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Ask an Interior Designer: How Can I Experiment with Color?

SHP

We’re launching a new feature on SHP.com: Ask An ______. The series is just what you’d expect: you ask the questions, we turn to our best and brightest architects, interior designers and engineers to get the answers. We’re kicking things off with one of our interior designers, Molly Kerth. 

To this day, the influence of Greek culture—including their fascination with beauty and appearance—can be felt in a number of ways.  Take the term, “esthetics” (from which the English word “aesthetics” is derived), the Greek term used to describe the nature of beauty and taste, as well as the philosophy of art. That’s something Molly knows a little something about! So, to help provide some guidance for current and future interior design projects, we asked, “How can I experiment with color?” She answered. 

Color & The Environment

As you may know, color has proven to have strong psychological effects that can alter the mood and energy levels of those in the room. In addition, color can also affect how large and crowded a room feels to those who occupy it. So, the choice of color for your interior is an important one—but how do you know which one to choose? 

First, decide what the purpose of your room should be. This will vary greatly depending on the project. For example, the purpose of an elementary school classroom will differ significantly from that of an office building. Determining the goal of your room will not only give you a great place to start but will guide you throughout the entirety of the project. 

Once you establish the reason for your design, it is finally time to break out the palette deck and decide on a color. Cool colors, like blues and greens, have been shown to create a calming and soothing effect. These colors are considered “restful” because they are less strenuous on the eyes and are perfect for high-traffic rooms or rooms that you or other people will spend significant amounts of time in. 

If you are one to count calories, you may want to avoid certain color palettes for your kitchen or dining room. Why? Warmer colors, like yellows and oranges, have been known to stimulate or whet a person’s appetite. (That’s one reason countless fast-food restaurants utilize warm colors in their color schemes; they make you hungry!) 

If you’re looking for a happy medium, consider the color purple, which provides a nice balance of stimulation and serenity. It has been shown to increase creativity, focus and relieve tension, a perfect choice for the home or office. 

Start Bold

When styling a room, it may feel tempting to stick with white walls and a more neutral palette, but going bold can be very rewarding. Bright colors will make your design more appealing to the eye and create a more inviting feel to your interior, rather than creating a feeling of starkness that may come with more toned-down hues. But too much color will drown out the effect you seek altogether, so a balance is necessary. 

“I like to start by going bold and pushing it to the limit and then seeing where it goes from there,” said Molly. “People tend to get a little nervous when it comes to mixing patterns and colors, especially when you’re looking at multiple colors and patterns together. But as long as you play with the same colors you personally enjoy, everything will work out.”

Starting with your bright color of choice will give you a clear direction for where the project is heading and help you better see what colors and patterns fit your design. When incorporating bold colors into your interior, be sure to keep scale and proportion in mind to avoid the dreaded, “too much of a good thing.” 

Luckily, there is an industry-wide rule of thumb you can follow to make your life much easier. For smaller spaces, try a single-shade accent wall rather than covering the entire room. This provides a beautiful pop of color without dominating the room. For larger and more open spaces, you can cover all four walls without overwhelming a room’s occupants. From there, you can add different hues of the same and complementary colors throughout the area to tie it all together. 

Know When to Tone It Down

Bold patterns and colors can look exquisite, funky, energetic or fresh—and they’re fun to mix. But just as bright colors can enliven a bland space, remember that the opposite is also true: neutrals and carefully selected finishes can help tone down an otherwise over-the-top color choice.  

For example, if you go out and purchase a lime green couch that ends up being a little too extra for your interior, try taking adding beige pillows and a white or beige blanket to mute the loud green without taking away its effect entirely. 

It is also important to note that neutral colors do not have to be boring. Most people think of white, beige or brown when they think of neutrals, but other tones can be equally beautiful and create a neutralizing effect just the same. Metal finishes, for example, have the same effect as a true neutral while still adding an extra layer of visual interest to the space.

Add Some Patterns

Pattern is perceived as “the great unifier in interior design.” In a room featuring bold colors, incorporating a cohesive pattern, including both bold and neutral hues, will tie your design together. If you are unsure which color to choose, try starting with a pattern you like and working around it. As for placement, this, of course, comes down to personal preference, but textiles are a great first step. Think patterned rugs, throw pillows, or blankets that would flow naturally with your room, and work from there. If you want to make a bigger statement, try some large wall art or even a patterned accent chair to serve as the space’s focal point.

There is no reason to shy away from the use of bold colors and patterns. Give these tips a try, and you will love the look that follows. 

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