Pressing design questions? Ask an expert

My color pal Annie Elliott is going to be a guest on Washington Post's Home Front weekly online chat tomorrow.
Thursday, April 29, at 11 a.m. ET
So, if you have any pressing design questions, go ahead and ask away! She is way talented, and a hoot to boot.

Where did the time go?

Is it really Tuesday? Ack, I owe you all a blog post. Crazy weekend- haven't had the time to write yet. I have a few deadlines I have to meet this week, but I will try my darndest to get you something fun to read.
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Thanks for your patience!

Transforming cities with paint

I am in love with this project. The paint company AkzoNobel, makers of Dulux and Coral, working together with local communities, have been initiating neighborhood "make-overs" across the world.

The project is called "Let's Colour", a worldwide initiative to transform grey spaces with colorful paint. They strive to rejuvenate depressing, dirty, crumbling streets, houses, schools and squares with shockingly bright, cheerful paint colors.
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What a difference this must make in people's attitudes about where they live. Countries such as Brazil, India, France, and the UK have had the good luck of receiving assistance through this project. But wait til you see some images...

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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In the top left image, you can get a feel for the density of the housing and the depressing, oppressive feeling one must have gotten before color was introduced.
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Graffiti be gone. Ah, so much better...

Johpur, India
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This painting marathon consisted of a school and a  community square. Aren't those colors just edible? 
The transformation is just incredible. You can see a little of what the team was starting with in the first top left image.

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But just look at this. Speaking to a group of local women after, they told the project leaders that they love the bright new color because it was like a smile every morning.

You might be wondering- how were colors selected? Was it arbitrary? Given what I've been digging up about this endeavor, by working with local businesses and the community, the project leaders show great cultural sensitivity.   

Update: Just emailed with a rep from Let's Colour and she explained in more detail:
A broad colour palette was chosen by the AkzoNobel Global Aesthetic Centre in Amsterdam. This palette was based on global research that identifies popular colours and colour combinations by market. Also among these colours were some of the 2011 Colour Futures colours, again based on similar global research by the Aesthetic Centre. This broader palette was then simplified by the Euro RSCG creative team, TV Director (Adam Berg) and Stink Production's Art Director (Kem White) to create a colour flow that runs fluidly throughout the 4 cities painted taking into consideration the colour trends per country.
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Jodhpur, for example, is called the blue city for a reason.

Aulnay-sous-Bois, France
 Some shots of the area. Depressing, right?

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Some architects might cringe at the idea of painting over the purity of a concrete structure, but I say, it's SO much more lively now!

London, England
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Virginia Primary School in Tower Hamlets. If you were a kiddo, wouldn't this transformation from stodgy brick to cheerful brights be a welcome change?

These projects will ultimately be shown in a full-length documentary. Here's another clip from the film in progress. I'm keeping my ears perked for any more information on that. To learn where they are heading next, you can keep up to date on the Let's Colour blog. Where should they go now?

A little flair in the nursery

An update, as requested by you all who are following my nursery project...
The design goal? A soothing space in which I would enjoy spending countless hours- heck, the baby won't know the difference!

It's only because I know you all won't judge me too harshly that I share this disasterous mess I had to clean out prior to painting. Once my lovely office, then a dumping ground for everything without a home. Now, a blank slate ready to be transformed.

This past weekend, my mom, sister and I painted the nursery- what a relief to have that out of the way.  I added a little more "oomph" with a gradation of light to dark on the walls. Just for the heck of it. After all, who says walls have to be a solid color, top to bottom? Disclaimer: anyone who says they're just going to 'throw up a little decorative finish treatment'- beware. Sometimes the simplest treatments can be the most challenging. When my paint was wet, the difference between the dark, medium and light mixtures was barely discernible. So I was essentially blending blind. It's only after it dries that you start to see splotches, etc.

I used Benjamin Moore Natura, which is their no VOC paint. Great coverage, no smell, and dries lightening quick.

It turned out quite nicely! The light lilac ceiling is quite subtle, but that's the compromise I made with hubbie who was initially opposed to a contrasting ceiling color.

Here you can see the gradation a bit better. The contrast is not quite as dramatic as it appears in the photo. Crazy how hard it is to photograph this room, with all the strong light streaming through the windows.
We have 2 chairs, both very neutral. Takes up a bit of space, but we both wanted places to sit. With craigslist offerings, sometimes you can't be too picky.  But lucky for us, they work nicely. The warmth of the yellow chair plays off nicely against the cool walls. Plus, we can dress them up with toss pillows if we wanted to get really fancy.

So, that's where I'm at now, design-wise.

Next step, select a new rug. After painting the walls and ceiling these nice light pastels, I just can't imagine adding our vibrantly colored old living room rug. Too much stimulation.

So, back to my plethora of online sources to find just the right rug for our nursery.
Something that goes with Paprika, my lovely Balinese bird kite, hopefully.

I'd like to keep it gender neutral, so if our next wee one is a boy, we can still reuse it.

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Here's what I Don't want to do. Ack, pepto bismol overload. I believe this was one of Tori Spelling's kid's nurseries. Blech!

All you fantastic rug researchers out there- got any great ideas for me?

Want to write for Hue?

There's still time! I'm looking for a few more readers to write guest posts on Hue, to be published during my first month or so after having the wee little one.

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 Fabulous ideas spinning around in your head?
  • No prior experience necessary, just have an idea about color that you'd like to research/develop/express/share. 
  • Posts should be about 400 words long, with pictures interspersed every paragraph or so (we love to see visuals!)
In addition to really helping me out, you'd be gaining exposure for yourself, your blog/website (if you have one) and great experience writing for a diverse, enthusiastic, supportive group of readers.
Here's an overlay of the the geographic range of my readership from google analytics.

Just shoot me an email [rachel.perls (at) gmail (dot) com]with some links or examples of anything you've written previously as well as a little blurb about yourself and your interest in color. I'm really looking forward to hearing from you!

Those who have already contacted me with interest, I'd love to have your articles in by May 1st so I can start editing/formatting. Posts will then go live between the end of May and the beginning of June.

Color Deficiency- test your skills

Ever wonder if you're color vision deficient? (Commonly referred to as color blindness) How would you ever really know unless there were some specific image you couldn't read properly?
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To get a better idea of your specific color issues, here is an informal test you can take the original card version of Ishihara's color test was designed to be carried out in a room adequately lit by daylight under controlled conditions).
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Want to see more? Here's a cool image simulator

This is certainly an issue designers need to be taking into consideration, especially when designing environments for specific demographics such as the elderly (aging eye has limited color perception, etc.)  Any color deficiencies out there amongst readers? How do you cope?

Settling on a color for baby's room

When it comes to baby stuff, I'm of the "save our money for items that have more longevity" camp. The marketplace is saturated with more nursery-oriented decor than you could ever imagine. I have this image of landfills, overflowing with diapers, changing tables, cribs, glider rockers, and Winnie the Pooh paraphernalia.
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All I have to say is "yowsers". Like reader/colleague/pal Kelly comments, "Seems like designing a nursery can get as complicated as a full-blown kitchen remodel...if you let it."

I can barely get my act together putting the finishing touches on our living room (still haven't even purchased the "perfect" throw pillows yet). So the thought of going hog-crazy with our baby's room is frankly unrealistic. Items acquired so far: hand-me-down crib, hand-me-down shelves, old rug from our living room, cozy chair from downstairs, and a lovely bird kite/mobile left over from my office.  I intend to hunt down a dresser from craigslist, hit Ikea, or head over to our local unfinished furniture store to pick up a dresser. This will serve double duty as the changing table.

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If I end up going the Ikea route, here's a cute paint make-over I spotted on Apartment Therapy, using Otomi fabric prints to decorate the front face.

So while I'm taking the "use what I have" approach to most items in the nursery, I still have the wall colors to contend with.
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I've always been a lover of colored ceilings, so I know I'll be incorporating that element into our design. It doesn't have to be over-the-top, but I think it adds another dimension to your standard boxy room.

So, into the world of paint colors I delve.

Isn't it interesting how a color can look one way in one space, and completely different in another?
I helped a client select her perfect shade of blue (BM 1654 Ashwood Gray) for their bedroom, and wanted to give that color a shot in our nursery. No surprise there, it looks like a completely different color in our space.
Might have something to do with the oodles of light streaming through my client's windows, reflecting off the custardy- yellow house next door, that gives that blue it's green-undertone.  Also, her bedroom faces another direction from our nursery, so the light is different.

In our nursery, Ashwood Gray felt much more somber and I didn't get that turquoise-undertone I wanted.

Back to the paint store I went, for something more "spritely". (It's just way too hard to determine how a color will look based on those little chips.)

My next attempt was too far off the other end of the spectrum- Where are my sunglasses? This one is BM 758 House of Blues. Right undertone, wrong level of saturation.

See, even professionals don't always get it right the first time. Sometimes it's a matter of trial and error.

I was quite curious about C2's paint, so I ventured out to San Francisco to give their C2 1088 Banff a go.  While their paint is not all full-spectrum, they do use a 16-colorant European tinting system rather than the standard 12-colorant systems we're familiar with in most major paint brands.  I wanted to see for myself if the additional colorants made a big difference in how the color appeared.

C2's Banff is on the far left. Still too much red in the undertone. The middle swatch you see is the Ashwood Gray. On the far right, finally, I hit upon the perfect color: BM 723 Spring Rain. Bingo! Light, bright, turquoisy, but not too "in-your-face". Now I want to go back to my client's bedroom, hold up my sample board, and see how the two colors compare in her space.

For the ceiling in our nursery, I am going with a light lilac color that will hopefully set off my Bali Kite (I named her Paprika). We paint this weekend, so stay tuned for the end results!

Color podcasts offer in the inside scoop

Are you keeping up with the ColorPodz™ discussions over at ColorBudz

Hosted by colleague Lori Sawaya, she puts together weekly conversations all about color. Lori, Kelly Berg of Arte Styling, and I have so much to chat about, before we realize it, an hour has often gone by. Want to hear yours truly babble on about color? Check it out. We're always looking for good ideas for upcoming podcast topics, as well as constructive feedback, so please feel free to shoot us your suggestions at

Cliff notes synopsis:

Lighting in interiors, deciphering paint decks.

Working with a color designer: pricing, lead times, and specific steps and processes we like to follow.
With guest Annie Elliott from Bossy Color
Various paint brands, forums, and trends.

What it means to be a color expert. 

Baby decor and the dividing line

As we near the end of my pregnancy, a world unbeknownst to me so far, has become more and more prevalent. Baby excess. Just the other day, hubbie and I warily approached Babies 'R' Us at the prodding of a friend who wants us to register for stuff. Key word here being "stuff".

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But what intrigues me is the broad range of nursery and children's room decor out there in the marketplace. Is there any consensus as to what people are doing? There are certainly design trends that follow along financial divides. But can we make those generalizations for kid's design?

I've got a fun game for you so you can make your own decision about this. I'll pull images from three sources, without identifying them. You try and guess whether it's the high, middle, or mass-level price point.

Let's take gliders for starters. We're matching Serena and Lily, Pottery Barn and Babies 'R' Us to the appropriate chair.

Chair #1

Chair #2

Chair #3

Chair #4

Ready for the matches?

Chair #1:
Serena and Lily puts out a glider that runs around $1,200 [plus $120.00 for delivery, placement in your home (up to 2 flights of stairs), unpacking and removal of the debris/packaging material.] Talk about white glove service. You can customize colors from a lovely, if limited selection.

Chair #2:
Comparatively, if you go to Babies 'R' Us for a glider, a Dutailier costs about $600. Surprisingly, the options are endless. Almost overwhelming. Look at how many fabric options you have, just within the color beige! Having trolled craigslist for a glider lately, I've found countless ads for these models.

Chair #3:
Pottery Barn's Dutailier-looking model runs about $600- $1,050,  with fewer fabric color options. I wonder if the quality is better, or if you're just paying for the Pottery Barn name?

Chair #4:
Also Pottery Barn. Their slip-covered model starts at $800 and goes up from there, depending upon your fabric choice.

Interestingly, from these three examples, the 'high end' had the fewest color options, all color coordinated to compliment the available collections. The middle level had a bit more, but still pretty limited. The 'lower end' (if you can even call a $600 chair lower end!) had a dizzying array of color choices, but most very conservative options, and no assistance in matching to any specific collection. Interesting statement about choices...

So, how do the gallery rooms, provided by various baby/children's  retailers differ? Do the color palettes change at all? Is there anything we can put our finger on, as far as differences due to price points? Once again, I won't identify the retailer each collection is matched to (Serena and Lily, Pottery Barn and JCPenney)

Room collection #1

Room collection #2

Room collection #3

Ready for the answers?


Room collection #1: Pottery Barn rooms titled Lindsey Butterfly, Coco Dot, and Sweet Lambie Nursery seem to have a fairly limited design reach. The color combinations draw heavily on your stereotypical gender specific colors pink and blue. Swap out white for dark brown, and you've got their range. Still very pretty and clean, but somehow, more expected. And their little girl rooms? Not as much variety there, either. They feel a bit too saccharine to me.

Room collection #2: With names like Natasha, Marlo and Ruby, each designerly room in the Serena and Lily catalog is polished and just feels high-end. Lots of white furniture and accents. Or could it just be that they have awesome photographers and stylists? Forget the kids. I would like to live in one of these little girl rooms! There seems to be a sense of sophistication, and it feels as though the decor is less 'matchy matchy' and more edited-feeling, along the lines of "less is more".

Room collection #3: Yup, that would be JCPenney. Well, its a little harder to compare these rooms, as its obviously a clear case of the client demanding that every product within each line be displayed in the picture. No editing down here.There seemed to be less of a branded "look" for this last set, and more about appealing to different age groups. I got the sense the pale candy-colored rooms were for younger girls, while I could imagine a tween in the brighter, more edgy spaces.

I would have preferred using Walmart for the mass-level price point, but alas, they don't do room collections, so it would have been harder to compare directly.

Of course, these comparisons don't even tap into the mass market appeal for character collections like Winnie the Pooh, the Little Mermaid, etc. That's a whole other can of worms for another day!

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Hue Receives Beautiful Blogger Award

Thank you Design Ties for nominating me for a Beautiful Blogger Award!
It's really nice to receive acknowledgment for the hard work that goes into this blog.