks, stains, or other problems. Bad repairs make problems look worse. 
  • Equipment, tools and supplies. Do you have ladders, drops, buckets, rollers, screens, poles, a variety of small tools, sandpaper, plastic, various types of masking tape, masking paper, materials for patching and caulking, a masking machine, caulking gun, etc? This is just the beginning of a long list of things that professional painters have on hand.
  •  Your skill level. If you've never painted and don't know where to begin, this may not be the project for you.
  • Quality of the result you want. Is just OK good enough? 
  • Other issues.Do you hate to paint? Are you klutzy? Do you and your spouse work well together? 
Your answers to these questions should point you in the right direction. If you decide that you want professional help, call me at 828-692-4355 to discuss your project and schedule an estimate with Roger. When you hire us to do your painting, a color consultation with me is a free part of our service.

Monday, July 2, 2012

"Yellowstone" Moran Captures Venice


Thomas Moran
Although Thomas Moran (1837-1926) was an Englishman by birth, he is remembered today as one of the most important American landscape painters, particularly of Western scenes.  As a young man, Moran studied the works of the great British artist, J.M.W. Turner, whose dramatic, atmospheric, colorful paintings had a profound influence on his style and choice of subjects. Early in his career, Moran was a member of the Hudson River School of landscape painters, a group of artists with a romantic vision whose heyday was between 1855 and 1875.

Moran became the chief illustrator of Scribner’s Monthly magazine in the 1860’s, and it was while in this position that he arranged to accompany the 1871 survey expedition to Yellowstone. The dramatic paintings that resulted were widely reproduced, stirring the public’s imagination and leading to the creation of our first National Park.  He returned to the West many times, painting scenes of natural wonders that included the Grand Canyon, Zion, Yosemite, and many more. He became so identified with the West, especially Yellowstone, that he became known as Thomas “Yellowstone” Moran.   

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone 
The Sentinel - Yosemite

A Long Island River

Grand Canyon

President Obama adjusting The Three Tetons in the Oval Office.
In his day, Moran was a prolific and popular artist who paintings were hung in the U.S. Capitol and reproduced as inexpensive prints sold in gift shops. It seems as if Moran's works were everywhere. I was surprised to learn that not only does a Moran painting (The Three Tetons) hang in the Oval Office, President Obama personally adjusted it to hang straight!


Much less well known are Moran’s paintings of Venice that are reminiscent of Canaletto in their dreamy romanticism, but it was through prints of these scenes that I first learned of him when I began seeing them in antique shops. Some prints had the name “Moran” and the year, and this was how my search for information about the artist began. I was surprised to learn of his importance, and that he is best remembered for images of the American West. Over the years I collected half a dozen Moran scenes of Venice, some not in very good condition, in frames that proved their humble origins. Little did I know at the time that I could buy the same prints new for under $20, but even if I'd known, I would have preferred the old ones. They're the perfect complement to my $6 plaster gondola and the gold and silver carnival mask of the Sun and the Moon that Roger bought me for my birthday while we were in Venice. Moran's paintings perfectly capture the Venice that enchanted me, and they keep my memories vivid.