Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Show off your house and plants

I am thinking all the time about blog posts I would like to write, but never seem to have the chance these days to get them typed up. I really wanted to share this quick, but dramatic one.

My clients live in a lovely house perched high on a hill, looking down on the road below. Their design goals were two-fold:
1.) Draw attention to the house
2.) Compliment the plantings

The house started out like this:

The client had selected white because she thought it would stand out the most. Alas, it had become dingy and tired instead. The architectural features were all lost in the sea of white and almond trim. The bright red doors gave me a hint as to the direction she might be inclined to go. Often, I find people will put little splashes of a color they love, perhaps intimidated to take it any further.
The second thing I noticed was how the beautiful slate staircase didn't relate to anything on the house. It definitely seemed out of place. 

Lastly, the lush plantings around the property were not enhanced in the slightest by the competing white concrete retaining wall and staircase.

So, I went out on a limb, and suggested a bold change: red, black, white, and charcoal gray.
The client thought that was a splendid idea.
Here's the mock-up I created for them in Photoshop, to make sure we were all on the same page. 

And here is the final, show-stopper paint job. They are replacing some railings, and are having a new silver front door installed soon, so it's not completely finished, but getting close.

It's so important for all the elements of your house to relate to one another. I like to think about it as a conversation- is everyone included? Now that the slate is reflected in the gray columns, retaining walls and bottom level of the house, it starts to make more sense.

Is there a bold color you would love to paint in your house that you've held off using? Give it a shot- you never know how splendid it just might turn out!




Thursday, March 27, 2014

Update that 90's bannister

Plagued by the 90's era in your house? Sometimes, the culprit is something as small and overlooked as your stair bannister. By updating the orangy/yellow honey oak stain that epitomized the 90's look, you can give wood a fresh, updated feel. Those small changes can make a big impact.

Case in point. My client had replaced wall-to-wall carpet with dark hardwood floors and painted out all that beige with a more modern clean warm white (BM Timid White for those who were curious).

But still, something felt out of place. The one element that didn't fit into this current look was that darn staircase. Behold:

Your typical 90's staircase, resplendent with oh so very practical off-white fluffy carpet runner.

I specified a deep brown stain for the bannister railing, and my client replaced the posts with wrought iron. She also found a fabulous wool carpet runner with a tiny scroll pattern to mimick the scrollwork in her hallway runner (you can see a wee bit in the corner of the left "before" shot above.

Ah, so much better, don't you think?


Monday, February 24, 2014

Remember how far you've come with "before" shots

Whenever I finish up a color consultation for a client who is making dramatic color changes to his or her house, I always try to snap some "before" shots in order to chronicle to progress. When I forget to take pictures, I kick myself for not taking them. Once someone has repainted in the new colors, its often very difficult to picture the space anything other than the new colors. They just "fit" better.

I hope to share with you a few recent projects I've completed and show you some great before/after shots.

Here's one I just photographed today.

Here is a client's home in a lovely wooded area. Her design objectives were to give the house an updated look that was cheerful and welcoming. There was a lot going on, in terms of architectural details, that was making the house feel chopped-up and hodge-podge.  With so many different boxy shapes competing with one another, we agreed to simplify.

We also discussed the dingy gray brick terraced garden walls. We matched the color of the fallen leaves that carpet her garden, knowing that if the walls could just recede into the background, they'd look a whole lot better.

Now my client's home is a happy blue, with crisp grey trim and a whimsical peek of red under the eaves. The deep color settles the house down within the landscape. Support beams and much of the trim work is painted out to give the house a more cohesive look.
The garden wall just dissolves into the background, ready for the lush plants the homeowners have planned for their next project.

The homeowners wrote to tell me that they love their "new" house.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

How to test paint colors

In my job as an architectural color consultant, I help take the guesswork out of selecting colors for exteriors and interiors. We start by looking at inspiration images selected by the client.

It could be images pinned on Pinterest.com or Houzz.com, snapshots from their phones, or clippings from magazines and catalogs. Heck, I'll even look at photographs from a favorite vacation, or a beloved scarf. Anything to help me gauge a client's taste in colors and combinations.
 image source
Then, working with existing elements, we start looking at color chips. These are printed sheets of paper, usually 4x4" big.

At the end of the consultation, I ask clients to take the last, essential step- brush-outs.
 http://www.benjaminmoore.com/GetContentProperty/imagerepository/public_site/article_images/ColorTool/IA_colorsamples004/image_365x267.content_en_US
They buy little sample pints (where available) of the colors we have selected, and paint them nice and big on boards (at least 2x2'), or directly on the walls (for exteriors). Without this step, you're taking too much of a gamble. The translation from ink on paper to paint out of a can on a large area can be dramatic. This last step ensures that you really know what you are getting once the painters start lugging gallons of paint out of their truck.

Here are some visuals for you.

How NOT to test colors:

Those are cut-up paint strips, my friends. Could you get an idea of how that color would look? Nope, me neither.

Ah, now I see where the color is going. Much easier to tell.

Here's another great example of how to do brush-outs. This client knew which body and trim colors were perfect, but still needed to see some options for sash colors. By assigning a different window to each of the colors in question, they could really get an idea of how the overall look would differ, depending upon their selection.


Now that's a brush-out! 


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Think you know color? Think again.

I am thrilled to announce the launch of a brand new color collaboration between Kelly Berg of Story and Space, and yours truly.


For the past year, we've been scheming, dreaming, and just plain old hard working to turn our brainstorm into an honest to goodness real, live collaboration. We kept going back to our issue about how there is so much mis-information floating around out there about color.

This junk doesn't do anyone any good! (I'll spare you the source for this one)

We'd meet up for lunch and swap horror stories, or email hilariously bad color articles to one another.  So many old wives tales, color recipes, and just plain inaccurate data get perpetuated, and there's no way to stop it. Or is there? We got to talking, and agreed that Everyone deserves the right to solid, accurate, intelligent color information.
image source
Putting out and sharing information comes naturally to both of us. We both have written color and design blogs for years, and we participated in a year's worth of Color Podz podcasts produced by Lori Sawaya.

Getting together to provide a color resource felt like a natural next step. We are color evangelists, spreading the word so that everyone can appreciate how color affects us everyday, in everything we do.

Introducing, Hello My Name Is Color!!!!

Please check out our website, join our twitter feed, follow us on Pinterest , and like us on Facebook.

We'd love to know how you like the new site, any suggestions, improvements, ideas, things you'd like to see, aspects that need clarifying.... this is an evolving, work in progress, and your input means a lot to us.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

The elephant in the room

Two clients of mine love their flat screen television.   It takes center stage in their living room where wires were carefully threaded through customized metal pipes so it could be mounted on a brick wall above their fireplace.  But this bulky, unsightly electronic completely dominates the space. As their family room is not exactly a formal media room, it does double duty as a bright, airy hang-out area.  Pale gray, soft creams, and timid taupe is about their comfort level.

Funny thing is, I was not called out to help with this room at all.  But as we were finishing up, I just couldn't hold my tongue.

The guilty wall in question

Here's about how the conversation went:

Me: Ack! What's with the black gaping holes in your wall?

Client: What do you mean, holes?

Me: You've got a two huge black rectangles on a cream-colored brick wall. Holes!

Client: Hm, I never really thought about it that way. Okay, soooo, what do you suggest? (eyeing my chips warily)

Me: We've gotta go dark. Really, really dark.

Client: (eyes widening and sweat breaking out at her hairline, she gulps.) Show me what you mean.

Me: (pointing to a deep gray paint chip) Like this!

Client: THAT dark? That's really dark. Are you sure? Hubbie might not be too keen on that.

Me: Absolutely. We gotta get rid of that contrast. It would be like watching a movie in a theater with white walls and white curtains. Talk about eye strain! Just think of it this way- it will create the optimal viewing experience. No competing distraction from the game.

Client: (mustering courage) Well, I did see a really pretty deep blue in this catalog....


Here's what a tradition media room looks like:
Nice dark walls, low contrast, so that the attention is focused on the screen.

No eye strain. See? Nice and dark and cozy.

After some deliberation, we settled on a deep inky gray blue that worked really nicely with the gray blue furniture they already had. Even her hubbie seemed pleased with the results.

Ahhh, so much better! 
Now, the television and fireplace just blend into the background and don't call attention to themselves quite as much. Balance has been restored to the universe.

Next step, painting the bookshelf backs flanking the fireplace.

(quick and dirty photoshop mock-up)
I've got my eye on a fun ombre wallpaper treatment. And some styling help, for sure.

Okay, okay, once baby step at a time...


Saturday, April 27, 2013

How do you deal with pink bathrooms?

I'm working with a client to tackle her challenging pink-tiled bathroom.

We have the added bonus of matching pink appliances.  In favor of a cheap make-over, we decided to focus exclusively on paint.   As I was putting together some inspirational images for her, I realized that my long-suffering, but oh so patient Hue readers might be interested in these tips, as well.


Save the Pink Bathrooms would be proud.  I like their pledge:
"I hereby pledge to prevent the pulverization of period perfect pink potties and to persevere over pressure to part with my practical pedestal where my pint size prince and princess piddle…I Promise!" 


I created this montage for her of "out of the box" ideas for how to deal with peachy pink bathrooms.  These are successful design solutions because they are strong enough to hold their own against the pink/peach tile. Some examples include: embracing lemon yellow and going hog crazy on the decorative accents, pulling in a fun black and white print wallpaper, or adding strong horizontal mocha-colored stripes.

After dealing with my own pink bathroom, I settled on a purply brown that balanced out all that busy color and pattern down below.  Browns, beiges and grays seem to work well, as do stronger partners like orange or yellow.  If you can't change it, don't fight it- embrace it!

If you've worked with a peach bathroom, what has worked for you?


Monday, September 24, 2012

Trendy dining room colors

10 years ago, everyone had red dining rooms, remember?

image 1, 2, 3, 4

But now, everyone is tired of all that red, and it looks dated.  So what are people asking for?

I have found, in my color consulting business, that when a client has lived with a saturated color for a while, they yearn for something completely different, and often head to the other end of the color spectrum. My theory is that perhaps the rooms aren't balanced, color-wise. If there is too much warmth, too much coolness, too light, too dark, etc people get antsy. It's human nature; we crave balance in our lives. Color is no exception.


Take my bedroom, for example. I felt compelled to repaint our baby blue walls pink. Granted, my husband selected the color, and I was never 100% on board with it (too periwinkle for my taste). I think I needing something warmer than all that cool, cool blueness. Speaking of which...

image source

So what are people asking for now? Why, it's blue, of course!




 

Here's a dining room makeover I did this past year.  From powdery gray blue all the way to deep inky navy, blues are being requested a lot these days.




What dramatic trend-changes have you noticed? Where do you think we'll go after all this gray that is oh so popular right now?


Monday, September 10, 2012

Sneaky Color- tricks you never thought about

I've been MIA for a while now, I know. Not to worry, it's all good things- busy building my color consulting business here in the Bay Area. Spiffed up my website, hired some marketing consultant help, and I've been getting lots of calls from yelp, which is great.  My daughter is off to morning preschool, which is super exciting. Not a lot of time left over for writing on my blog, which I really miss. But I had to come out of hibernation for this often neglected color trick.


Flipping through junk mail the other day, I was struck by the fabulous presentations in the pages of the Container Store, of all places. How on earth does one make storage and shelving units sexy?

 
By injecting color into the backgrounds, of course! It's a simply little trick, one that I have written about before, but it warrants digging up and repeating.

image source
Just the other day, in fact, I suggested to a client that she paint the backs of her built in bookcases in a grouping of light and dark olive and turquoise, ala Mondrian. She looked at me in shock and asked, "Is it really okay to have that much fun?" I laughed and reassured her that yes, fun could be had with paint color selection.

The safety of this small contained space- a shelving unit, opens up many possibilities to go boldly where no-one would usually go in a full-space.

Granted, no-one in their right mind is as organized and neat as these shiny catalogs suggest you could be, if you were to install their shelving systems. But, it certainly is inspiring to work towards.


(To those of you who actually -are- as tidy as these pictures show, I would like to invite you to come over to my house to organize me)


images source

That is all.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Our big red bridge turns 75

Oops, I mean, Big Orange...

 image source

I think the majority of people (including me) think of the Golden Gate Bridge as red, but it's actually painted "International Orange", an orange vermillion. Alas, the Golden Gate Bridge color paint is not available in paint stores; it's a special mixture formulated just for the Golden Gate. But you can find the exact paint mixture on the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District's website.

 image source
To protect the bridge from the salt water corrosion and keep the color fresh, more than 10 million square feet of steel are constantly touched up. It's a big myth that the bridge is painted from one end to the other rather than continual touch ups. "There's some places it's so windy you have to hold the spray gun next to the steel — otherwise the paint will blow off at a 90-degree angle. That's why, to be a structural steel painter — bridge painter — you've got to be a little off-center," paint superintendent Rocky jokes. (source)

Our beloved Golden Gate Bridge here in San Francisco is celebrating it's 75th anniversary this Memorial Day weekend. Pretty cool. I love driving through town and catching glimpses of it from across the bay. Such an amazing symbol of inspired color design.
image source*

In the 1930's when construction began on the bridge, most bridges were painted gray, black or silver.  The U.S. Navy urged painting the 746-foot towers like giant bumblebees—in black and yellow stripes—for safety reasons. “The navy thought the stripes would be more visible to ships in a heavy fog, and we get a lot of fog,” says paint superintendent Dennis “Rocky” Dellarocca. (source) Irving Morrow, the Golden Gate's consulting architect, had other ideas, making the bold leap to go bright.

"The Golden Gate Bridge," Morrow wrote, "is one of the greatest monuments of all time. Its unprecedented size and scale, along with its grace of form and independence of conception, all call for unique and unconventional treatment from every point of view. What has been thus played up in form should not be let down in color."(source)
 image source

The paint primer covering the bridge's steel, already an orange red color, would need some added tones. Morrow felt it was an ideal complement to the gray fog, the golden and green hills, the blue water and sky.

Locals were so pleased by the temporary color of the bridge's primer, that they wrote to Morrow, urging him to make it permanent.
"He had to convince the Department of War, the permitting agency at the time, that the largest suspension span ever built at the time [should] have this wild crazy color," says Golden Gate Bridge spokeswoman Mary Currie.(source) Morrow presented a 29 page report to convince the board of directors on his color choice. Thanks to an NPR report, we can read it ourselves!

Report on Color and Lighting
 image source

Some of my favorite excerpts/argumentation from the report:

Importance of Color
It is well recognized that the color of a structure has important influence on its appearance and on its relation to its surroundings...The design of the Golden Gate Bridge is generally recognized as being exceptionally expressive and imposing. Color will be an integral factor in the final effect. Poorly chosen color may (a) fail to enforce important aspects of form; (b) actually nullify important aspects of form; (c) materially reduce the apparent size of the structure.

(So true! We color consultants are constantly championing how important color is to inform form)
image source 
The Problem: which color to choose?
Local atmospheric effects- during a considerable portion of the year, particularly during summer, the San Francisco Bay area is covered by high fogs and is relatively sunless. At these times the atmosphere is gray. In sunny weather the predominant color of bay and ocean is blue. In other words, the prevalent atmospheric colors are cool. A structure which is to be emphasized must appear in contrasting or warm colors.
(then he takes a dig at current architects building in San Francisco...)

The color- architects in San Francisco have consistently ignored the above facts and their implications. Except during the transitory Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915, local architecture has remained on the whole timidly colorless, hence without the accent and warmth which conditions call for.

The colors which meet the above requirements range through yellow, orange, and red. Not all, however, are equally appropriate from the other points of view. Yellow shades would lack substance; deep reds would be heavy and without luminosity.
image source
I like this quote a lot:

"No color will so enhance and enforce its majesty and exhilarating scale as orange vermillion. There will always be legitimate opportunities to paint bridges any of the alternative colors which can be suggested. An opportunity such as is offered here does not occur once in a generation."

SO true! Can you imagine the majestic Golden Gate Bridge as anything other than orangy red?


 * About the artwork: Golden Gate National Parks Conservatory brought on the ad agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners to create commemorative posters for this celebration. The goal of the images is to shine a light on hidden parts of the bridge – one of the most photographed in the world – that many have never seen before. The photos have been specially treated to stay in-theme with the iconic bold color of the bridge.