"Color is probably the most powerful interior design element. The strips and decks of color chips seem, on the surface, like a source of infinite choice of lovely hues and a direct path to interior decorating nirvana. That path, however, is rife with trip hazards." VICKY EARLEY
Color is elusive. The effect of a color is determined by so many factors: lighting conditions, the size of the painted area, other colors in the vicinity, the texture and smoothness of the painted surface and so many more. The same color will look so different with every change in any one of these factors. Color has a major effect on the total design of the room and on the way we feel in it. No surprise then that most people find this decision very stressful, or in the least, feel very lost when trying to decide on the color. I'll tell you a secret; I had full confidence in drawing up detailed plans for a whole house with all the responsibility involved, way before I felt the same security when choosing colors. Much of my ability today is based on theoretical knowledge combined with hours of courses and workshops and experience on-site.
Since I've received so many requests to discuss color, I realized I need to face the challenge of this vast and elusive challenge and put together a list of "shortcut" tips – tips that will help you cut through the red tape and come through this with flying colors!
- Identify the components of the shade you are considering. This tip applies mainly to light shades. Example: If you are looking for a beige tone – you may see that there are several different swatches that qualify. They may look very similar at first sight, now look again; One is a bit peachy, the second leans to the grays and the third is actually greenish. It may not be very significant on a small swatch, perhaps you're not seeing it at all, but when you blow it up to a whole room the impact will be significant and you don't want to find yourself surprised. it takes sensitivity and experience to see the component colors but here's your tip: if you are holding a paint catalog made of strips, each strip containing a scale of colors, look at the other shades on the page too. Usually the shades have common components (in different ratios) and are arranged from the lightest to the darkest – the dark shades give you information about the lighter ones. If the last color on the page is green, the top one probably has a tendency to green too.
- Size counts! The effect of a color changes with size. When going bigger, the light shades will usually look lighter and the dark – darker.
- Always make your choice in lighting conditions that are similar to the lighting conditions that will exist in the room you are choosing the colors for. If you are choosing colors for a home, do so in natural day-light conditions. Don't choose paint colors when dark out. If choosing colors for an enclosed area, such as a window-less room or a shop in the mall, the choice needs to be made under similar lighting conditions. Use the same type bulb and strength.
- Vertical vs. horizontal: If you are choosing colors for a horizontal surface (desk, counter, floor) look at the swatch horizontally, if you're choosing color for a wall look at it vertically. The light bounces off differently and you want to factor that in.
- Dare you to be daring! If you feel like going with more color – just do it. May I remind you that the light will look even lighter, so don't be afraid to take it one notch up.
- If you like clean and bright choose one of the "whites". There are dozens of different shades of white. Some paint companies even put out a separate book just for the white shades. Notice, again, how each of the shades is made up of different components. You'll find that the whites can be pink or gray, yellow or peach and so on. The tip I gave you before (see #1) won't work here. Try one of the following:
A. buy a small can of paint (you can buy extra small cans that are meant for this purpose of sampling) and paint a small area of the intended wall.
B. order a painted sample on a 20/30 (cms.) board – Tambour and Nirlat provide this service
C. compare the white swatch to another white object. If you have a cabinet door, a piece of fabric or any item that you know is the right shade for you, see how the paint swatch compares to that.
Don't forget to use similar lighting conditions. If you are in a showroom, try to go near natural daylight. However, overly bright lighting will wash out all the hues and everything will look the same so beware!
- Ceilings are usually painted white. It gives a clear sense of the height of the room. If the ceilings are very high and you would like a cozier feeling, paint them the color of the walls. If the ceilings are very low paint them—the color of the wall (yup, that's what I meant). This works very well with lowered drywall (geves) ceilings, such as those built to conceal AC units. The continuity gives a sense of harmony and obscures the wall-ceiling cut off, thus taking the focus away from the low ceiling height and giving the illusion of a cozy, unified space.
- Concrete ceilings need to "breathe" therefore they are painted with 'polisid' (whitewash). This type of paint comes in white but the secret, usually not told, is that it can be shaded to match the walls if so desired (see previous tip).
- Bathroom ceilings should be painted with a special paint that prevents mildew (such as Akrinol by Tambour).
- The smoothness of the walls is a major factor in your color choice. Bumps and grooves in the wall cause the light to project off the wall in odd angles thus affecting your perception of the light and color in the room. If your walls are not smooth, keep away from dark shades. The dark shades will bring out and accent every imperfection in the wall. I highly recommend investing in sanding and spackling of the walls (what's called here החלקת שפכטל אמריקאי) – the color looks so much better on a smooth wall. This investment is especially worthwhile in the 'public areas' such as the living room, dining room, hallways and staircases where there are large areas of visible walls.
- Last rule for this post is: When it comes to colors there are no rules! If it makes you feel good – it's right!