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Transforming Space with Color and Light


Living spaces tend to feel a bit drab these days, now that daylight savings have been spent and sunshine is iffy. It’s a seasonal happenstance. It’s also one that can be reversed. We can elevate the mood of our environments—not with fancy new furnishings—but through strategic application of two design elements: color and light.
“Color and lighting can change the dynamic and atmosphere of any space,” said Sue Kim, color strategist for Valspar Paint in Chicago. “The outside can be dreary, but that doesn’t mean your house has to be doom and gloom.”
As for color, different hues elicit different emotional responses. Greens, blues and neutrals are calming influences while red demands attention. Black is sophisticated and orange is playful. How does one choose? Valspar alone offers more than 2,000 choices.
Our homes are a representation of how we live and love, and our color palette reflects who we are, said architect and interior designer Elissa Morgante of Morgante-Wilson Architects in Esvanston. “Like a Renoir painting in soft pastels versus a Frank Stella painting that says, “don’t get too comfortable in that chair because I’m going to insult you with color,’” she said.
Kim speaks in terms of color schemes rather than singular hues. Combinations of three or four harmonious colors create balance and space, she said.
“No room has only one color except for clinical areas and special offices,” she said. “Start to think of combinations of colors along with your furniture and décor items, all the things that make your space and won’t be changing. Maybe you start with basic beige, but bring in warm gray and a touch of orange. Now you have a story of the background you want to share.”
To build a palette, choose one color that appeals to you, and travel to neighboring colors on the color wheel, she advises. For example, blues, greens and purples go together well. As you feel more confident, go to opposing colors like orange and yellow.
Sometimes it’s nice to put a pop of color like red or purple into a neutral palette because it wakes you up and says everything is copasetic, said Morgante.
The Valspar website, www.valsparpaint. com, provides loads of inspiration with how-to videos and color schemes to portray various moods. Viewers also can upload photos of their rooms and color them with virtual paint.
Just like the Val and Jon, the chameleons in Valspar’s television commercials, you can change mood by changing color. If you wish to explore bolder hues, start small, said Kim. “If someone has had beige walls for ten years, it’s hard to push them to a deep teal that makes a statement,” she said. “But an accent wall or an interior door or a tray ceiling, a single project that can be done over the weekend, is a great place to start.”
Carolyn Tracy, a Chicago interior designer, uses deep hues to direct attention and to enlarge spaces. For example, a window wall in a warm chocolate brown captures the view, but the wall optically disappears. The same technique can be used on an interior wall to showcase a painting or framed poster. Meanwhile, the remaining walls are painted a pale neutral to make the room feel more spacious.

In hallways, Tracy often paints the long walls in different shades of the same color. The darker wall recedes, and the hallway appears larger.
Tracy also uses textured accessories to soften winter’s wrath or to spike the holiday cheer. Pile fluffy, fuzzy and silky throws and pillows atop sofas and other seating pieces. Choose accent colors if you like or stay monochromatic.
And Morgante brings in live trees. No green thumb? No worries.
“You’re not going to kill it right away,” she says. “I’m not a great gardener, but it’s going to take a good six months to make a plant look bad. You’ll spend between $150 and $300 for a tree that will last six months. Then you throw it out. That’s not such a horrible investment. It’s way less than fresh flowers every week.”
As for those problem areas like alcoves and dead ends, don’t ignore or try to hide them, she said.
“Paint them purple or some really vibrant color that says this is a quirky space. Just engage it and make it more quirky,” she said.
Lighting enhances colors and influences

Published: December 07, 2013
Issue: 2013 Philanthropy Guide