Lovable Brown

My latest color article is up at decor8. This month, the feature color is brown. Holly pitched in and added some additional swanky pictures of her own and a little more text, so this piece was truly a collaborative effort. Thanks for your help, Holly!
It was a great exercise for me to find the beauty in a color I generally don't give much consideration to. In all my consulting work, I find it's definitely the color people gravitate towards- it's safe, neutral, and comforting.
photo stills from Ikea commercial

Unfortunately, without adding a little umph to all those grayed-out colors: beiges, taupes, browns, and khakis, you end up with a rather bland, depressing palette. Think about using browns to contrast against a more saturated palette, and you'll get that pop you're striving for. Is brown your safety color? What hue do you use the most of in your home?

Paint question

Reader Christine wrote to me, asking for more information about paint.
In your profession, what brand paint do you use most or do you let your clients tell you what they want? I am curious about the process.
The two brands I spec the most often are Benjamin Moore (BM) and Sherwin Williams (SW). Both brands are high quality paint, and that makes all the difference when you're applying the product, and looking for a beautiful, long-lasting surface. I prefer BM's color choices, but there are more SW retail stores around, so often, clients or their painters will opt for SW because of availability. Sometimes it's hard to replicate a certain color from one brand into another. Each brand's base has a different chemical make-up, and so pigment reacts differently with each base. Also, certain paint systems work with 10-12 pigments, while others work with only 6. If you're dealing with a full-spectrum paint, like Donald Kaufman, you can't match those colors in BM, because the latter uses black to tone down a color, while the former uses the compliment of the color.I've found that certain brands do a better job with particular colors. For instance, I've learned that Pratt and Lambert is awesome for deep base colors like navy and deep rich reds. BM reds tend to be pinky. And SW has a significant problem with their deep base, and reds tend to run and streak.

But anyways, I digress. Has anyone noticed other specific traits of a paint brand that influence your decision about which to chose for a project? Any brand favorites?

Cool new color book

I must have this book "Kelvin: Colour Today". It sounds really intriguing, and I am always eager to gobble up color tidbits. The title comes from the term for color temperature, measured in a unit called Kelvin.
Here's an editorial review:

Kelvin investigates today’s evolving perception and application of colour. Structured into chapters that each focus on a single colour, the book documents some of the effects of the deliberate use of colour in recent top quality design work. Alongside images of clear and distinctive colour allocation, Kelvin also includes more intricate and playful examples that illustrate contemporary colour combinations. This ensures that the reader is introduced to the subject of colour in an instructive as well as an associative and experimental way.
Colour currently plays an increasingly significant role in global visual communication. More than ever, colour is being deliberately utilized to give design projects, campaigns and brands their own distinctive style. Astonishingly until now hardly any publications exist that investigate today’s evolving perception and application of colour.
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More sneak peaks. And here's a link to numerous sites where you can buy it.

Tip via Color Association newsletter

Mark your calendars-Art Wikimarathon

What's this?
There's a lack of art/artist info on Wikipedia, and we're often too busy to find the time to contribute. So, one day is being designated as ART WIKIMARATHON day, during which time people are asked to collectively drop serious knowledge into wikipedia about art. From your favorite notable artwork, artist or exhibition, to our soon-to-be-famous peers. Other suggested data include adding structural links to alumni schools and categories like collective art groups, non profit orgs, etc.When is it?
The day is Saturday January 26th: an afternoon on the internet quietly enriching the public domain. We imagine groups of 2-4 people around tables across the country, bottomless coffee cups fueling the discussions, fact checking, and troubleshooting. Ideally lots of "oh, that person worked with X, I'll make a page for them, link me up." There will also be a lot of online chatting across coasts. Video chats if bandwidth permits.

Is there more information?

Yup. More information

Reader Design Dilemma-pulling rooms together

Oh goody, a new color dilemma! Let's roll up our sleeves and get to work. Reader Manisha wants our opinions on how to make her space cohesive and chic through the use of color. Here's the scoop:
I'm a first time home buyer, moved to Orange County, California from New York and am trying my hand at creating a comfortable and stylish space. I'm at work on our family room and wanted your advice on pulling the look together.
Our family room is an open space with our kitchen and I agonized over the paint color. It needs to work with our earthy granite (santa cecilia gold - flecks of beige, brown, maroon and black) and camel colored sofa. My comfort zone is painting in cocoa/caramelly tones. When I test it on a wall in the kitchen it looks great, but goes peachy on the family room wall. It's the most bizarre thing. I finally settled on a pale moss green, which you can see behind the sofa.
Granite counter-top
She's still not confident about the moss color- what do you think?
View of the kitchen from the family room. She would like to de-emphasize the cabinet color because they came out to be a bit more pink than she expected. I would definitely change out the color against the cabinets to tone down the pink factor. By contrasting green against the cabinets, you actually emphasize the pinkiness because red (pink) and green are complimentary colors, and therefore produce the maximum contrast between two colors. Perhaps try pulling a different color from your granite counter-top.

I also want to revamp the dingy brick fireplace but not sure if I should paint it or cover with a stone. We're planning on covering it with a honeyish limestone. Should the mantel be shiny, dark coffee color like the mirror that will go above it or should it be an antique white like the shelves?
I asked for some additional info, and learned that the room faces southeast and gets great light during the early part of the day but is shady for the better half. She wants to achieve a balanced mix between warm and cool tones.
Inspiration photos, provided by Manisha
The rug she loves.

As you can see, she liked neutrals, golds, and greens. To make a cohesive space, my one suggestion would be to look at the value of the object and colors she is bringing in. So, if the palette is pretty well-defined, as it seems it is, choosing colors is not an issue. Value refers to the range of darks to lights, from black to white and all the shades of gray in-between. A well-designed space takes this into consideration before color even enters the picture. Let me show you what I mean:By taking one of the inspiration photos with lovely copper, brown and green, and turning it into a black and white photo, you can clearly see the wide range in values, from darks to lights. This is the framework that makes a beautiful design work effectively.

As far as how she envisions using the space: she'd love for the room to appear bigger because they tend to spend quite a bit more time there (that's where the tv is). They have a beautiful backyard with lots of green trees visible and a rock garden waterfall that the previous owners put in. There's a light stone wall around the perimeter with yellow-green ivy all over it so she's planning to replace the current blinds with some simple silk panels off of dark bronze rods. Hm, I wonder if this is a great opportunity to bring some of the outdoors inside to incorporate those colors from the view. Going with mossy greens will certainly accomplish this.

She's got a lot to work with here, so I'm going to need your help to give her some great suggestions. To me, this is more of a designer question: how to bring everything together. There are some amazing designers (both professional, and design enthusiasts-you know who you are!) who read this blog. What are your thoughts?

Food for thought

Just how important to the success of a product is the color, shape or detailing of a package? After you've stripped away the logo and product name, will it still be identifiable? Marketing professionals call this "product recall". You use it all the time without even realizing it. Like when you're grocery shopping, scanning the shelves for that particular color that identifies your favorite pasta sauce jar, shampoo bottle, etc.
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Artist Derek Stroup created a photo series of stripped-down candy and chip packages that are very telling. How many of these can you identify?
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I read somewhere that a product has one-twentieth of a second to grab a customer's attention on a shelf or display. Here's another fun statistic:
Research reveals people make a subconscious judgment about a person, environment, or product within 90 seconds of initial viewing and that between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on color alone.
Another impressive statistic; according to a University of Loyola, Maryland study, color increases brand recognition by up to 80 percent. 80%- that's pretty significant!
How many of the chip and candy wrappers could you identify? How conscious are you of the products you remember solely by color?

via Grafiko and Lifelounge

Crazy, colorful building for kids

"Regenboogspiraal of Valkenburg aan de Geul" is a recently completed hostel for seriously ill children receiving treatment at the nearby clinic in the south of Holland. Their families can stay with them there, which is a wonderful thing if you're spending every waking hour with your child in a hospital. According to my rough computer translator, it also acts as a vacation destination for families with disabled children.
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It's the design of the famous Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and this is his first building in the Netherlands. Funded by the Ronald McDonald charity. How fantastic to embrace color and organic shapes in celebrating life and children. I mean, who -says- walls have to be straight, and colors neutral and subdued?
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Sadly, Friedensreich didn't live long enough to see his last artistic creation. He died back in 2000. Very Gaudí-esque, except instead of mosaic tiles, he uses paint.

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Hundertwasser House is another building he did, a huge apartment building in Vienna. One source said it was for low-income housing, but I couldn't find verification of that. I just love how he's injected such joyful color into his designs. No depressing, lack-luster, regimented building structures here!

via Livelygrey

In the pink...building, that is

Umbra, the well-known Canadian brand of contemporary and affordable products for the home, has a flagship store in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (edited for clarification)
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This is an example of a "brand experience" store, similar to Nike or M&M's stores.
The exterior is wrapped in translucent pink cladding, while the interior is sleek, minimal and white.
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Attached on the three street-facing sides of the outer shell is a cladding that John Shnier, project architect, calls a "pink veil." To get technical for you architects and engineers, the sub-structure Unistrut frame is a multichannel system of extruded polycarbonate panels. Not that I have the foggiest idea what that means, but there it is.

I like this: the architect calls the pink panels "architectural sunglasses". He waxes poetic, "It hides and enhances, is mysterious and seductive, and projects the brand's presence." The panels are curved to catch the light and reflect a soft pink glow into the interior. The 300 strips of translucent polycarbonate are installed over the glass walls, and at night embedded LEDs turn everything pink.
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Why pink? "It's a fashion color," Shnier points out. "In addition, we had to differentiate the Umbra building from the gray-tone exterior materials used for the skin of the high-rise condo that was being constructed right next door."(source)

Okay, so it's a fashion color. But I thought this was a home furniture and accessories store, right? They sell contemporary products, ranging from picture frames to kitchenware, window treatments to bathroom basics, and hardware to tabletop settings. I'm wondering how they decided upon pink. It certainly does stand out in the foggy grayness that often encapsulates Toronto. Kudos to them for trying something different!

Pottery Barn's bold new move

Have you seen the latest Pottery Barn catalog? Usually, you can expect to see pretty tame designs and colors when it comes to this middle of the road, everyman store. Lots of beige, tan, brown, khaki, cream...neutrals. Pottery Barn has honed a "look" that is very identifiable- safe, kinda generic, nice, but not too nice. You know you've seen it.
They've teamed up with Benjamin Moore to bring their customers a "palette" every season to go along with their furniture and accessories. Which I find rather humorous, considering most of their pieces are so neutral to begin with, they go with just about anything. But I digress.
Spring 2008 selected color palette

Their latest catalog boasts bold, vibrant colors. Very cool for those of us who eat color for breakfast, but I'm wondering what their customer base will think...
This season's selections are intense and bold, a rather big leap from the traditional Pottery Barn look. Talk about bright, rather saturated colors! I can certainly see myself painting a room deep eggplant, but the general population who shops at PT? I'm not so sure.

Anyways, what struck me the most was that Pottery Barn specifies particular paint colors for the rooms they've put together in the catalog. So, you can go out and get that exact color for your own home. Which sounds great, in theory. But think about this: how many times have you looked at a color in the store, then brought it home to find it's completely wrong? I have a friend who fell in love with Restoration Hardware paint colors-she thought they looked so clean, and spa-like.
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But alas, those colors on her walls at home looked dingy and grey. Why? One word-lighting. In the store, there were fluorescent lights, but in our homes, we generally have incandescent and natural lighting. So, there's no way that color in the beautifully-lit room of that printed catalog is going to look the same on your wall. Trust me on this one.

Pottery Barn images source

Color trends, the over-kill of a color

The New York Times recently published an article about Pantone's 2008 Color of the Year, and it's skepticism is quite refreshing, I have to say.

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Anytime a color is deemed so popular that it supercedes all others, you see the mass market completely flooded with that hue. Sure, you might be thrilled at first to purchase something in a bright, vibrating luscious orange tone. But after months of seeing that same color, over and over again, the backlash begins. It's like any other uber-popular color trend that has cycled through the marketplace.
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Remember the gold, olive, and orange of the 70's? It took 30 years for variations of those colors to circulate back into our palettes without people running, screaming in the other direction. Or take mauve, turquoise and grey from the 80's. I bet we'll see some of that coming back...eventually. The colors in of themselves aren't terrible, it's their over-use that seals their doom.
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My take on trends is this: manufacturers like them because they help push a product by giving it a new life. You might already have 2 perfectly good carrot peelers in your kitchen. But now, you can have one in this fantastic new shade of purple! Trends add a sense of timeliness to things. With styles coming and going as quickly as they do, the fashion industry is highly suceptible to the folies of color trends.
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"Because consumer tastes and values are under a variety of influences — economic, environmental, global — anointing one color isn’t all that meaningful," the article argues.
I once attended a talk given to a room full of interior designers by a color forecaster. The biggest question in the room was, "What's the hot new color?", followed closely by "Is green the new black?"
I shy away from trends, instead, preferring to take each product, interior, or brand on a case by case basis. After all, how can any one limited palette of colors solve every solution? The biggest issue I see lately is how companies will learn to define themselves as "green" in creative ways that use something other than the color green to denote their environmental consciousness. Eventually, the backlash of that over-use will kill the effectiveness of their approach.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree or disagree? I'd love to know what you think!