Color’s coming back, so liven up those neutral spaces with bold accents — and don’t forget purple

This article originally appeared in the Commercial Appeal on Jan. 7, 2011

The forecast calls for gray with a purple cast, muted shades of green and dark brown molasses, and bright bursts of blue, orange and red. And that’s just indoors.

Color design professionals and members of the Color Marketing Group, an international association, forecast several times a year the direction in which color will develop across multiple industries. Their picks are then reflected in paint, appliances, fabrics, transportation and many other industries, according Patricia Call, vice president of public relations for the organization.

The latest palette, Call said, shows purple weaving in and out among the colors, as well as many colors infused with gray.

Jill Hertz of Jill Hertz Interior Design in Memphis sees several trends in color. One reflects technology and recent movies with bold color animation, such as “Alice in Wonderland” and “Avatar.” High-tech colors of gray, black and metallic are mixed with bold colors reminiscent of childhood.

“Here in Memphis, most clients want neutrals, like the grays and creams, and then mix in one or two bold colors.” These vivid colors range from red and fuchsia

to lime green and bright blue.

Old and distressed finishes that have an antique feel balance harsh lines of high-tech decor, Hertz said.

The green movement has also inspired colors. Hertz calls these “farmers market colors,” such as bright green, warm gold and roasted red pepper. “They’re farmland colors, like the bright green John Deere tractor, and someone who shops at a high-end store probably doesn’t know that the bright green they want is the same color as that tractor.”

One of Hertz’s clients selected soft and soothing cream colors for her living room and had Hertz add lime green and bright mustard yellow as accent colors.

Clients Jeff and Sally Rosenberg, who live in East Memphis, opted for a more neutral-colored kitchen in the way of flooring, cabinets and countertops, but had the walls painted a bright purple. “The look is very clean, but warm and not harsh contemporary at all,” Hertz said.

Easy color updates for the home can come from a bright burst of color on pillows and in artwork, she said.

Color often serves as a primary inspiration for designing interior spaces, said Keith Headley, CEO and lead designer of Headley-Menzies Interior Design, which has locations in Memphis and New York. He said his job is to help his clients organize their lives and create a plan based on what they already own and incorporating colors they love.

“We try to strike a balance between color and pattern and find some kind of color inspiration in works of art, a rug, a fabric or a wall covering that becomes the genesis of the idea or concept.”

As Headley goes to design markets and reads magazines, he senses that people are ready for more color now. He sees gray/yellow and blue/orange used beautifully together as color combinations that are not overly muted or too rowdy.

Headley doesn’t believe in planning a particular color scheme for a home. Instead, he prefers to pick up and drop color while moving throughout the house. “The pendulum gradually swings back and forth in five- to 10-year cycles, but I do see stronger- and larger-scale patterns emerging from the sea of neutrals that have been with us for some time now.”

His clients use color to update a room inexpensively and easily by changing and adding color in pillows, accent pieces and wall colors and coverings. “Just like we get tired of our clothes after awhile, we also need to refresh the color and details in our rooms.”

A large suburban home with an open floor plan may not be conducive to a bold wall color, but the core of the home can be neutral, while adding bolder color in an enclosed dining room, bedroom or smaller powder room, Headley said.

Smart color

From Keith Headley,

Think through color choices and approach individual spaces with caution and planning.

Don’t paint every room a different color.

Make color choices that fit the architecture of the space.


Image courtesy of the Commercial Appeal