Vail Design at Altitude column: What’s in a color? Find what speaks to you |

Vail Design at Altitude column: What’s in a color? Find what speaks to you

Decide the emotion you want to feel in the room and choose the colors accordingly.
Special to the Daily |

With the last three weeks of dark, dreary, gray days finally behind us, and thanks to the crazy rain, the colors are bursting through out our mountains. There are glorious oranges, vibrant greens, deep sky blues, iridescent full-moon silver and dusk’s melting pinks, oranges and yellows. Neutrals, such as gray and ecru, are perfect for a backdrop and can create a mood in the room, but it’s fun to liven up your space with color. So, we are going to take a step back to our designer 101 classes to talk about colors and the color wheel. Don’t get me wrong, interior designers do so much more than pick color, but color is a fun topic and one we are frequently asked about.

Even though color is a very personal choice and feels emotional, there’s a scientific basis behind our reactions to color. Color evokes strong emotions, physical, psychological and even philosophical effects. Let your mood, or how you want to feel, be your guide when selecting a color for a room. Do you want intensity or serenity?

It all begins with the color wheel. Sir Isaac Newton’s prism experiment in essence became the first color wheel. There are countless variations of the color wheel, the most common model is a wheel with 12 colors: the three core colors and their derivatives. In other words, primary, secondary and tertiary colors.

Back in the ’70s, the walls in my elementary school were colored a vibrant yellow. We were told the yellow was to soothe our crazy third-grade selves. Instead, those warm colors — red, orange, yellow — create energy and intensity. The sheer pull of those bright colors stimulates your mind; perfect for an art space, exercise room or area that you need a pop of energy.

Cool colors — blues and greens — placate and soothe your mind and your soul. One of the yoga studios I love has a wall of windows looking out onto our mountains (cool blue unto itself) and a blue wall, creating a sense of calm. Try hues of blue and green in your bedroom or media room.

More than likely you will use more than one color but a good basic rule when painting is to use one color in 60 percent of the space, 30 percent in the secondary color and 10 percent as an accent. Which brings us to color schemes. There are four basic schemes.

Basic Schemes

Monochromatic: Find a color that speaks to you, or one that you don’t feel is too risky or far from your normal palette, and go for it. Use one color in varying intensities, maybe an accent wall in the boldest hue and go from there.

Analogous: Use colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel (think indigo and blue or yellow and orange). This scheme is often found in nature, and so many of us live here because we love nature. Take a cue from Mother Nature.

Complementary: Be bold and audacious! These colors are directly across from each other on the color wheel. This definitely is not for the timid or faint of heart, after all, purple and yellow and green and red are across from each other. Remember, though, you can use one bold color and just pops of the complementary other. How about a serene and cool blue wall with orange throw pillows?

Triad: Three colors that form a triangle at the center of the wheel. This is definitely bold but what fun!

Lastly (for today — we could go on about color for much longer) familiarize yourself with color terminology. Hue is color. (Red is the hue.) The value is how light or dark the color is. Saturation refers to how dominant the hue is. For example, the red hue becomes less dominant in pink. Intensity is the brilliance of the color. A stronger, intense color usually has a more dominant hue.

Finding the perfect hue or color is not an easy task. Luckily, paint can be as much of a commitment as you want. And there are experts to help you find what speaks to you.

Yvonne Jacobs is the president of Slifer Designs and has been with the company for 17 years. For more, check out

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