Basic knowledge narrows color choices

DEAR DESIGNER: My home is painted basic off-white. I would like to add color to my walls but I don’t know how to approach it. I don’t want it to look like a circus, which I fear could happen if I am left to my own devices. Can you give me some rules to follow to get me started? — Sullie.

DEAR SULLIE: Choosing paint color for your home can be a challenging task. Although there are some who have an intuitive sense about color, there also is a logical approach to selecting paint for your home. Learning a few of the basics about color will help to narrow down the choices and aid in choosing a palette that suits your family’s lifestyle.

Colors are positioned on a color wheel to help us understand how they relate to each other. It all begins with three basic primary colors: red, blue and yellow. More colors are created by blending the colors next to each other. When you blend the red and blue together, you get purple. When you mix yellow and blue together, you have green, and finally, yellow with red make orange. I know this is very elementary but it’s important to build on this concept.

Although the featured color wheel shows 12 colors, you can imagine how infinite the combinations can be when you keep merging the colors beside each other.

When a designer comes into your home to suggest color options, although it’s rarely mentioned, the choices usually reflect a standard color scheme. A practical and safe approach for you to start your selection is to decide on a color scheme before you select the actual colors. Doing this can be compared to planning a vacation. Once you decide where you are going, deciding what activities you will participate in will become clearer.

Here are a few of the most common color schemes.

Monochromatic: By using different values (lightness and darkness) of one color, you can design a classy room with little error. The most popular monochromatic color scheme is based on neutral colors. A monochromatic color scheme also can be very effective using your favorite color.

Analogous: This combination is made by selecting three or more colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. If you choose yellow, yellow-green and green, you will have an analogous color scheme.

Complementary: By selecting two colors that are across from each other on the color wheel, you create a complementary color scheme. Did you know that violet and yellow are complements?

Split complementary: I find myself using this color scheme often. Select two complementary colors (opposite each other on the color wheel), then choose a third color, one that is positioned next to one of your first two colors. Wine (a variation of red) looks splendid when paired with various values of green and blue-green.

While using any of these color schemes, make one color dominate (use it most) and use the other colors in your scheme in smaller proportions.

Entire books have been written about the psychology of color. It is fascinating to know how color affects our moods before you select the colors that will fit into your home.

Warm colors like red, yellow and orange are considered to be sun colors and create warmth and energy. Studies have shown that these colors can elevate your blood pressure and even trigger hunger. Consider painting your kitchen with these cheery hues (hue is just another word for color).

Cool colors are blues and greens, the color of nature, water and grass. These have a calming effect. Studies have shown a physiological change takes place in both humans and animals. Blood pressure lowers and heart rates slow down when surrounded with these mellow hues. Cool colors are great for bedrooms.

I feel it is important to create harmony in your home, treating it as a whole no matter how many colors you eventually use. One way to create a harmonious flow is to select at least one color you intend to carry into every room. That color might be a warm neutral used on all the walls. With a taupe or beige wall color that continues throughout the home, you can introduce different color schemes to each room without disrupting the flow.

To add more interest you can lighten and darken this neutral paint on various walls throughout your home.

Neutrals never go out of style and create a warm background in which to build all types of décor. If neutral walls are too boring for you, use one of the color schemes I discussed as your whole house palette.

Choosing the analogous color scheme, you might paint one bedroom blue, another green and then use yellow in your kitchen. In each individual room you will introduce yet another color scheme. In your yellow kitchen, you might decide to use a simple complementary scheme by adding small accents of violet. Your home will flow because you are following an accepted color scheme. A home feels connected and well-designed when you walk from one room to the next without feeling a major jarring of the senses.

A clever way to decide what colors your family will accept is to take a peek inside their closets. We pick our clothes because we are drawn to certain colors. Colors evoke an emotion and feeling that make us feel good. Many times you will find a repeating color theme in a closet. If you discover this to be true, you can be sure these are the colors your family will enjoy living with.

Another way to discover and develop your plan is to look through design magazines. When you find a picture that appeals to you, examine it. What color scheme was used? Did the designer use cool or warm colors? If you decide to copy the colors you see in the picture, be sure to take note of how much of each color was used. Many times you will see one or two colors used in a big way and the other color(s) used in very small ways. Try to keep your proportions the same as the picture so that you will get a similar result.

In order to select paint colors for your home that will please your family for years to come, select a color scheme, decide which rooms will benefit from warm or cool colors, determine your family’s favorite colors, trust your choices and paint. If you end up with one color that doesn’t sit well with you, it’s nice to know that it can be changed without a lot of cost.

Cindy Payne is a certified interior designer with more than 25 years of experience, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers, as well as a licensed contractor. E-mail questions to her at deardesigner@projectdesigninteriors .com or send them to her at Project Design Interiors, 2620 S. Maryland Parkway, Suite 189, Las Vegas, NV 89109. She can be reached online at www.projectdesign

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