Reader Design Dilemma-joining rooms

What do you do when you have combined living spaces that flow together? Do you paint them all the same color? How do you visually separate the spaces? Or do you want to make them more cohesive? We've got a great example of this quandary, submitted by reader Mary Beth.
I would like any advice you can offer about what color to paint my kitchen/family room. It's all one big area and needs to be painted the same color.
Here's a montaged image of the breakfast nook and the living room area

(Kitchen cabinets being painted, so doors are removed.)
I'm planning to put a beige slip cover on the small side chair in the family room, but I need to keep the burgundy sofa. The floors are a medium reddish oak color. And there's a small traditional area rug that is gold, beige, black, and burgundy.
I'm really sick of beige walls! But I need to keep the color light. Maybe a light blue or green? I love the grayish blues and greens, and think they might work with the burgundy sofa. Any suggestions?
-Mary Beth
Okay, here's my take on the matter. First question-why do the areas need to be the same? Who says they have to be the same colors? I say, each space has it's own purpose, and deserves its own color. Of course, there are architectural restrictions to work around. For instance, you shouldn't try to break a wall into multiple areas of color without natural breaks in the wall, such as columns, cabinets, or other elements. So, the structure and layout of the space does determine where colors are a certain extent.

So, where do we go from there?

First, you need to figure out what kind of lighting the space gets. Is it bright and sunny, or shady and cool? What design goals are you hoping to achieve with the spaces? Is the living room supposed to be relaxing, or energizing? Should it be spacious and airy, or cozy and intimate? These are all issues to consider before launching into color selection. That being said, since we don't have all those answers for this dilemma, let's play around with color:
Here's a soft sage green living room, paired with a neutral warm mocha color (you'd need to check how it worked with the detail work in the tiles, as I can't quite tell what color they are)
Alternatively, here's a cool gray blue, paired with the same mocha kitchen color.
Just to get daring here, pushing towards cleaner, brighter colors could further liven up the space. Here, I simply bumped up the saturation level of the green and added a cheerful blue wall for the kitchen.

You may wonder where I pulled the bright blue suggestion. When you are really stuck trying to figure out a good color for a space, try inverting the colors to find the compliments. If you have a photo editing program, you can do it digitally. Otherwise, grab a handy-dandy color wheel, and travel across the wheel for the color opposite your color in question. (Ie with a red couch, we'd be looking at blues and greens) Here, for example, are the inverse colors of Mary Beth's rug. Voila- a lovely complimentary blue shade.
As a last suggestion, to tie the couch into the decor, a rich burgundy wall would work really nicely-pulling in the living room colors with the reddish undertones in the tile work.

I'd like to hear from readers to weigh in with your suggestions. What colors do you think would work best for Mary Beth's kitchen/living room combo? How would you solve her color dilemma?

Making a statement-Hillary's color choices

Has anyone else noticed the progression of Hillary Clinton's outfit colors as the primaries progress?

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“Hillary Clinton’s biggest criticism is how harsh she is,” said Mary Lou Andre, president of Organization by Design Inc., a professional image consulting firm in Needham. “I think by wearing certain feminine colors, she will connect with voters. I think the public knows she can do the job. It’s her likability that’s the issue.”(source)

Evidently a way to appear more accessible, she wore red in Texas, ginger in South Dakota and buttercream in West Virginia. It certainly sets her apart from all of those somber dark gray, black and navy blue suits out there in on the campaign trail. I am fascinated by how far color psychology can penetrate into marketing strategies. Just look at most official uniforms- navy blue is favored because the message it sends says: authority, dependability, and strength.
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A Washington Post article dubbed her, "Clinton-the-human-color-wheel". But it's a smart way to set herself apart, to communicate more of her message through the colors she wears.

What do you think? Is it chauvinistic to focus on Hillary's clothes, or do we do the same for her male counter-parts? Do you think what the politicians are wearing have any bearing on their appeal as candidates?

When color studies aren't real

I'm always amused when I read about certain "studies" paid for by companies to support some marketing project or advertising campaign. While there are most certainly credible research studies conducted on the efficacy of colors and how they relate to user/user experience, I must caution you. There are many many so-called "studies" out there that have absolutely no credibility. A sure sign is when a blanket statement is made, encompassing huge demographics and situations.

For example, I was at a lecture the other week, listening to an eco-friendly company rep talk about using green products for building. While he had a captive audience of color consultants in the room, he asked our opinion about a specific paint color chosen for a doctor's office.
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The architect of the project had supported his color choice by declaring that "studies had shown" that this particularly dreadful shade of diarrhea green was calming and soothing to patients. I wish I had taken a picture of this color sample- it was SO awful!

Then you have this article on US News and World Report about how car colors reveals the psyche of the driver. This "study" comes from CNW Marketing Research where they evidently asked nearly 1,900 Americans about their attitudes toward their own lives at several points over the course of a year. They also asked each participant the color of the car they drive most often, which allowed the researchers to develop a kind of color-confidence index.
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I am immediately skeptical... A color-confidence index? Obviously, automotive companies invest a Ton of money on market research to reach their target audience. But honestly, this seems just a tad bit formulaic. Maybe it works for caricatures, but we're more complex than that.
According to CNW, here's what the color of a car says about the person who bought it:
They were also able to calculate the "moodiness" of drivers—how widely their confidence varied from one extreme to the other, in the course of a year.
What do they mean by "confidence"? See what I mean? Recipes involving colors just don't work. There's no validity to that. What if a subject chose their particular car, not based on a color, but instead based on availability of that model? My car is silver gray. Probably one of the last colors I would have personally chosen, had I had options.

Well, that's my take on this, in any case. Anyone share my sentiments?

Jelly Jewels

I love the description for this product: "a cheerful ode to urethane".
Soft Gems are squishy faux gems, originally used for costume jewelry, but now utilized for interior treatments. How cool is this panel from Philadelphia's Pod Restaurant? Has anyone been here? The site looks very futuristic and artsy.
What I like is the versatility of the product; here it is used for lamp columns.

My question, as a color fanatic, is: are the gem hues customizable to your specific needs? Not that I don't love the orange, pink, yellow and green palette. But what if someone wanted a cool blue palette, or all purple and reds?

How would you use these flexible panels full of colorful orbs?

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Sparse postings

Just wanted to let you all know I'm traveling to CA to do some house hunting this week. I've got a few posts ready to go, but it might be wee bit lighter than normal. I'm back next week, and will let you know how the search went!
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In the spirit of all that is the hassle of traveling these days- I thought these luggage tags were funny.

In the meanwhile, thanks so much to those of you who have expressed an interest in writing some guest posts for July. There are still some open slots for more articles, so please don't be shy-let me know if you'd like to write a little something about color!

Can you promote green without using it?

The Port of Seattle has a re-designed logo, and some great commentary about the design is on Brand New.
The old logo was maroon, and supposed to represent cranes, containers and the port itself.
The new iteration is intended to represent air land and sea. They are also supposed to represent the three parts of sustainability: economic development, social responsibility, and environmental stewardship.

As one commenter astutely mentions, it's your standard "eco-friendly palette" at work again.
Here's a snapshot I took during a presentation explaining environmental certification agencies. I was struck by the incredibly similar color palette they all shared.

The update certainly refreshes the brand, but why such muddy murky colors? Perhaps they were chosen to reflect the grayness of Seattle's rainy weather? What do you think?

Want to write for Hue?

I have a request for you all: I am looking for color enthusiasts to write some guest posts for Hue in July while I am moving across the country. If you've considered starting a blog, but don't want to commit to the time it takes to keep it running, or just have some fantastic ideas/ stories/ comments related to color that you'd like to share, please consider contributing! I would need the article(s) with pictures (eye-candy is key!) sometime before the end of June so I could set up the posts to run in July while I'm on the road. Even contributing one post would be fantastic. So, if you are interested, or know someone who might like to get some great exposure, please let me know.

Thanks so much for your help everyone!

Reader Design Dilemma-loft by the Bay

Our latest reader design dilemma from Sarah on the Chesapeake Bay. This one is a little different because the space is still under construction, so you'll have to use your imagination!
I have a loft-like space (a large living/bedroom above the garage) near the Chesapeake Bay. The room has high vaulted ceilings (about 10 feet, though of course the peak is higher), lots of windows, and board and batten extending to 7 feet on the walls. The space has windows on all sides, so gets plenty of light. There is a desk/bookcase unit that divides the space into living and sleeping areas. The furnishings are going to be low and modern.
The space, under construction
An example of the board and batten that will appear in the loft space
In terms of color, I was thinking of a soft grey/blue for the 7ft board & batten section of the walls (something along the lines of Boothbay Gray from Benjamin Moore) and a deeper color above that extending up across the ceiling (perhaps Benjamin Moore's Hale Navy). The color would extend throughout the space (only the bathroom will be different). I will also need an accent color for the central bookcase/desk and the trim.

Alternatively, if we decide not to paint the ceiling, perhaps the Hale Navy for the central bookcase/desk. I would love some more color options for the walls, trim, and central architectural component.

Is this a workable scheme? Or would a dark ceiling feel too oppressive? Do you have any color suggestions? -Sarah

Here are my initial thoughts on Sarah's dilemma. Some things to consider:

1.) How are you going to use the space(s)?

In Sarah's case, it's a multi-use space, with one side dedicated to sleeping, and the other for living. So, given that each side of the space has it's own purpose, it makes sense to divide the space with appropriate colors for each end. This will visually set up the two sides, as well as emphasize the desired mood for each space.

2.) What are the architectural needs of the space(s)?
This expansive loft space has a high peaked roof. If she paints the ceiling dark, it will achieve one effect, while if she paints it light, it will present a totally different solution. Does she want to emphasize the ceiling, drawing attention to it's "loftiness" with a light hue, or does she prefer to make the space feel cozy and intimate, and visually erase the ceiling with a dark tone?

*There is no one right answer, as everyone has different design goals.
For example, here's a really bad picture I shot at my favorite little gelato shop in Baltimore (yum!). They have soft custard yellow walls, and jet black ceilings that just simply disappear. It works really well in this scenario.
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As for colors, each one will have a different effect, depending upon the particular space. What looks bright and fresh in one space might appear dark and somber in another. If you have enough light in a space, it will be able to hold darker colors like Hale Navy.
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For a nautical theme that isn't too cheesy, she could pair blue gray walls with crisp white trim and cheery red accents.
As a rule of thumb, the spaces you see in glossy magazines are generally professionally lit and styled, so don't take the color you see in print to be the same you'll see once it's up on your walls. Always take the chip home, or paint a 2x2' test board first.
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Gray is a tricky character, and will shift depending upon the type of light you get, as well as what it's up against. There are cool grays, warm grays, brown grays, blue grays, green grays... the list goes on. So be sure to look at it's undertone to make sure that's the look you are going for.

What else can I offer... I'd like to get everyone else's opinions and design suggestions on this dilemma. What would you suggest?

Bloggers in print

I was reading one of my weekly favorites, Creative Thursday, and just learned that there is a new magazine out called Artful Blogging.
Granted, this post is a bit of departure from my color-centric articles, but I think it's great that bloggers are getting some recognition, and want to support that effort. More and more blogs pop up every day, and it sure is hard to keep track of all the new goodies out there. I can't wait to see if anyone we know gets covered!

Rainbow of room hues

Oh, how I love to see colorful spaces done well. Domino magazine has an online gallery up of beautiful bright rooms in a rainbow of fruit flavors.
"Theatrical color can distract from flaws. Confederate Red draws the eye from the unassuming laminate cabinets in this rental kitchen."
Be sure to read the little description next to each picture- it's useful to read about the effect they were looking to achieve, or the specific challenges of a particular color.
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Looking at examples of how colors work together is a great way to get ideas for your own space. Worried about that deep rich eggplant color in your dining room? Look for examples of how others have handled that color. You may get an idea you hadn't thought of before!

Color Catastrophe

This just in from reader Holly:
She got this image in some product literature that a carpet rep brought in and wanted to share it with us.
Can you imagine sitting through a meeting in that conference room? It seems like it would be very agitating. And then the hallway...the complete opposite extreme! Grey upon beige upon taupe?
I concur, this space would not be one I would want to spend any period of time trying to concentrate in. Yikes! It would be fun to see what other horrible color mishaps people can find. Let's start a collection of what not to do with color- send in your best examples and we can vote on the worst!

Colorific blog

FYI: there's a brand new color blog in the blogosphere.
Written by Elizabeth Brown, a fellow IACC member, she's just started the site, but I think it's going to be a fantastic source for color information. We eagerly await future posts!