TRANSFORMATIONS: Color Part III: Using color for accent — A little dab’ll do ‘ya’
It could be that while you’re in no way ready to spend money on the furnishings, paints, rugs or fabrics that you would love to have, you still want to spice up your space. Or you’d like to change the feeling of your environment every now and then. Maybe you love the peaceful feeling of a room you’ve done in closely related tones, but begin to find it dull. Then there are those who are color timid — unable to jump into committing to color in a big way. Don’t worry. It’s not a disease or a debilitating condition. Adding a splash of color is an easy, changeable, and inexpensive way to solve decorating doldrums.
And what do you want from this splash of color? Do you want to brighten the scene, or remind yourself of what you love? I think it’s important to have something you see upon entering your home that makes you glad to be there. In the past, entries were planned to impress arriving guests, but I think you should impress yourself. In many of our New England homes the formal, street entry is not what we use on a daily basis. Where you actually enter your home should be designed to give you a happy greeting. Yes, you need to take off mucky boots and snow covered parkas. You need to put down your burdens, at least for a moment. But you can use a visual feature that makes you smile. A fun color on one wall or a bench cushion in something bright can help as you rest your weary bones while removing those sweaty running shoes.
Our homes need to serve us by being functional, and a big part of their function is to help us feel some contentment, even if momentarily. That can mean reminding us of aspects of life that get forgotten in the daily drudge. This is where a spark of color can be of assistance. Even a mirror or a reflective, shiny item can do this. But use mirrors with caution. I like to place them where I see the mirror but not necessarily my reflection.
Don’t forget that a piece of artwork, a hanging quilt, or poster of something you enjoy can serve this purpose. Even when there’s a color you love, you may not want to surround yourself with it by painting it on all your walls. It can function more like a brightly colored scarf, to add spice to your basic black outfit.
For those who fear color commitment, a couple of bright throw pillows can be a start. If you don’t like what you chose, just pass them along and try another color. If the budget allows, a small throw rug or brightly colored ceramic lamp base can do the job.
I have often assigned an accent color for the back of shelves. It works well for bookshelves as well as in kitchens. My dishes are white so I can use a variety of table linens to add the color to table settings. They also invite a bright color on the back wall of my upper kitchen cabinets.
An accent color can be changeable, a spontaneous decision, or one carefully planned into a scheme. Just a splash of color — especially when unexpected — can be on a single piece of furniture, paint on just one wall or the trim, or fabric used on something distinct.
Use too much and it’s no longer an accent. I could show photos of some exteriors here in the Berkshires where a unique trim color was overused and lost its pizzazz. What could have been an exciting choice became a major component in the color scheme, throwing the elements out of balance. If I were to include photos of such homes it would be libelous, if not scandalous, and certainly bad form. But, if you look, you can begin to notice when something that should be fun is overused – not to judge, but to learn by seeing.
And while you are noticing, you will see many more examples of choices well made. Often successful exterior color schemes use several closely related colors with something expressive on the front door.
In the end, think of using an accent of color as a way to express your uniqueness. If just a glance at that special color you chose brings a smile to your heart, it’s a good thing. A bit of bright color can distract you from your habitual thought patterns for a moment.
I’ll say it again and again. Look around and notice colors, their use and your response to what you see.
NOTE: I select paint brands according to the preferences of the painting contractor doing the job. I have been happy with Pratt & Lambert, Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore. Unless otherwise stated all photos here used Benjamin Moore.