Color Ground

Color Ground
The colors we clothe our buildings in, and the materials we use to build them can have a significant effect on how solid, safe, and grounded they appear.  And, I  might add, in addition to paint color, let’s not forget that the wood, brick, stone, concrete, metal and other natural and industrial materials we build with, have color too.  Add to this the by turns rapturous, earthy, luminous, bold, sublime, and subtle colors of nature, and you have a complex picture of the elements that go into making where we live, work and play picture perfect..or not.

In general, darker, richer, deeper, more saturated, brighter, warmer and more intense colors appear heavier, and thus may seem to “pull downward” towards the, in most cases, ground!  Placing them above a lighter, airier, softer, cooler,  paler, duller, less saturated colors may give the impression of pressing or pushing down upon something less substantial, creating a sense of pressure, ungroundedness, or even danger.  Who wants to feel like the heavier-looking second story might come crashing down through its weaker-looking support, or foundation?

The building above is grounded not only by its strong, dark burgundy red garage door, but also by the heavy foliage and hedge shrubbery which nearly obscures its foundation (the lower part of the structure upon which the rest of the building rests). The cream-colored concrete, red roof tile and strongly patterned brick provide contrast and a  variety of color and materials, but, particularly because of the grounding effect of the dark green, highly textural foliage, do not seem too heavy for the foundation to bear.

The UMG (Universal Music Group) office building in Santa Monica, CA is grounded by a strong, deep, earthy brick-red, which seems to support the pale pink upper above, though the entire structure is punctuated by a multitude of windows. Palms, parkway and other landscaping in front also support this grounded effect.

A similar outcome is achieved by juxtaposing a more saturated hue of reddish pink stucco foundation with the softer and paler ocher-colored wood siding above.  Lush vegetation sporting luxuriant red and pink flowers trailing over a natural wood fence add to its heavier, grounding effect

These interior gymnasium walls are grounded by the deep blue protective covering at their base. Given the wild shapes and over-sized   lines, shapes and patterns used in the room’s design, the consistency and “reliability” of the blue may also serve to keep young athletes players focused and grounded as they play.

Here is the outside of the same building, swathed in corrugated stripes.   Notice that the stripe closest to the ground is darker blue, and the one at the top, lighter.

This fun and fascinating building combines all manner of materials, from wood siding, to brick, to concrete,

and even verdigris decorative details above the door. The mass of flowering vegetation in front,  while nearly obscuring parts of the facade,  add to the fancy of the place, while connecting it to the earth, the  ground.  In moody weather, the mix of weathered materials and enveloping foliage may lend an air of mystery and perhaps even magic to the place.

Here, an artist’s self-styled, whimsical touch creates grounding through the application of  bright color, repeated shapes, and sense of a garden planted  at the base of the house. The playful, optimistic feeling  is further enhanced by the use of complementary colors  yellow and purple.

The largest sphere in this extraordinary mural seems to be sitting right on the sidewalk!  It could be coming right out at us, the viewer, but at least the building doesn’t look like it is about to leave the ground!  The tiled trompe l’oeil technique is used to great visual and grounding, effect here.

When we walk past this extraordinary building in LA’s Venice Canal District, our eye is drawn past the foliage, across the manicured back yard, and over the amazing sunken pool under the blue-framed overhang, through the space between the orange posts, to the electric apple green accent wall behind them. Brighter, more vibrant, and more saturated than the natural greens , and applied blue and orange surrounding it, this wall looks  strong enough to carry this unusual structure’s  visual weight.

This wild building on Wilshire in Santa Monica is one of my favorites.  An eclectic mix of materials, hues and shapes, it seems break all the “rules”, yet somehow, it works!  This could be due to a counteracting balancing effect of the mix of elements. The undulating curve of the upper wood facade/detail is counterbalanced by the strong concrete support/column next to it, even though the wood is a strong color, and an even stronger visual element. Our eye is drawn upward from the glass, and warm blue and green (reflecting sea, sky and grass?) colors behind it to that grand sweep of wood,

which is also supported by the metal detail/support that follows its shape and movement below.  The whole building feels like a

huge kinetic wave, appropriate architecture for a beach town on the edge of the Pacific. The foliage, and its concrete base below also add grounding.  Amazing!  Fidelity, you got it going on, architecturally!

The “Bagel Nosh”  in Santa Monica, hosts a marvelous display of mouth-watering treats. Where does our eye go right to here?  No, there isn’t a spotlight on the center of the case.  That’s just the natural color of these bright golden-yellow jalapeno-flavored bagels. The strong, rich, saturated color just grabs our attention, and holds it there…it’s up to you to decide whether the taste of these treats warrants their attention-grabbing status.

  We walk upon the ground,  perhaps that is why our  shoes are often brown and black…colors of the earth.  We usually want to feel grounded when we tread upon the earth, a firm foundation, a solid base.  But, maybe not all the time.  Perhaps sometimes we want to whirl, twirl, leap, float, and feel  “ten feet off the ground”.  Don’t we long to take risks, to take  flight, as much as we long to be safe, secure, and grounded?  When you want to feel fun, fantastical, floating, and fabulous, try on a glittery, glowing, or gossamer pair of footwear, and see if it helps your grounded spirit to soar!

What buildings, architecture, food or footwear have YOU experienced lately that feel grounded or the opposite?

If you feel so inclined, please share about them with us here.

We love to hear from You.

Remember, we are all trying to ground ourselves  yet take flight within this thing called Life, together.

Stay grounded, but don’t be afraid to fly!

On the Avenue

On the Avenue

In San Francisco’s Richmond District, the series of North-South streets called “The Avenues” start at 2nd Avenue, and run West, all the way to Ocean Beach…which may be 50th Avenue!

Many of the houses in this area are sheathed in stucco, and may be painted in stucco paint.  The paints may come in limited colors, and the homeowner may have to make a choice of color under pressure, such as my Client did, who owns the middle house below.

Once the paint was up on the surface however, my Client and her husband knew they had to make it work.  The house was already painted, and to repaint it would be expensive, and admittedly, a real hassle.  The only option was to choose trim and accent colors in hues that worked well with the stucco house body color, and achieved what the Client wanted: a dignified, and streamlined  look, that set off the ornamental details, but didn’t add fussiness to the scheme as a whole.

We had the window frames, sashes and boxes, the ornament, the front and garage doors, a bannister, and a cross piece over the garage door to contend with.

Hillsborough Beige” HC 1033 (from Benjamin Moore’s Historical Color palette)  was chosen as the accent color, and applied to  the doors, window boxes and bannister.  Possessing the same undertone as the stucco paint over the house body, it packs a slight punch, and brings out these details without adding muss or fuss.

The fresh, yet warm quality of Benjamin Moore’s “947 Navajo White” streamlines the trim and ornamental details, while adding an element of luxuriance to the scheme.  Using the same color on the window frames and sashes also simplifies the detail, and adds elegance to the facade.

The Navajo White and Hillsborough Beige work beautifully together, adding subtle interest to the scheme.  The satin sheen of the doors provides some contrast and depth  in an understated way.  The preferred sheen for stucco tends to be  flat, as it doesn’t reflect all the shifts of plane in the surface it covers.

Greater sheen offers greater resistance to scratching and dirt.  Helpful, as front doorways tend to be heavily trafficked, and the door often take a beating!

The bannister stands out slightly from the stucco background, making it easier to see, and thus grab onto.  The scheme also manages to work with the front steps, a large area of color and texture boasting a design and colorway of its own.

The detail gleams against the understated neutral of the facade, an indication that indeed, less may very well be more!

Have YOU had an experience of “less is more’ with color?

If you feel so inclined, please share about it with us here.

We love to hear from you.

Remember, we are all coloring outside the lines of this thing called Life, together.

Re-Creational Color

Re-Creational Color

Once upon a time there was a charming house in the Glen Park District of San Francisco, that looked like this:

Now, everyone’s taste is different, and some may love to live in a house with such a color scheme, but the lovely family that lives here  did not.  Upon deciding that they wanted to change their exterior house color scheme, the owners, a married couple with a young daughter, took action.

They hired not only a house painter, but a color consultant (associated with their painter),  who came up with this color combination:

This combination of colors, as I understand it, was closer to what the owners wanted (apparently they wanted to ‘get the red out”!), but still fell short of what they felt comfortable with, to say nothing of, loved.  In short, they were discomfited.  It just wasn’t right.

The neighborhood is eclectic, and creativity abounds. However, the owners wanted a more unified look to the structure, and when all was said and done, didn’t like having different colors on the house body (above) , and the foundation (below).  They decided they wanted to change out these  colors (which covered the main area of the house), and have the same color on both the body and foundation. There was already a lot going on with the trim and accent colors, which they decided to keep.

I had the good fortune of meeting  the owners while providing in-store color consulting for Benjamin Moore Creative Paint, located on Geary Boulevard, in San Francisco.  We discussed their dilemma, and they engaged me as color consultant (number two), so that we could really, as Brad Pitt might say, make it right. We knew that we were going to select just one color for both the foundation, and upper house body, and that the chosen hue probably needed to be deeper, richer and warmer then what the previous consultant had specified.

We sampled a number of options, but they all went too violet on the house surface.  San Francisco has a very particular kind of light, and the Glen Park neighborhood can get foggy. Although the violet tones worked with the burgundy trim, it was too much, and not what the Clients wanted.  Let’s face it, we had to get it right this time!

The second go-around, we sampled Benjamin Moore 1476, “Squirrel Tail”, “Taos Taupe”, 2111-40, and “Iron Gate” 1545.  The Clients knew, hands down, it had to be Squirrel Tail.  The hue contained the right amount of warmth, a bit of richness, and it worked with, rather than competed with, the “Bottle of Bordeaux” 1357  trim, and “Tarrytown Green” HC-134 accent.

We gave a nod to the house foundation by painting it in an intensified (150%)  version of the “Squirrel Tail”, to add a sense of weight and stability to the structure, without further complicating the color design.   Both foundation and upper house body were done in an eggshell sheen to add a bit of resilience, and wash-ability, but almost no shine.  The garage door, also painted in the 150% formula, was done in a satin sheen to set it off slightly, and deflect a certain amount of contact and dirt!

The result is a unified appearance, which lent the house solidity, warmth and that touch of richness and depth the Clients were seeking. By unifying the body and foundation colors, the multitude of trim and details became less prominent, also adding to the desired unity.

Finally, we “got the white out”!

It was a pleasure to work with these wonderful Clients, and see their home transform through the healing use of color.  My hope for them is that they live long and prosper, in their “new” home.

Three times a charm!

What color dilemmas have YOU had lately, and how have you solved them?

If you feel so inclined, please share with us here.  We love to hear from YOU.

Remember, we are all healing ourselves through this thing called Life, together.

Happy Color!

Love Haight Victorian Color

Love Haight Victorian Color

Last summer, the summer of 2011 that is,  I was called upon to assist some very bright Clients  in assembling a color palette for their Victorian near Haight Street, in San Francisco.

The building had a lighter (creamy-white) body, with darker (pale greeny-blue) trim, and the Client wanted to reverse the value  (lights and darks) emphasis…and perhaps create a value-added proposition in the process.

The house boasts a variety of architectural details, and the two porch “roofs” or overhangs provided a particular color placement challenge.

Once we had determined that the house body would become darker in value, and the trim lighter (a more common approach in the area), the next step was to choose the body or field color, which would go pretty much everywhere on the house, except for its multitude of trim, decorative detailing, doors and roof.

I looked at a number of houses suggested by the Client, and we narrowed the body color down to three hues in the green to gray range. The Client’s painter put them up, I.E., painted out large sample swatches on the house’s exterior siding surface, which made the final choice much easier!

Extension ladders were used to reach the high-up areas. Wow. That’s high. Intrepid painter.  Better he then me!

Many details and textural surfaces up at the very top! We needed to take each of these into careful consideration when creating the color design, as the Clients wanted to both highlight the details through accent colors, and unify, integrate and streamline the building’s total look, at the same time.

In order to minimize the detail and make it more visually subtle, and the color design, building and architecture more elegant and streamlined, an interlocking palette of closely related colors from both the Benjamin Moore, and Sherwin Williams pantheons was chosen for the trim and accent colors.

Benjamin Moore HC (Historical Colors palette) 108, “Sandy Hook Gray” was selected for the house body color. Its gray-green hue has a dimension of warmth, and a quiet complexity, suited to the feeling the Clients wanted to create. Sherwin Williams “Shoji White”  (SW7042) in semi-gloss (?) was chosen for the multitude of trim, as its undertone works well with the body color.

The porch overhangs were done in the body color, at 50% formula. The same ratio of tints were used, but in half the amount, creating a barely perceptible shift in value and intensity. The overhangs are also in shadow, not being exposed to direct light, thus making them read slightly darker.

SW7046, Sherwin Williams  “Anonymous”   in a satin sheen was used on the window sashes “outlining”, or highlighting the windows),  as well as on the garage door, the inside of and around the decorative , detail-filled triangles  on either side of the top of the house, and the central cross detail just below the roof’s tip.

The service door tot he right of the entry stairs was done in : Benjamin Moore HC 107, “Gettysburg Gray”, in a satin sheen, while the same spec in eggshell adorns a high-up “stripe” (architectural detail running horizontally across the upper part of the facade).

To add a touch of elegance, and “punch”, Sherwin Williams “Urbane Bronze’ SW7048 in a semi-gloss sheen was painted on the front door, leading the eye to this main entry, and providing a nice contrast to both the garage and service doors.

The deep color of the front door picks up on the dark bronze hue of the overhanging entry light fixture, packing the visual “punch”.

As a final detail, Modern Masters ME238 “Blackened Bronze” metallic paint (and accompanying varnish)  was added to the ball ornaments, and carved ornamental details within the smaller,  lower triangles.

The result is a color scheme which unifies the structure, and adds elegance and dignity to the home, while still celebrating the fun and fancy of its multitude of Victorian details, while taking every visual aspect of its front exterior into consideration.

The Clients, a bright couple with a fine eye for detail and  design, participated fully in our color collaboration, and, with their two young daughters, will hopefully enjoy their carefully colored, harmoniously hued home, for many years to come.

What color joys and challenges have YOU had lately?

If you feel so inclined, please share about them with us here.

We love to hear from You.

Remember, we are all coloring in our Lives  in this world, together.

Happy Hue to You!

Color Story

Color Story

Once upon a time, in December of 2009, I was asked to assist in color selection for the exterior of a cool sort of industrial-looking  building on Corbett Street in San Francisco. Being a condominium building with three units, it had three sets of  inhabitants, which made up its HOA, (Home Owners Association). One of these was taking charge of the painting project, and thus, of course, the colors.  I was in luck…someone, I still don’t know who, referred my services, and I am so glad they did.  Little did any of us know that our task would not be completed until June of 2011.

My clients, technically the HOA, but, in my mind, George and Garret, who were handling the process,  live part-time in Texas.  We initially discussed the importance of the materials (those that would not be painted), primarily the hand-made wooden, slatted front gate, and the beautiful multi-colored tiles of the steps and planter. These would provide the direction for the house body (main), the garage door and trim, and the window sash and balcony rail (accent) color choices.

Because the building has an industrial, almost loft-like feel, there is an interesting tension between the architecture and surrounding  foliage.  We knew that the color scheme was to be cool, stream-lined and elegant, with enough contrast to the proliferation of nature in which it would dwell, yet it also needed to complement, and draw out the browns and greens of the nearby plants, trees and bushes. I felt that the colors should provide a nod to the structure’s industrial “downtown” sensibility.

The silvery metal house numbers also support the loft aesthetic, and would become part of the color story, providing a bit of reflective gleam.

We opted for Benjamin Moore “Iron Gate”, #1545, for the house body, and Sherwin Williams “Rustic Red” # 7593 for the window sashes, and balcony railings. Keeping the balcony railings, on the left side of the building, the same accent color as the sashes provides balance, as there is a lot more red sash action going on to the right, and we needed enough red on the left to counterbalance.

George and Garret turned me on to Sherwin Williams “Iron Gate” #2926, which  they had used on their Houston, Texas home, and was already on the garage of the building.  I loved the color, and wanted to use it.  Incredibly, it worked beautifully with Benjamin Moore’s version, the “other” Iron Gate, chosen for the house body.  Fascinating to see the different takes on what hues the term “Iron Gate” conjure up!

Over the course of  a year and a half, chatting on the phone and by email in-between meetings with George and Garret when they were in town, and their painter Tony, (local), we confirmed the scheme. Tony put up samples,  and George and Garret discussed them with the other owners and got the consensus. We were finally ready for the building to be primed! Yes, we were moving ahead! We were keeping the garage door color, and adding it to the trim above, and shifting the red on the sashes and railings to something a bit more toned-down,  in better keeping with the strong wood hue of the gate. We were transforming the body color from a paler blueish green, to the richly nuanced  and deeper grayish green hue of Iron Gate, Ben Moore style. It was happening!

And…voila!  Our attention to detail, and focus on bringing together subtle, and not so subtle shifts of color finally yielded its fruit…achieving a stream-lined, elegant, “industrial” harmony, which plays nice with its natural and architectural surroundings, and integrates seamlessly into the neighborhood.  I know George and Garret will feel great every time they enter their San Francisco home.  I hope all others who are sheltered here do as well.

What color sagas have YOU participated in lately?

If  you feel so moved, please share them with us here.

We love to hear from you.

Remember, we are all coloring our way through this thing called Life, together.

Cheers!

Small Changes…Big Results

Small Changes…Big Results

We have all experienced the power of small changes: that slight shift in hue, design, tone of voice, or verbiage, that can lend an entirely new meaning to something we see, say, or feel.  Color consultation is all about this, and it doesn’t always take a lot.

Before Painting

After Painting

Well, sometimes it does!

Before Painting

After Painting

A “simple” choice of color can affect  the entire look and feel of something.

Yellow House, Green Swag

The Devil is in the Details

Whatever we may think about the green swag against the yellow house body trimmed in white, we can probably agree that the choice of color, any color, of this decorative detail makes a significant difference in the look and feel of the building.

We know as artists, colorists or both, that the tiniest drop of tint into a paint color can change it completely.  Many of us have found this out through intentional or unintentional experimentation.  The balance can be shifted from warm to cool, from clear to muddy,  from light to dark, from saturated to diffused.  The process is always a discovery, an adventure, and a journey.

Taking the Journey

So it is with our words, our actions, and perhaps most importantly, with our thoughts.  We have all had the experience of an interaction escalating into a tirade or an argument, and then thinking later that if we had made just a small change in how we spoke, or behaved that the whole experience and outcome could have been different.  Or, we do make a comparatively small change, such as wearing  a new color of clothing, finally purchasing something that we needed, giving something away, or rearranging possessions, and we think to ourselves something like, “Why didn’t I do that sooner? Keeping these things in a box instead of a bag is just so much easier!”

Why is it so hard to learn these lessons?

I am not sure of the answer to this, but I do know that practice in making the small changes can help us make the big ones without our even being aware of it.  Practice may not always make perfect,  but it may help us approach the larger transitions and decisions in our lives with greater acumen and  confidence.  If we get into the habit of changing small things,  the larger changes we face may be that much less overwhelming.  Our change muscles are flexed, having done some preliminary exercises, and primed to take on the greater challenges of our lives.

Recently, on the wonderful blog talk radio show “Artistically Speaking“, my colleague Lyna Farkus was interviewed about her career as a decorative painter, and inevitably, her life journey.  She shares how recently, she allowed a fellow driver she encountered on a busy workday morning to go ahead of her, and how she saw clearly how that simple act of  generosity would potentially affect that person’s entire day; his interactions, relationships, and who knows, maybe even his safety.  By easing the driver’s frustration, that “random act of kindness” may even have saved his life. by causing him to be calmer and thus more careful on the road.

We don’t know the ripple effect of our actions, and there is an infinite amount of factors that we cannot control.  But, just like the tiny drop of tint that can completely change the character of a color, a tiny action,  change or shift can yield significant results.  Just as we learn about color mixing through practice and experimentation, so we can make small changes a practice.  However daunting, scary and heart-stopping change may seem to be, we can fall back on our experience of the positive outcomes engendered by the changes we have entered into willingly, and enter the mystery of the unknown with that much more clarity and serenity, and maybe, even a modicum of joy.

Entering the Mystery... may yield results

If you feel so inspired, please share with us some of the changes you have made, and how you were able to make them.  We love to hear from you. Remember, we are all  in this thing called Life, together.