On a fear scale of one to 10 —10 being sky diving naked while speaking in public — putting big bright bold color in a room is a 12.
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When faced with the prospect of inserting strong color into a home, some of the most intelligent, competent and confident people I know develop something like Tourette’s syndrome; they start involuntarily twitching and cursing.
Next thing, they’re choosing default shades of pale beige or misty grey when they could have had coral or cerulean.
Color takes courage.
“It’s a shame,” says color and design expert Barbara Schirmeister, a color consultant to window covering maker Hunter Douglas and other companies. “Color is such an affordable pleasure, yet many people get stuck living in bland spaces because they’re afraid of making a mistake.”
Well, duh. “Painting the kitchen eating nook tame taupe instead of torrid tangerine is a lot easier on the stomach lining,” I say.
“They miss out on the fun of surrounding themselves with color they love, which can do so much to lift their minds and spirits,” she says. “What you feel most about any room is its color. The rooms we gravitate to are the ones with colors we most like.”
She’s right, of course. Our conversation reminds me of the time I covered my powder room in bright crimson damask print wallpaper, a jolt of color that made me feel positively giddy.
But such moves aren’t for the timid. One cure for color cowards, says Schirmeister, is color blocking, which she defines as the unexpected use of color. “Color blocking adds movement, drama and the opportunity to surround yourself with more of the colors you enjoy. It lets you give a room not just personality, but your personality. It is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself in your home.”
We can thank Dutch painter Piet Mondrian for the concept, Schirmeister says. His canvases incorporated intersecting blocks of color and inspired vibrant patchworks to begin showing up on fashion runways and in interiors.
Make you nervous? Me too. But try this exercise. Close your eyes. Well, maybe just one because you still need to read. Now picture a completely white room. Got it. Now add a turquoise sofa, a lemon-yellow chair, and hot pink window shades. Throw in an area rug in with large geometric patches of the three colors. Congratulations. You just color blocked your first interior.
To help home decorators bust out of their dull color ruts, Schirmeister take us by the hand and offers these tips:
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through marnijameson.com.