Best known for fashion design, the Fashion Institute of Technology also has a brilliant interior design program, which I was most privileged to attend.
Although it wasn’t my focus, I was constantly bombarded with the edgiest real-time trends in clothing design, occurring at the epicenter of the fashion world — New York City. This being the 1980s, the atmosphere was swirling with outrageously dressed kids bucking to assert their individualism/conformism. (I’m not sure which.) I have to admit that the guy to my left wearing a cape and opera pumps was a challenge to my sheltered suburban upbringing.
During my freshman year, my studio design professor espoused his fervent view that “You can’t talk color.” Well, now that I don’t need his approval, I can heartily disagree. We don’t necessarily need to look at a swatch to help us conjure a color in our mind’s eye. In fact, colors are part of our collective consciousness. They are cultural, historical, geographical and personal all at the same time. Colors convey emotions and stimulate responses. There is indeed a psychology behind the often-reflexive choices we make in creating an environment that reflects our personalities.
A BRIEF REVIEW OF COLOR PSYCHOLOGY
• Red is the color of energy, passion, action, ambition and determination.
• Orange is the color of optimism. Orange represents enthusiasm, creativity, attraction, encouragement and stimulation.
• Yellow/Gold is the color of sunshine. It is associated with joy, happiness, intellect and energy.
• Green is the color of nature. Green symbolizes growth, harmony, freshness, fertility and safety.
• Blue is the color of the sky and sea. Blue symbolizes trust, peace, depth and stability.
• Purple is the color of imagination, mystery and magic. Purple symbolizes royalty, power, nobility and luxury.
• Pink is about unconditional love and nurturing.
• Brown is an earthy color that is associated with security, protection and comfort.
• White is associated with light, goodness, innocence and purity.
• Black is associated with power, elegance and formality. Black symbolizes strength, authority and prestige.
So what do your favorite colors say about you? In the spirit of participation, I will tell you that the colors in my own home are red, orange, gold and green with black accents. I don’t think my blood type would tell you much more about me.
HOW TO CREATE A COLOR SCHEME
There are so many “authorities” claiming to “know” which colors look well together. While it is true that there are certain well-established palettes that never go out of style, approach trends cautiously and with a curatorial eye. I am literally flipping through an ID magazine right now that is suggesting we all “energize” our dining rooms by painting the ceiling red and the walls pink, with blue as a “pop” color. This is way beyond pop. This is chaos served on a multicolored plate. Not every color should be the center of attention. I’m also pretty sure you will never need to paint your ceiling red under any circumstances.
MONOCHROMATIC COLOR SCHEME
This scheme uses variations of a single color, as in light, medium and dark browns or grays with black and white accents. This palette is easy to live with and will always exude quiet elegance as long as there is a good mix of lights and darks.
ANALOGOUS COLOR SCHEME
This scheme uses two or three colors that are next to each other on the color wheel, as in green, yellow/gold and blue. This scheme is also not hard to pull off and creates a lively, well-coordinated space.
COMPLEMENTARY COLOR SCHEME
This scheme uses two colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel, as in blue and orange. The complementary color scheme is high contrast and so one of the colors should be chosen as the dominant color, while the other acts as the accent. A palette like this creates a dramatic look.
COLOR FOR FALL
The hot paint color for autumn is plum, an elusive and enigmatic deep shade of purple. Dark walls are the latest thing right now but don’t go overboard. Dining rooms, powder rooms, the foyer and other ancillary spaces show this trend to its best effect.
Designers become recognized for using “signature” colors. I encourage you to embrace your favorites enthusiastically, instead of slavishly following the pack, because nothing is more fabulous than confidence.