With flying colors

Explore the impact of color on interior design and architecture

Story + Photos By Michaela Satterfield

True to color, the man-made structures of Hilton Head are designed to enhance its natural beauty.

Strict codes are in place to keep everything organized and consistent. Color is one design detail that requires specific guidelines. The global pursuit of harnessing the wild world of color requires careful organization. Bringing the colors of vast sunsets, expansive seas and rich forests to our homes is no small undertaking. While you’ll find the neighborhoods of Hilton Head lined primarily with houses adorning earthy, neutral colors, pops of bright color are used here and there – tastefully. Color is an important characteristic which requires skill when used in interior design and architecture. Don’t risk being off-color; keep this information in mind when designing your home.

Color committees

As it turns out, there is a method to the madness. Color committees all over the country are the ones in charge of containing the chaos of this world of color we live in. Imagine people sitting around a table in a white room, each with a colorful object of inspiration. At the table, the color committee assigns names to colors and predicts which color of shirt and wall paint you will want to buy next year. Sounds like something from a sci-fi movie, right? No fiction here. Pantone is a company with one such color committee, started in 1963. One of its roles is forecasting color trends, but its main purpose is setting color standards. This means assigning names and numbers to colors, then creating swatches and memos of the color. Since one man’s turquoise is another man’s teal, this helps companies communicate with their suppliers to achieve certain colors. The main goal is consistent colors across industries and companies – everything from interior design to graphic design to fashion is impacted by color standards. Why are committees necessary to rein in color? Color is powerful.

The psychology of color

Color has the power to create psychological changes. When brands use consistent colors, people view them as more dependable. Brands can even trademark colors, which means other companies within the same industry can’t use those colors in their branding. For example, phone carriers each have their own distinct color, and most people could identify the carriers by color alone. While color’s impact is subjective, general observations usually ring true. Warm colors, such as red, orange and yellow, typically invoke feelings of energy and excitement. They can even raise blood pressure. Cool colors, such as green, blue and purple, invoke feelings of security and calmness. Just look to nature – the warm colors of the rising sun help wake us up, while the cool colors of the evening sky as it fades to darkness help us drift to sleep. Cool-colored rooms typically require a higher temperature on the thermostat than warm-colored rooms for occupants to feel comfortable. Spaces designed with light colors give the illusion the room is bigger. Spaces designed with dark colors give the illusion the room is smaller. One caveat of this is the perception of colors varies across cultures. For example, black represents mourning in the United States. In other countries, however, white and purple are colors used to represent mourning. Cultures provide their own contexts to interpret color. Perceptions also vary among people with different personalities and ages. The perception of color is an important tool of design.

Color theory

Color theory is used to further organize color, specifically within art and design. The color wheel is one method of organization. It arranges primary, secondary and tertiary colors in a circle. The primary colors are red, yellow and blue. Secondary colors are green, orange and purple. Tertiary colors are combinations of primary colors and secondary colors. Color harmony is another concept used to organize color. This is about finding the balance between colors with too much unity or colors with too much complexity. One extreme can make something appear boring, while the other can make something appear overwhelming. The color wheel can be used to determine which colors will have harmony. Colors next to each other or across from each other on the wheel typically have harmony. Color context is another color theory. It explores the way colors appear when placed next to other colors. Use these theories to decide on a color scheme for your home.

Crack the code

When it comes to exterior design, Hilton Head has its own rules in place to organize color throughout the island. The goal is to make sure buildings on the island blend in with nature. Design guidelines give the island a consistent character. In general, this means neutral colors, or earth tones, should be the dominant choices for exteriors. In most cases, bright colors are to be avoided, unless used sparingly to accent something. A few neighborhoods have been allowed to create a Rainbow Row-like look with homes painted pink, yellow, red and baby blue.

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