Wednesday, July 30, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Finding your color courage

By
From page HS6 | May 09, 2014 |

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.

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:

  • Pick colors you enjoy. Start by asking yourself what colors you like to surround yourself with or wear. Don’t worry about whether the colors go in your space. “The big lesson Mondrian taught us was not to be afraid of using unexpected combinations,” says Schirmeister.
  • Keep large areas neutral. Add your colors to a neutral background, which will anchor the blocks of color, says Schirmeister. “Later, if you want to change the color block from lime to lilac, it’s easier when you have some neutrality in the room.”
  • Pick compatible colors. You need at least two colors — three is better — for blocking besides the neutral you’re working against. The colors have to get along “and be happy together,” she says. One way they can relate is by sharing the same value or strength. They may all be saturated colors or all sea washed, for instance. Or, you can find variations in one hue. Think of assorted shades of blue in the sea.
  • Know where to block. Apply blocks of color in spots: on seat cushions, area rugs or window coverings. Add a side chair in one of the colors, or throw pillows or a sofa slipcover. An excellent way to add a color block is by painting an accent wall or small alcove like a reading or eating nook. Play with blocks of color on vertical planes like kitchen back splashes or the back wall of glass-fronted kitchen cabinets or bookcases. “If you paint a color on the back wall of your glass kitchen cabinets, you completely change the room,”  says Schirmeister.
  • Know when to stop. Although most home decorators are too timid with color and need the courage to add more, you can mess up by going overboard. “Stop when it’s enough,” she says. I know, easier said than done. This is where a good eye is helpful. “You have to see when you’ve crossed the line.” But go forth bravely, and remember color is cheap. Its rewards are priceless.

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.

 

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