Joy of color |

Joy of color

If you want to change your environment, the most significant, least-expensive change you can make is to paint. Painting surfaces (not just walls) can:

• Make them look new and clean

• Highlight the positive, de-emphasize the negative

• Add or diminish light

• Alter your mood including your energy level, pride and social tendencies

This two-part color series will help you learn more about the transformative opportunities of paint and how to use color.

There are many myths about color and I hear them repeated by clients daily. They lead to fear of color which in turn leads to uninspired, dreary interiors. The most common myths are:

My belief is that white often does the opposite. Why? Well, think about it. White in a dark space full of shadows is what color? Grey. In shadow, white takes on a dingy, depressing grey quality. But if you paint a darker room an actual color, you add interest. And even in shadows the color is visible and it makes a statement.

The colors that have the greatest brightening effect are yellows, golds, oranges, and yellow-greens. But the other option in dark spaces is to be OK with the dark and just decide to create the feel you want with rich, deeply saturated color.

I still advise against going too dark, but deep grey-blues with crisp white trim are stunning. Earthy browns, greens, and fall colors like oranges and reds and burgundies are beautiful so you end up enjoying the rich color and ignoring the fact that the room has little natural light.

There are infinite variations of each primary color (yellow, blue and red) and infinite combinations of each. I often see people trying to precisely match a color in their fabric or art and they only want to use one variation of a color throughout their home because they feel if the colors don’t match perfectly, their spaces will look awful.

I say look at nature. Flowers are not perfectly color matched in nature. There is no landscape anywhere having only one shade of green foliage. Fall leaves are extraordinary because of the mixture of yellows and oranges and reds and burgundies and browns. And the most extraordinary sky includes light blues, richer saturated blues and even darker grey and purple touched blues.

All of these colors and tones look good together in nature so combining various tones or shades in your home is perfectly OK. Use nature as your guide to eliminate the fear of doing something wrong.

Well, actually some designers believe that darker colors create more shadow and therefore make it less obvious where the walls are so your brain might think that the room is bigger. Other designers advocate that brighter colors make the walls recede creating a sense of more space. I believe neither is true. I have never in my life seen a room which, due to color, hides its size. We’re too smart for that.

The size of the room is apparent no matter what you do. So just make it feel the way you want it to feel.

Select a deep, earthy, (darker) color if it is meant to be a space for relaxation. Choose a bright and cheery (stimulating) color if it is a space for work, play, creativity, or socializing. If the room is intended for many uses (like a great room) you want it to be restful and warm but also encourage creativity and conversation, so choose a warm neutral that allows for both.

Your room is the size it is, so just accept it and select colors that you love which are appropriate for the room’s function.

My thoughts about ceilings vary from place to place. Certainly, some ceilings look good in a lighter shade. I often recommend a lighter version of the wall color. And sometimes it is best to carry the wall color onto the ceiling. For example, if you have a strangely shaped room and don’t want to accentuate the ceiling shapes, don’t paint them white or any accent color because this will emphasize the shapes. Instead, carry the wall color up onto the ceiling to de-emphasize the negative.

Or, if you love your wall color and want to see more of it, paint it on the ceiling so there is more to enjoy. With ceilings, keep in mind that they are the largest surface in your entire home that is not interrupted by artwork or rugs or furniture. They are huge, blank surfaces that remain uncovered so they really deserve attention.

If you do an extraordinary job of painting your walls and decorating your space, but then you paint your ceiling without any thought about how it works with your other choices, you may detract from all of the best features of your home.

Paint and color are miraculous and they have a huge impact on how we feel in our spaces. So paint to support the functions and mood you desire in each space. Whether you want calm serenity, excitement and stimulation, or romance and coziness, there is a color to support your goal (and it probably isn’t white).

Next time, I will write about how paint transforms spaces and is especially beneficial if you have a tight budget.

Erin Miller is the owner of Erin Miller Designs in Grass Valley. They offer interior design and decor, and complete design and plan drafting services for remodels, additions, kitchens, baths and custom homes. Erin can be reached at (530) 477-1401 or at

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