Choosing Wall Colors that Flow
Correctly identifying color undertones can make or break a room
By Sandra Meineke
“What I find most interesting about color is the very positive effect it has on mood. It can make you feel relaxed, nurtured or whimsical,” says color consultant Kate Smith, owner of Sensational Color and co-author of Color Confidence: Color for Your Home Interior. “It’s all about the colors you choose.”
Smith teaches people to understand their own style and how to read a room and set the mood they want. “I walk through these color basics so attendees can walk away with some solid information that they can begin using right away.”
Choosing colors that harmonize is the basis for a beautiful room. “My desire is to share what I know because people gain more confidence in themselves with color when they understand it,” Smith said. “Color is my passion, but helping you to enjoy it, understand it and use it confidently is my purpose.”
Dorothy Draper, America’s first female interior designer, turned the interior design industry upside down with her lavish use of bold colors, textures and fixtures. Draper was one of the first decorators to believe that vivid, beautiful colors help people feel happier. Her motto was, “If it feels right, it’s right.”
Even though Draper died more than 40 years ago, her influence is still felt in interior design today. Modern decorators agree that color can be mentally beneficial as well as fun. They also believe, like Draper, that ➝ what is stylish for one homeowner is not necessarily suited to someone else. The color and style of your home should reflect your own preference and personality.
Complex Neutrals and Undertones
A common problem, and a reason so many homeowners’ walls remain eggshell white, is fear, Smith believes. Many homeowners are concerned that the colors they like will not work with their furniture and other décor. Smith helps people overcome this fear through the use of complex neutrals. “It’s very difficult to go wrong with a complex neutral. People keep their walls bland because they’re afraid of not matching, but using a complex neutral that works with both cool and warm colors is a great solution,” she said.
Color consultant Rodd Cohen believes that one of the most challenging concepts for the color layperson is the reading of undertones. “Being able to see these undertones is probably the most important skill that will keep you from making a big color mistake,” Cohen says.
Undertones become very easy to see when compared with different tones of the same color. Today’s popular neutral colors — such as beige, gray and sage — are complex colors composed of many tones. It’s important to identify the undertone because selecting colors that complement each other is the secret to creating a color scheme that flows throughout the house.
“I like to call them colored neutrals,” Cohen said. “A low chroma color simply means it is made up of many, many colors and is very muted. These colors have the capacity to appear very different under variable lighting conditions and are dependent for their character greatly upon the things which surround them.”
In her Color Confidence workbook — available at the Home Show — Smith walks the reader through the skill of recognizing and using undertones. “Understanding color undertones is one of the most effective techniques to using color successfully,” Smith said. “Nothing undermines a good design more than clashing undertones.”
Hue for You
“You don’t need a celebrity stylist or a high-end interior designer to find the hue that’s right for you,” Smith affirms. “By identifying the colors that attract your eye — whether bold or bashful — you’ll start to form a vision of the hue that’s perfectly suited for your personality. Remember, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to the colors and styles you love. Picking a paint color is all about discovering what you’re comfortable in, what’s appropriate for you, and what makes you feel good.”