Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Color: Living With and Without It

I've been thinking and thinking about neutral interiors.
I grew up with color; I still live with cheery bursts of orange and lemon. I don't want to live without bright hues,
but I am craving cream and wheat.

Okay, so what's the problem?

I don't want an anemic room.
My spirits would plunge in a drab environment. 
I also don't want to make $mistakes$.

But I have questions.
Where does the home designer draw the proverbial line between vivid hues and neutrals? Is it even possible to achieve a colorful neutral space, or is that a contradiction?
And how much color can this scheme take before it collapses?

I'm not scared of neutrals. The poor little things are misunderstood.
I'm scared of myself and my "eye." Sometimes I just don't know when to quit. I forget the meaning of "restraint."
I do know that a quiet palette has quite a range,
and it certainly doesn't mean the absence of color.

But it does require subtlety and balance.

Neutral rooms can be, well, neutral.
All about texture and architectural elements.

A monochromatic room can feel clean and calming.

You can add a vibrant color, dashes of two other colors (same intensity), and surround them with creamy walls
and warm wood tones.
Neutrals can be fun for all ages.

A neutral background allows design flexibility--as trends come and go, your room can always be refreshed by changing accessories..
Yes, you can have a terra cotta rug.
You can have turquoise.
Traditional Entry design by Boston Architect Jan Gleysteen Architects, Inc

A quiet palette allows your furniture and architecture to shine.

Traditional Bedroom design by Boston Architect Solomon+Bauer+Giambastiani Architects

Okay, fine. I get that part.
But what's the recipe?
The formula? 75% neutral + 25% color?
No? You mean there's no formula?
I've got to trust my instincts?
How much color until I goof?

Let's look at a spaces with--and without--color.
We'll start with something easy: a
 bright blue chair with red accessories.
Now you see color.  Now you don't.
         Spaces design 

This is another easy one.
A classic but colorless entrance.

Shall we add a dollop of red?
Why not. 
 Wow. Big difference, huh?
Let's try it again.

Add calming blues, touches of gold, grounding bits of black.
[Black provides gravity for any space.]

What about this Swedish style breakfast room?
Pretty bland, isn't it?

 The addition of blue makes all the difference.
 This one is harder.
My attention goes straight to the butterfly picture.

Now, with color, my attention goes to the rug.
Here, we have a gray wall;
black and white art provides pattern and movement.

The addition of color really adds movement and depth. 
 Shall we keep going?
Come on, let's try a few more color/no color rooms.


Color is beautiful, warm, classic.



Do you need color in your life?
Do you crave neutral spaces AND color?
Can't we have both?

 A contribution to Metamorphosis Mondat at BNOTP.

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Top photo source: Houzz. Traditional Dining Room design by Minneapolis Interior Designer Bruce Kading Interior Design 


  1. Great post, I neeeeed color in my life, even if I have a neutral base I have to add a pop of color.

  2. Like you I love Color. I tried to do an all white guestroom but when it was finished I just couldn't live with it. I had to paint one was pale blue and add a few blue touches. Now its my favorite room.
    Carol Cottrell

  3. I MUST have color, but after living with red walls for a while, I decided I like neutral on walls and ceiling with lots of color in accessories, pillows, etc. I gravitate toward "bright" colors, but there are times when I want a more muted feel, so I can just change out pillow covers and other accessories and change the feel of the whole room. Just my opinion... :)

  4. one word,,,color!!..nice post.

  5. I need color in my life also. Nothing over the top but I like warm, inviting rooms especially during our gloomy midwest winters. The colorless/neutral rooms looked cold and sterile. Once the color was added, the rooms had life.

  6. I love this post, so many great ideas!...Christine

  7. I love color....I really loved the way you compared the and white to wonderful is color!!!

  8. Color -- YES!!!

    Loved seeing the contrast between the black and whites and the color photos! The pictures just came to life!

  9. I have to have color in my home. I like to SEE all these totaly white or gray or "greige" rooms all over blogland but could NEVER live witht hat look. I love my woods, dark floors, black cabinets etc., etc. Go with what YOU love, it will be gorgeous. XO, Pinky

  10. I love neutral rooms, but need a little color. The fun part with a neutral room is you can change the accent colors on a whim or seasonally and change the whole mood of the room.

    I loved the black and white pictures of rooms. It reminded me of why I love to watch old black and white movies. The color scheme can be anything you imagine it to be.

  11. Thanks Michael Lee for thinking out loud again about your decorating ideas. I love this ride we are going on with you. I too love color. I remember how I drooled over the wonderful tangering curtins in your last diningroom. What ever did you do with them? Scarlet would have had a smashing dress made.
    ~ ~Ahrisha~ ~

  12. I need color, but I also want peace. So,I too am thinking about painting my yellow walls white.
    One of my concerns is that white walls are not as forgiving as a backdrop to furniture that has seen better days.

    What do you think?

    White Spray Paint

  13. I love color. We lived in too many rentals over the years where we couldn't paint so when we bought our first house, we used lots of color.

  14. I have to have color. But I also need "light". My house faces north/south so we get more indirect lighting. I needed to lighten everything up from dark woodwork to dark walls at one time. One of the tricks you can use is to look in the color pallet and choose the lightest variation avaialable in a certain colorway. Look for the white section and find the white that has the hint of the color you want.. Then add accessories of a darker hue of the same color to help bring that color out of the walls. For instance, Benny Moore #1450 Hampshire Rocks is a very pale purple. Depending on the amount of light this color actually can look like a neutral. BM #1436 Whirlpool has a hint of blue. There are even those colors which can be forced between two colors. A light tan may have enough green that depending on your accessories can look more green than brown. Good luck.