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Utilizing contrasting colors in design

"Beauty is in the mind of the beholder."  This quote has never been more true than when working with color. Sometimes what you think will become a beauty just doesn't work out.  Fortunately there are some simple principles that can help you to avoid a major disappointment.  About 100 years ago Johannes Itten, while teaching design at the famed Bauhaus in Germany, demonstrated how the theory of contrast is the most important element of any successful color composition. His work is easily applicable to residential design.

Itten defines nine ways to contrast colors.  In this blog we’ll discuss contrasting tints and shades. Hues are the pure or fully saturated color commonly found on a typical color wheel. Tints are hues with varying amounts of white added to form a gradation. Likewise shades are hues with varying amounts of black added. Tints and shades combined can also be shown as a gradation. This results in a total number of variations from one hue to over thirty colors that are totally compatible and essentially monochromatic. There are sample chips of hues showing their range of tints or shades available at paint stores.

Contrasting the saturation or intensity of a specific hue can be quite easy and very pleasant to use within interior spaces.  Additional impact can be obtained by contrasting the hue in your accessories or furnishings.

It is best to use a limited palette of hues for each area of the home while contrasting colors in the accessories and furnishings.  Our firm once designed a room by applying three different tints of a yellow-ochre hue with a very pleasant result. The strongest saturation was used on the smaller surface surrounding a fireplace insert with a tile surround. The ceiling used the lowest saturation for balance, which raised the visual weight of that plane.  We then used a mid-range of the hue on the two walls. The carpeting was harmonious in color but with contrasting texture.

Start simple as you develop and refine your color sense and preference. Use a color scheme for each space that reinforces the mood you prefer that is also compatible with adjoining spaces. Experiment and develop your own style. Paint is inexpensive and painting is easy with some simple guidelines.

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