Colors—both for paint and furnishings—trend in and out almost yearly (helped along by companies such as Pantone and Sherwin-Williams (who release a “Color of the Year” that designers are recommended to incorporate). Because the trends are constantly shifting, it is tempting to revert to neutrals, yet even neutrals go through phases. For some time it was browns and tans and now it appears to be grays and charcoals. Working with colors can sometimes feel like walking along a color wheel studded with land mines. Here are the five most common mistakes that designers make when they work with color. Recognize when you or your client is making one of them, and soon feel more confident and less hesitant when working with the plethora of amazing colors at your design disposal.
#1: You didn’t test the color in the actual room.
Working with color necessitates testing; lighting alone can make a color you and your client loved suddenly turn into a color that makes you and your client want to scrape off the walls faster than you painted it on. And then there are the furnishings and fabrics that will be used in the room as well. Testing in an empty room is not going to be effective when the couch clashes with the walls. Thorough testing with both the correct lighting and the correct décor will prevent the color from being an eyesore rather than a pleasant element.
#2: You were overzealous with the chosen color.
It is easy to be swept up in a whirl of trendiness and unintentionally over-incorporate a color. Sometimes an accent wall—no matter how fashionable or creative it feels—is just not appropriate. A colorful backsplash in the kitchen is not the right design 99% of the time. Too much mixing of old and new design trends will end up chaotic and rarely attractive. Learn to recognize when simplicity is king, and find other less permanent ways to use the Color of the Season than painting the entire wall.
#3: You don’t stand firm with your color recommendation.
You hear the dreaded “I hate that color” comment from a client, but you don’t take the time to explain to him or her that the color they do like will clash. You are the color expert, hired because you have the knowledge and the eye for what will and will not work in a space. If your client wants to paint the walls of the living room a cool blue gray, but the granite fireplace has warm yellow and pink undertones, the blue gray will stand out in an unflattering way. Comparing his or her choice to your recommended warmer gray (and explaining your reasons behind the recommendation) is entirely within your rights as a designer, and will prevent an inevitable repaint when the colors don’t relate to one another.
#4: You didn’t pay attention to the most important elements.
No two rooms are alike, and therefore every design color problem has a custom color solution. But there are some general principles regarding which elements require your attention the most. You need to work with the fixtures in the room that are not going to be altered whether it be the carpet or the furniture or something else entirely. Trying to incorporate browns into a room with no other brown elements is not going to work unless you are completely redoing the space. The brown throw pillows that match the chosen paint are not going to blend with the furniture still in 1980s color scheme. You cannot replace only two chairs of an eight-piece dining room set. Recognize what elements you need to be conscious of when making your design’s color decisions.
#5: You were too timid with the exterior’s color.
As previously said, neutrals go through trends just as frequently as non-neutral colors do. Therefore replacing that out of date brown with a currently in vogue charcoal is just going to continue the outdated cycle in a few years. So don’t be afraid to choose an actual color for your exterior designs. Your choice will be more likely to outlast the typical 10-year trend, particularly important as the paint itself will be outlasting that decade.
Using color can be worrisome, but it is also one of the best ways to incorporate uniqueness and style. Just use your expertise to avoid these five color mistakes and work with color without fear.