Behind the Scenes with an Architectural Color Specialist

daisy yellow

I am an Architectural Color Specialist. I do not follow trends.

Color is communication. My first step when meeting clients is an interview. What do you wish to express in terms of style and mood? How do you want to feel? How do you want others to feel? How is this space used and navigated? What flaws are to be hidden and what treasures to be illuminated? Once we establish these, it is my responsibility to create the most beautiful (and I would say, original) iteration of said goal(s) by picking just the right colors that satisfy both you and the space. I want my color work to be beautiful, surprising, innovative, and in complete collaboration with the user.  I attempt to extract the kernel of what is desired and germinate it. I do assert myself: I have strong views about what will be successful yet these are always in service to the design goal, which is yours. Aesthetic beauty is important but this cannot be the only consideration. The effect of colors, or what they communicate, is a function of our humanity (biological and otherwise), culture, and individual subjectivity. Radiant Orchid is not right for everyone everywhere. Nor is Acme Beige.

I let you paint your bedroom red.

What we find beautiful and crucially for residential color, liveable, reflects our interior state. Humans (like much else) seek homeostasis: we make constant systemic adjustments in response to external stimuli so that we remain stable. For example, an introvert, someone who gets  stimulation from his or her interior world, will favor subtler and softer colors and color relationships; an extrovert, who gets juice from the external world, the reverse. And every degree along the spectrum (pun intended). Equilibrium between me and my environment creates that perfect balance of both alive and peaceful. This is neurological excitation without enervation.

The other variable in this equation is time. The areas where you spend the most time should best reflect that baseline. Wall color, because it usually covers the most surface area in a space, drives your systemic response. On a recent full interior job, the mother was excited but slightly trepidatious about our choice for her daughter, Lucia’s, room. Lucia is eight years old and loves India: the sights, sounds, and colorful hubbub. She is a very energetic child, willful and artistic. We chose five colors for the room: four pinks of various kinds for the walls and a shocking green for the closet doors. Her mother was concerned that the vivacity of her environment would make Lucia even more energetic (i.e. extroverted). As I explained, because Lucia spends a great deal of time in that room, the more it mirrors her interior world, the calmer she will feel. This exemplifies the tonic effect of color.

My bedroom, on the other hand, where I spend very little time is white with a pale chartreuse ceiling. I enter. My nervous system immediately plunges into quietude. I fall fast asleep.

ticky-tacky

I do not have a “go to” white.

I have an obligation to your building. I want it to be as beautiful as possible and this means that your design goal, what you want to express with your colors, must be tempered by the architectural space itself. This is the key to a successful design that you, the client, will appreciate and adore. Surface material, line, form, and proportion strongly determine the choices I make. Different latitudes reflect different colored light. What is outside your window reflects onto the interior. The color you love on your neighbor’s house will not look the same on yours. The couch in your living room effects your perception of the wall behind it, the pillow upon it, and the trim work around it. This is relative perception. Color is always relative.

If the same colors look different everywhere then why do I rail against “go to” colors? For similar reasons to why I disfavor trends in architectural color: they are two sides of the same coin. Trends serve only aesthetics (and mercantilism) in complete disregard for the effects of color. So do “go to” colors, because they are used without thought. Such stock colors might look different and decent in a lot of places but their effect will also change: does this color achieve what I want in this specific environment? And just as important, is it the most beautiful choice I could make? Creativity by definition cannot be rote. Mimicry of oneself or others is unartistic and mindless repetition is unnatural. Every daisy in the chain is unique, if you look close enough to see.

Learn more about Nan on her blog: http://www.nankornfeld.com/blog.html

Nan Kornfeld

About Nan Kornfeld

Nan, a former artist, teacher and linguist, now assists clients in analyzing, personalizing and choosing colors for their homes and businesses. Her work has been featured in top design publications like Real Simple and This Old House. Learn more about Nan on her blog at nankornfeld.com.


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