Color At Your Feet

Back in good old 2010, when I had a paying job (thanks to the Obama stimulus program), every morning I would walk down my street toward the BART station to catch a train heading downtown for work. I’m not sure how it happened exactly but I started noticing the leaves that had drifted down from the trees, they looked like tiny abstract paintings on the sidewalk. I was struck by the colors and the random combinations positioned beside each other on such small canvases. I had been looking for the right color combination to paint my kitchen when I found myself surrounded by a mine field full of exploding color.

They say the more you look, the more you see and when it comes to seeking out ideas for painting your house, there’s no better, or cheaper, source for inspiration than nature. While studying art, I took a cross country road trip with the intention of doing a color study. I packed a box full of pastels, a sketch pad and off I went down the highway of artistic adventure. Although my intention was honorable and pure, my motivation was lacking. Instead of doing anything I could remotely call a study, I simply decided that from what I had seen thus far, every color goes with every other color and left it at that. I still believe there’s truth to that but when it comes to a choosing the right colors for the exterior of your home or your bathroom or bedroom, not all colors go together.

If you are like most people, the prospect of choosing a paint color can be a scary, overwhelming and costly proposition. It’s so easy to get baffled by all the choices,  how are you supposed to know where to begin? Well, my advice is to start with the colors you like the least or dislike the most. By figuring out what you don’t like is enormously helpful in directing you to a palette of colors that you do like. Once you have isolated three or five possibilities that are your favorites, get some small samples and brush a stroke of the color on the walls you are planning to paint. This step is important because light has a huge effect on color and as we all know, sunlight changes every minute of every day. A light yellow in the morning can become a dark shade of mustard in the evening, especially if cupboards or rugs or flooring is a dark color. Use the samples on three or four walls and observe the shadows that are cast upon them. Notice how the same color changes. Now see if there are other colors in the same family or a contrasting family that can work to accent your primary color choice. Also look for opportunities to play with the architectural details in your home that can be highlighted with a stroke of color.

Choosing color can be daunting but it can also be a opportunity to learn something new about yourself that you can apply to how you dress and how you feel about other things. It can give you the confidence you may be lacking out of a fear of making the wrong choice. Everyone makes painting mistakes but no one ever made a mistake and didn’t learn something from it. So look around, see what’s out there, your perfect color combination just might be at your feet.

Until tomorrow, I remain your

Design Detective,


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