Home & Garden

Don't be afraid of bold colors

Even in a small mudroom, a coordinated color palette creates a warm and friendly mood.
Even in a small mudroom, a coordinated color palette creates a warm and friendly mood. Special to The Tribune

Editor’s note: This monthly feature focuses on local interior designers and their ideas for choosing color schemes, furniture, art and an overall design style or scheme. Today we focus on Mari Robeson, who is an interior, textile and home decor product designer from Arroyo Grande. She has worked on local residences as well as restaurants such as Palazzo Giuseppe’s in San Luis Obispo. Her home decor products received national recognition when they were featured on The Today Show earlier this summer.

Few things inspire as much confusion and anxiety as color. Interior designer Mari Robeson has come to the aid of many a homeowner in the throes of a paint emergency.

“On more than one occasion I’ve received a call, walked into the house and seen 15 to 20 paint samples painted on the walls and a homeowner with stress written all over their face,” she said.

After offering reassurances, she begins her color consultations with a brief interview. The first question: do they prefer warm or cool tones?

“I can usually tell by the objects in their home and even what they are wearing,” she noted.

Another way to start the color selection process is by finding an inspiration piece. This could be a favorite painting, a fantastic accent pillow or a beloved piece of china. You can pull hues from the piece and even take it right to the paint store.

Or, if you want to go hightech, trade in your wad of paint chips for a laptop and surf the many available free websites geared toward color selection. One of Robeson’s favorites is LetsChipIt.com by Sherwin Williams. To use it, simply scan a photo with a color combination that appeals to you, be it a page from a magazine, a nature scene, or a photo of a fabric you love. You can even enter the URL of an image you’ve found online. The site will then offer an entire color palette based on the photo.

Because a color always looks different on a paint chip than it will on a wall, Robeson advises using a program that allows you to look at colors in a room setting, such as the one at www.housebeautiful.com.

Once you’ve narrowed your choices, you can inquire if your paint manufacturer offers small sample jars. Use them to paint pieces of poster board to view in various parts of the room throughout the day.

When coordinating the color palette for an entire home, Robeson has a trick to streamline the process. She starts with the most formal or most visible room in the house. She chooses one dominant color for the walls and two secondary colors to use on furniture and accents. Then, for an adjacent room, she uses one of the secondary colors as a wall color.

“This way the eye sees the flow of colors all working together,” she said.

To know which colors go together, grab a color wheel. Hues on opposite sides tend to complement one another, such as purple and yellow, or blue and orange.

Another factor to consider is the psychology of color, or the way hues affect our mood. For instance, a warm buttery yellow might be lovely in a nursery, but a bright yellow could be too stimulating or even agitating.

“This is exactly why fast food restaurants use bright yellow,” she noted. “They want you in and out as quick as possible.”

Warm red is a good choice for a kitchen or dining room because it stimulates the appetite and makes guests want to linger.

“Plus it looks fabulous with crisp white cabinets,” she said.

Orange has been a trendy color which, according to style forecasters, is not about to change anytime soon.

“Every year Pantone comes out with its color predictions and this year it is Tangerine Tango,” said Robeson. “Orange is the color that evokes optimism, hopefully indicating a good sign that things are turning around for our economy.”

For the truly coloraverse, Robeson keeps a stash of tried-and-true neutrals, then adds in interest with colorful accents like throw pillows and art. But she also encourages clients to be brave with color.

“It’s the more dramatic colors that people fall in love with,” she said.

Robeson noted that when she decorates restaurants, it’s the bold hues that people gravitate toward. At Rosa’s Restaurant in Pismo Beach, she had the bar area painted a deep grotto blue and the women’s bathroom a lush coral. It’s those hues — not the neutrals — that people comment on and ask to have in their own homes.

Although there are some color rules that beg to be followed (such as using a historically accurate palette for older homes), Robeson encourages people to think outside the box. For instance, does a little girl’s room really need to be pink? When she recently decorated a girl’s room, Robeson pulled colors from one of her own textile designs and painted the furniture turquoise — a hue that plays well with both pink and neutral accessories.

“This gave her room a more sophisticated look, just right for a growing young lady,” she observed.

Above all, Robeson tells clients that color is nothing to stress about.

“Remember, it’s just paint,” she said. “Color is more inviting and makes your home more interesting. It’s one of the most inexpensive ways to change the feeling of a space, so have fun with it!”

Reach Rebecca Juretic at rajuretic@sbcglobal.net.

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