Color Design Trends Reflect Lifestyle Choices

As designers, we rely on color to add life and personality to a room, and to set the mood for the spaces we’re working on. There are the basic principals of color design – for instance, horizontal lines to widen a space or bring the ceiling down, or a dark or intense wall of color at one end to make a long narrow space less so. Of course, we must consider our clients’ preferences and existing color patterns in making these decisions.

Beyond that, however, we look to the trends in color. In doing so, it seems they are almost always related to current lifestyle trends and general concerns and values, which is the aspect of color trends we’ll consider here as we look to the colors of 2008.

All about Green

There is no question that the green revolution is here. It’s not just a trend but a serious concern, and one that our clients and society in general are embracing – a respect for the environment. With this as the strongest single influence on today’s color story, we are seeing the colors and textures of nature dominating.

On the warm side, such examples include cork floors with textured wall finishes and cabinetry in deeper stains, or reclaimed darker wood floors with cabinetry in linen-like whites or, as Color Marketing Group says, the “unbleached look.” Hardware may be an oiled bronze or other warmer finish. Clever appliance manufacturers are offering us finish options, and maybe this will be the year that we get more choice in the deeper and warmer versions of stainless that everyone hopes for.

On the cool side, those cabinets might be a more pure white, to blend with the water blues, which have earned names like “spaqua” or “oxygen.” This time that hardware might just be chrome, with floors anywhere from black and white to sand-like stone or porcelain tiles. Patterns are often botanical, and are most commonly seen reflecting nature’s colors. Yellows are golden and bright as the sun, and earthen browns can make a great pairing with those cool, watery blues. Where haven’t you seen that mocha brown with a pale silver blue or sage?

Whatever the color, though, we seem to be using lots of texture, creating a sort of less processed look that once again takes us back to nature.

Reason to be Neutral

We have a war, challenging economic conditions and environmental issues to be concerned about, and all of the color experts suggest that these bring on a conservative approach to color, or at least a comfort with neutrals. It seems to me that these neutrals are more interesting than the subtle stories of classic neutrals.

Pewter, graphite and even black continue to be strong neutrals, and white never goes away – a look at cabinetry and even appliance options throughout the years will confirm this thought. With these starting points, however, high contrast, patterns and textures are being used to add depth to these color stories. Then there is the shine – glass, metallic finishes, not gray but silver – which maybe signifies the hope we are feeling about society’s major issues.

Trends and Counter Trends

At last year’s Kitchen/Bath Industry Show, I enjoyed a presentation by Robyn Waters, marketing guru and author of The Hummer and the Mini, which pointed out the paradoxes of today’s marketplace, and encouraged us to “embrace the trends and counter trends.”

How does this translate into the colors of our kitchens and baths? It’s there in the warm and vibrant colors of our kitchens, our entertaining space and in the counter-colored, spa-like retreats that are our baths. We use color to invite people into our kitchens and to create our “away space” in our baths. It’s the pumpkin-colored accent in that spa-colored space or the vibrant red accent in that Asian-influenced neutral color scheme.

Globalization & Technology

Globalization exposes us to different cultures and, in terms of color trends, this is great news. From India, China, Latin America and more, we seem to love the intense saturated reds, yellows, oranges and turquoise shades, often used as accents, and great in those muted or neutral schemes. A long time ago, when it was at a flea market price point, I began collecting Fiesta tableware. Today, with the influx of vibrancy from global influences, it’s just right and in fact, now out of my idea of reasonable pricing.

Technology also influences what’s going on in color, and for 2008, the Color Marketing Group promises a new dark blue, almost black and metallic, that’s inspired by technology. The increased use of silver or aluminum finishes as accents to the classic black and white space could also be motivated by technology. Certainly the trend toward a new contemporary is an opportunity for these color schemes and finish materials to gain ground.

Simple Solutions

Finally, the idea of simplifying and streamlining our homes and lives is playing a major role in color choices in the kitchen and bath. Sarah Susanka’s books have gone from “The Not-So-Big House” to her newest, which focuses on the “not-so-big life,” and she continues to stay at the top of the design world’s best-seller list.

Likewise, the magazine Real Simple is on the coffee tables of many homes, owned by homeowners young and old. We seem to wish for a simplification of life in general, and that may translate to color in several ways. Cabinet and wall finishes are moving from the multi-layered glazes to cleaner color. With the backdrop of the new neutrals, vivid and pure colors are showing up as accents, as you’ll see in the many glass pendant lights available for over those contrasting islands, or the vessel sinks for those memory point powder rooms.

With these as some of the influencing trends, are there any predictions for what’s in store for the future? I’d check my crystal ball, but it’s being used to add shine to the entertaining area of my kitchen.

Might it be that we’ll swing to greater use of lighter stains closer to natural on our woods, bringing us closer to nature? Will we finally get some momentum from traditional stainless to new shades and warmer finishes?

Whatever comes, I hope these thoughts about color trends can add to your design file.