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Understanding the Language of Color:
What do colors say to you?
Upon entering a room, our eyes take in its color, proportion, balance and light as well as its overall mood. Though we may not always be able to quantify our experience, we invariably develop a strong emotional reaction. We may feel it is cold or warm, inviting or intimidating, cozy or grandiose. Regardless of how well we may be able to express our pleasure or displeasure with any given room or space, we can always identify whether or not we like its color.
Color is the most immediate experience, one that is emotional and visceral. Colors have the power to soothe or stimulate, relax or excite, please or displease. Color can also be evocative, conjuring up memories of childhood, happy or sad experiences, remembrances of travels and places. Colors can be the most effective way to establish the mood and overall feeling of your space and may be introduced in many forms. Paint is most obvious and dramatic way to bring color to a room. But there other more subtle ways. Textiles in the form of curtains, rugs and pillows are an effective and versatile means to add color and manipulate the look and mood of your space.
Given the array of color choices it is a seemingly daunting prospect to choose just one. But it becomes simple once you discern the mood particular colors create and the feelings it evokes. If you want a serene bedroom for example, choose soothing and calming colors. If you want to create a vibrant room, turn up the volume color wise. For the more permanent and widespread color installations, such as paint on your walls, you have to be willing to commit.
Generally it is a good idea to create canvases upon which we can introduce further color. An easy and rewarding way to introduce accent colors throughout the room is to add pillows. You may not want to have a predominantly pink room but would be happy and quite uplifted to place a hot pink throw pillow on your couch or bed for that hit of pink that satisfies without overwhelming. You may wish to warm up your room for winter with luscious color and inviting textures. While it certainly is not practical to repaint your room to suit the seasons, it is certainly possible to affect the main color by bringing in accent colors that warm it up or cool it down.
Decorative pillows can instantly bring texture and color to your space. For example, a cool ocean blue room will feel airy and light in the summer accented by linen pillows in shades of blues, greens and grays. The same room can take on a much more atmospheric and dramatic feel by adding cut velvet pillows in deep purple, dramatic charcoal and moody black. Once you begin to play and experiment with color, it becomes addictive, as it is an intoxicating and sensual experience. Our moods are so easily affected by the colors that surround us that it is quite possibly the most rewarding element of design to manipulate.
The language of color
Color is a key part of our lives. Its powerful impact on our mood and sense of well being is hard to quantify and sometimes even hard to discern but it nonetheless shapes our daily experience. Imagine a gray rainy day and contrast it with a bright sunny day. Imagine the introspective mood of the grey day and contrast it with the exuberant feeling one has when the sun peaks from behind the clouds. Imagine the color of rain and the color of sunshine. It may be hard to define, but unquestionably it can be experienced.
Once we start to think about color and how it affects us, exciting possibilities reveal themselves.
At home we can change the color of our surroundings and the atmosphere of our rooms by simply painting, or adding colorful pillows and throws, or placing a vibrantly colored vase on mantel or table. It is easy and infinitely rewarding. How then, does one choose a color? Well, each color has its message and evokes a certain mood. Once you learn about the basic colors and corresponding moods, you can then apply them to achieving your design goals.
In nature: Attention! Red in nature either signifies danger or attraction. The amazonian red frog is poisonous and its red color keeps enemies at bay. Red spots on many birds are a means of attraction and are proudly displayed during mating season.
At home: Stimulation! Red is a bold and dominant color. Our eyes are drawn to it and will register the color immediately and intensely. For some, it can be overwhelming, for others it provides just the right amount of stimulation and excitement. Whether it is used to warm up a space, make a dramatic first impression, or add liveliness as an accent color, red is always unforgettable.
In nature: Light! Yellow is the color we associate with sunlight. Sunlight expands the visual field making spaces seem larger and more voluminous. Yellow flowers are vibrant and lively and command attention because they offer such a high contrast to the predominant color in nature which is green.
At home: Nurturing warmth. Yellow is a luminous and nurturing color. It is almost impossible not to be cheered up by the golden light that is cast in most yellow rooms. Yellow is the color that most closely emulates the joyful mood of a lovely summer day. Yellow pillows are a classic way to introduce color and light to any room.
In nature: Liveliness! Orange flowers always convey exuberance. Even if present in small quantities, orange flowers, because of their attention grabbing hue, give the impression of abundant richness. Orange sunsets are inspiring and breathtaking. The experience of observing a sunset is enriching and satisfying.
In Nature: Blue is the color of the sky and the ocean which are vast and though constantly changing, are always present and offer us the promise of a new day. The vastness of the sky and the powerful presence of the ocean remind us of how vast and mysterious the universe is and evoke a feeling of wonder an depth.
At home: Blue is a wonderous color because it has infinite tones ranging from peaceful powdery blues to vibrant teal and dramatic nautical blues. A blue room conveys tranquility, harmony and serenity. Lighter shades bring forth a tranquil atmosphere while darker ones transmit a sense of history and tradition. Blue pillows may reinforce an overall blue color scheme or introduce a blue, tranquil note.
Temperature: Cool M
Message: Harmony, Life, Contemplation
In nature: Green is the predominant color in nature. Of all the colors, it has the widest range of variations. Green is the background color to nature’s bounty. It highlights the other colors and makes them come to life.
At home: Green is a widely versatile color due to its enormous range of tones. Some shades of green are energizing and lively. Some are restful and create an ideal background to hold many other colors. Some greens are associated with a sickly complexion and create instant displeasure. Some greens are considered young and modern, while others are traditional and harmonizing.
Similarly, green pillows may add a playful touch or an elegant note.
Temperature: Cool and Warm
In nature: Purple flowers are always eye catching and lend a magical touch to the garden. Purple is a complex color that offers the depth of blue and the passion of red all in one.
At home: Purple is a very vivid and sensuous color. It commands special attention. Therefore, it is not for everyone and must be used sparingly as it can easily overwhelm the space. Interestingly though, lighter shades of this color such as mauve and lavender may be used widely and act as a neutral background. In small doses, such as in pillows and accessories, purple can create a very sophisticated, luxurious look.
In nature: Pink flowers hold a special fascination as they present a delicate and ephemeral beauty. Hot pink flowers by contrast offer a bold statement, and convey real verve.
At home: Pink is a gentle color that tempers the hot passion of red with the purity of white. It is considered a sweet color and therefore must be used in measured amounts as not to become too cloying. Pink pillows on a bed compose a delicate haven. Hot pink pillows make a bold statement on a sofa, chair or bed.
In nature: Brown is the color of earth and wood. It is the base on which everything grows. Brown represents roots, shelter and solidity.
At home: Brown exists in almost every home in the form of wood furniture and flooring. But it can also be used as a wall color for a dramatic sheltering effect. Brown pillows and accessories seldom fail to provide a sophisticated finish to any space.
In nature: White conjures up images of fluffy clouds and pristine snow. Snow covered fields appear clean and untouched. A white landscape appears large and uninterrupted.
At home: White can have many applications at home. A white kitchen is always pleasing and never out of style. Large expanses of white walls create a gallery feel. And crisp white linens and towels look smart and sophisticated. White pillows are the perfect metaphor for the fluffy white clouds and lend a dreamy feel to the space.
In nature: Black is the night sky. It is mysterious and formal. Black represents the vastness of space and its unknown quantities. Black is also the color of many stones like onyx and slate.
At home: Black is a very suitable for any formal event. In the home, black coveys the same formality and seriousness. Hits of black in room instantly dress it up. A black lamp shade makes even the most humble lamp base appear more sophisticated. Black on pillows provide just the right amount of black to ground a color scheme.
Temperature: neutral M
In nature: Beige is the color of sand and various stones. Like brown, beige provides a background against which other colors and textures can be highlighted.
At home: Beige has been maligned in the past as being a bit too bland. However, beige is the ideal color to accentuate different textures and patterns. For example, a collection of beige pillow in different patterns looks interesting and inviting.