Color surrounds and enlivens our lives. The appropriate use of paint color in the interior of our homes can give the illusion of elongating walls, reducing corners, raising ceilings and expanding the overall room size. The colors we select not only affect our sense of the space but can profoundly affect our emotional state. When working with color, note that paint is one of the least expensive ways to artistically set the stage of our interior spaces.
The natural light coming into a home through windows and glass doors make subtle changes in the colors in each room. In Georgetown, a pink-red hue is reflected into the rooms from the brick side walks and buildings. In suburban Maryland and Virginia, green is reflected into the homes from the larger green expanses of trees and shrubs.
Here are some questions that we receive most often from clients:
Q. I am moving to a large house in this area. I am worried that the rooms will look empty. Is there any remedy by using color on the walls and ceilings?
A. Absolutely. Color can effectively change our perception of the size of a space. One example is to use accent colors that are well lit to draw the eye away from empty space to the complementary color, making a large room cozier.
After looking at the furnishings and art already in their home, we ask about the clients’ color preferences. Warm grays or beige, and creams are the most popular neutrals for providing good backgrounds. An entire house using only these background colors, however, can be boring. If the main floor is large, we recommend that one of the rooms, such as the dining room, features a contrasting color that is complementary. For example, if the other rooms are beige, we might recommend a red or terra-cotta for the dining room. Green is also a good counterpoint color. From hunter to celadon and khaki, green is the best color to show off wood surfaces such as trim, molding, and wood furnishings. We might use accents of red and green (complementary colors) on upholstery and pillows in each of the other rooms to unify the entire space.
Q. How do I know what intensity of color to use in a room? How bold can I go?
A. How intense the color can be depends a great deal on the light in the room. Choose three close but different saturations of the color you want. Paint these colors on pieces of cardboard. Place the colors close to the natural light by a window and also in a far corner that receives the least light. Then try your three different intensities of color on large patches on the wall opposite the windows. When the paint is dry observe the colors at different times of day and evening. This will save you time and money before you paint the entire room. Various finishes can be applied to enliven or soften bolder colors. Glazes can soften the color as well as give it liveliness and transparency. Sponging, ragging, and washes give texture to the walls.
Q. I love the architectural details in my apartment. It has great ceiling moldings and mill-work on the doorways. I would like to feature these elements without bold, garish contrasts. What colors should I use?
A. Ceiling moldings frame a room nicely, which is wonderful. The moldings work best when they are lighter than the wall color, although the contrast need not be great. Similarly you can show off the mill-work with a contrasting color. Follow these rules and choose a wall color that pleases you.
Q. What about white? Should all ceilings be white?
A. Ceilings do not necessarily have to be white. When choosing a ceiling color, consider the color of your walls and the size of the room. If the ceiling height is low, a soft white or cream can be the best choice. A bedroom with cream walls and blue furnishings can look lovely with a pastel sky blue ceiling. If you have a high ceiling, a faux finish such as tortoise shell or a textured color can add glamor and drama to a room for entertaining.
As for whites in general, be cautious. White is less neutral than you think. It contains all the colors of the spectrum. Art galleries paint their walls white to make a strong statement that says, “Come look.” In a residence, white is not as neutral as beige or gray. There are blue-whites, yellow-whites, pink-whites, and green-whites. A brilliant white can create eye-strain and give off glare. Whites show up paintings and picture frames, and the eye is more aware of the rectangles and squares breaking up the wall. Warmer neutrals such as beige and gray say, “Come look, relax, and stay.”
If you love white on the walls, go toward the creams. Rooms using the natural palettes of cream, beige, warm gray, and taupe can be both sophisticated and calming. Plants and flowers will soften the neutral palette. Pulling in different textures for the rugs, upholstery, and accessories can make the room more interesting. Small accents of black and navy, can add to the elegance of rooms mostly defined by the neutral palate.
Dena Verrill and Alla Rogers are principals at Dena Verrill Interiors in Georgetown. Their practice serves the metro area and anywhere their clients take them. Both Verrill and Rogers are Georgetown residents. Contact them at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org . Learn more at www.DenaVerrillInteriors.com.