How to Ride the Summer Color Wave

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Thanks to the arrival of summer and renewed consumer confidence, there is a strong current of fresh, bright colors in new products and furnishings headed for the home.

Starting with the walls, decorating is moving away from white-on-white to varying shades of gray and bold accent colors.

“In a sense, there’s a renewed confidence that people are experiencing, they are feeling better,” says interior designer and color stylist Mark Woodman, immediate past president of the Color Marketing Group, an international color-forecasting organization based in Alexandria, Va.

“When you’re a little more comfortable with where you are, you allow yourself a little more experimentation.”
It’s also common for seasonal changes to influence color trends. Bright colors can be a little scary because they have a lot of energy, but they also radiate joy and help release anxiety, Woodman says.

“We want to embrace the brightness of nature,” he says. “There’s more sun, more light. You’re outdoors more, everything is blooming. The time of the year sort of drives that.”

The soothing colors found in nature have made their way to Barclay Butera’s interiors. The California designer recently introduced a new collection for Highland House and says he has been using a great deal of blues and greens.

“They are fresh, clean and very serene,” he says. “I think the colors, whether they are explosive brights or calming washy shades, are so uplifting and create environments that are welcoming and inviting.”

As people consider color, designer Maria Killam recommends saving the bright paint for smaller spaces such as guest rooms or a bathroom and using no more than three colors in any room.

“Wall color should pull your space together,” says Killam, a Canadian-based design blogger, decorator, and internationally sought after color expert. “The way to incorporate color is through upholstery and drapery. In main spaces, it makes sense to keep colors pale and light grays on the wall as a nice, light backdrop.” 

Butera suggests starting with your basic look and tastes. Are you sleek and modern? Fresh traditional? “Once you do that, your instincts will guide you to the best fabrics and textiles for your upholstery, pillows, rugs,” he says. “Pillows are a fabulous way to infuse color into your home.”

Also a big fan of pillows, Killam says other easy accents include colorful gourd lamps, house plants, even a vase of fake flowers or a bowl of fake fruit. The beauty of fake flowers is you can toss them if they get dusty, she says.

“Wow, won’t that make you happy every time you walk in the room,” she says. “How much time do we spend in our house for it not to be something that makes us happy when we walk in the door? It’s so easy to bring it in with lighting, flowers.”

For those who are hesitant, begin with baby steps, Woodman says. Add an area rug or throw with bright accent colors or buy bold towels for the kitchen and bath.

“If they have a little bit of fear of color, a good thing is to try it in a room you don’t spend a lot of time,” he says. “Paint the inside of your closet. Bring in fun color in the kitchen with countertop appliances, even some of the tools. Add a little color joy while you’re slicing your bread.”

Neutral color schemes remain popular, but it was time for the pendulum to shift, Killam says. “Gray provides a crisp backdrop, whereas beige looks dirty” she says. “It’s too earthy to go with bright colors.” Gray’s surge in popularity has been interesting because it started out sort of industrial, Woodman says. It’s also the middle ground between black and white, so it works as a balancing color.

“When you’re looking at colors, it’s good to view it against a neutral gray,” he says. “You have this great range which plays well with lots of other colors. It brought a nonpartisan backdrop, and then the backdrop became the statement. Now it’s starting to move into a slight warmer mushroom gray, a gray brown.”

Typically sophisticated and modern, grays provide a great foundation for people who want to add bright accents in green or yellow or orange.

“A really softened gray surface with a lemon yellow KitchenAid blender on top with the stainless steel, you get this really interesting color palette, everything looks new and clean,” he says.

“The sophistication of gray has been really interesting. It can look good in traditional or contemporary spaces; it doesn’t feel like one or the other.”

Appliances also got the gray treatment, but surfaces went beyond stainless to include metallic shades such as dark platinum. The newest appliances, either fully painted or with integrated panels, can brighten a kitchen without requiring a homeowner to make a full commitment to the entire room.

Less expensive ways to add punch to a neutral kitchen include a custom sink, faucet, backsplash, lighting or accessories.

“From gadgets and towels and textiles in the kitchen, what a fun way to give your kitchen a mini-renovation, especially when it comes to seasons,” says Beth Robinson, senior manager of brand experience for KitchenAid.

KitchenAid, the pioneer in bringing color to countertop appliances, stays on top of color trends in the kitchen and now offers its iconic stand mixer in more than 60 colors and finishes, Robinson says. The company continues to expand coordinating color options in hand mixers, blenders and countertop ovens as well.

“It’s very personal,” she says of selecting a color for the kitchen. “Some people say it is their favorite color, or ‘this was my mom’s favorite color.’ It’s a sense of their own personal style and creativity, a statement of themselves in their kitchen.”

Tags: color, blue, green, summer, decorating