Color Therapy

We don't live in a beige world - it's big and bold and very colorful indeed. And it's time to join in on the fun.



Photo by Jamie Salamon

With spring just around the corner, you'll want to wash away the gray days of winter with a little color. And who can blame you? Color makes us happy. It's also the single most important design element there is, whether you choose to splash it all over your walls or just add a pinch here and a dash there.

Whenever I'm asked about color, I'm careful to point out that color is so much more than paint. Everything has color and the shades we choose to surround ourselves with have an amazing impact on the way we feel, how productive we are (or aren't) and in what we choose to buy or leave on the shelves.

Color has the ability to manipulate space and make rooms look taller or shorter, wider or narrower. It can make a room seem warm and cozy or sterile and uninteresting. Color can warm up a room or cool it down. It adds drama, richness and depth. It conveys mood and personality and is one of the most inexpensive ways to add style to your home.

Color Trends

Each year we are introduced to new and exciting hues meant to inspire us to experiment with new looks. Color forecasters have been behind the scenes deciding what's in and what's out. Comprised of professionals all across the design board, they draw inspiration from fashion, auto manufacturers, the housewares industry and everything in between. This trickle-down effect is not just about aesthetics, either. Additional observations of the economy, nature, culture and even technology, all get translated into information that ultimately influences the colors we'll see in our stores.

Picks for 2012

Leading the way in tracking trends is Pantone, otherwise known as the global authority on color. Pantone surveys the makers and shakers in order to select its "color of the year." This year's pick is none other than Tangerine Tango (Pantone 17-1463), a honey of an orange that is sophisticated and seductive. With undertones of blue and yellow, this red-orange shade is meant to energize and recharge us as we move forward into the new year. Although selected as a color we'll see a lot of this spring and summer, you can be sure this sassy shade will likely follow us into the fall as well. (Check out the remaining spring picks here: Patone.com/spring2012)

Benjamin Moore, on the other hand, has chosen a more sedate color. Wyeth Blue (BM HC-143) comes straight from their historic collection. Steeped in tradition, this green-blue is a more refined and elegant color choice for those who prefer something a little less potent. This hue works well in both a traditional and contemporary setting offering a touch of comfort and stability to every space.

In fact, pairing these two colors together is a dominant trend in 2012. Complementary shades (colors found opposite to one another on the color wheel) simply combine the best of both worlds - the warmth and fire of red, orange or yellow with the restful, soothing qualities of blue, green and purple. Analogous color schemes (colors that sit side-by-side on the color wheel) are also quite popular this year.

Not to be outdone, Sherwin-Williams has chosen Argyle Green (SW 6747), a color that would also work nicely with blue. It's the top pick for this paint company whose 2012 Colormix collection combines 40 hues inspired by earth, air, water and fire - basically using the entire spectrum in a fresh array of color families that coordinate together with ease.

Where to Use Color

People tend to love color, but they're afraid to use it. That's okay. You don't have to invest in bright, bold walls in order to infuse a little bit into each room. Shades of orange or red, for instance, are best used in small doses anyway. A few pillows, a throw, accessories and art will add enough punch that you won't need much else to show off your space. Subtle shades can then be used on walls, small furnishings or drapes to wrap the room in additional color without overwhelming it. Keep larger items fairly neutral - shades of cream, gray, brown and camel are always a good choice for sofas and floors. Layer color in your room - the smaller the item, the brighter and bolder you can go. Just ask yourself how energizing or soothing you want your rooms to feel and take it from there.

Color trends come and go, so use what you like and leave the rest behind. You may choose to embellish or highlight an existing color scheme with colorful accents or you may want to wipe the slate clean and wander in an entirely new direction. The choice is yours.

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