Coloring Outside The Lines

Coloring Outside The Lines

By John Filippelli

Color allows consumers to communicate their individuality, create a sense of safety in their homes and even dictate an entire space's style. On a more global scale, color trends reflect societal trends, fears, desires and moods.

So, what are the hottest color trends for today's kitchens and bathrooms?

According to Leatrice Eiseman, president of the Bainbridge Island, WA-based Eiseman & Associates LLP, and the Eiseman Center for Information & Color, today's color trends reflect Americans' desire for a safe haven from the world. Eiseman, who is also director of the Pantone Color Institute and author of Colors For Your Every Mood and Pantone Guide to Communicating With Color, believes that, when it comes to what colors appeal to consumers, "Words like 'extravagant' and 'shock value' are being replaced by 'real' and 'comforting.'"

Speaking at a seminar, "The Impact and Importance of the Leading Color Trends" at the recent K/BIS, Eiseman noted that a shift away from brighter colors is currently in evidence.

She added that, while all people will not turn away from brighter color in the coming year, there will be a greater prevalence of palettes that lean more toward softer, darker or mid-tone colors in 2003.

However, color is not about color alone, she stated, but rather what effect the use of color in conjunction with the rest of the design creates. What really matters for consumers, she is convinced, is originality.

Thus, the complex trends in color palettes and how they tie into other design trends is actually less about some fad than it is a direct reflection of a more savvy and sophisticated consumer searching for a comfortable and uniquely personalized space.

"Home as haven is an ongoing trend of the future, and there is still a need for color in the kitchen, mainly because consumers have learned how to use color and want to stay with it," she explained.

While kitchens today are certainly still showcasing the latest in high-tech, commercial-style design, many consumers are choosing color combinations in lighter, neutral ranges of creams blended with soft green accents, such as cyprus green, to complement these modern amenities.

These palettes not only work well with professional-style stainless steel kitchens, but also blend with the rich, warm, wood tones and Old-World styling.

She also cited an anticipated growth in a palette that she calls "Discretion," which embraces neutral colors and all things natural. It is a subtle palette, found in the background of spaces and featured in design techniques such as Feng Shui. This palette offers browns, warm tones, tans, ashy tones and anything with an earthy red, weathered tone.

Steffen Coleman, design consultant at Brookfield, CT-based Mary Jo Peterson, Inc. believes that the trend toward softer colors may be "a result of a sense of traditional qualities" that many people are rediscovering, with the recent renewed interest in hearth and home.

It is this traditionalist philosophy that is the basis for one of the upcoming palettes for 2003, according to Eiseman a palette called 'Connections.' This palette reflects Americana and includes hunter greens, deepened blues, cranberry and burgundy reds, winter whites and golden yellows. She points out, "This was the direction we were going [before Sept. 11th], and there is a definite importance to this patchwork that will continue through 2003 and [probably] last longer than that."

Gary Uhl, CMG, IDSA, ASID and director of design for North and South America for Piscataway, NJ-based American Standard, agrees: "We are seeing a lot of natural tones, probably with a greater use of wood."

Coleman concurs, stating, "There seems to be a strong interest in the earthy tones, [with] the palettes becoming more earthbound and 'dirtier.' In other words, the intensity is getting deeper and is being lowered by adding complementary colors."
Gin Guei Ebnesajjad, manager for product styling and development for Wilmington, DE-based DuPont Surfaces, also sees natural themes permeating color trends of today. "We are looking for balance, and this has led to more
natural-looking designs. What we have seen in the very high-end is that things are still very natural looking. [In the kitchen], there is a definite moving away from white on white. It is now expressed in a very natural color tone."

The same belief is held by Todd Davis, partner with Houston, TX-based Davis Peterson Collabora-tive, LLC and founder of the Luxury Kitchen & Bath Collection show. Davis feels the key emphasis today is on balancing color with texture and space, resulting in an overall richness and warmth that defines the space.

Ebnesajjad reaffirms Davis' sentiments, stating, "We have come into the mixing of materials and the color is the outcome of that, featuring richer tones [that are] inspired by nature."

metal appeal
Stainless steel remains a strong preference in the kitchen, due mainly to its neutral tone and design-friendly color. As a palette for appliances and faucets, it enables other colors to be brought in, more or less becoming a neutral base for glass, wood and ceramic material, according to Uhl.

"Metallics are huge and hot," resounds Coleman, who adds, "the interest in making the appliances stand out has led people to pick up on the metallic quality as an accent to pull [all of these elements] together."

For Sarah Reep, ASID, CKD, CMG, of the Middlefield, OH-based KraftMaid Cabinetry, this is all part of the ongoing "accent revolution."

"Metals and stainless are accents that coordinate well with warm woods, such as cherry, [yet they also] work great with lighter values to create a contemporary approach that is also emerging," she points out.

But the caveat, according to Uhl, is that if too much stainless is used, the space can become cold and antiseptic. That's why he sees satin nickel growing in popularity in the kitchen because of its warming qualities.

As Coleman points out, "Viking Range Corp. has a charcoal metal finish on its appliances that is fairly warm. It is metal, but it doesn't harbor the starkness or brightness of stainless steel."

And, according to Eiseman, we can expect more of this charcoal color in the foreseeable future.

"This palette, termed 'Retrospective,' features a somewhat grayed-over vintage color," she explains. It is appealing to consumers because it reflects colors that seem to have been around for a while, and offers a vintage feel, harkening back to a time when things were less hectic.

Softer looks are also evident in finishes in the bathroom, manufacturers agree. For instance, Uhl notes, "It used to be chrome or polished brass, but we are seeing more brushed nickel and oil-rubbed bronze, mainly because it is a warmer color."

He explains that wrought iron is another material that is showing up in the bathroom, especially because it works well with the furniture style that is so popular right now.

Coleman concurs, "I am seeing very little interest in pure, polished brass or bright, polished chrome. People want the nickel and the forged iron and the more antique finishes on the faucetry, and that is true even for people doing more contemporary, minimalist, Asian-influenced looks."

getting the blues
According to the Color Marketing Group (CMG), a not-for-profit group of 1,500 designers who forecast color directions for all industries and manufactured products, the color blue has an eclectic palette and remains a strong choice among consumers. The reason for this, according to Eiseman, is that blue is associated with cleanliness and water, making it a suitable choice for kitchens and bathrooms.

"It comes as no surprise that Americans are choosing a color that best evokes a soothing, calming tranquility," Eiseman points out.

Furthermore, the aquatic motif, associated with complementary hues of blues and greens, impacts color in tile, fixtures and appliances, Eiseman notes. Blue, and an array of neutral colors led by aqua and lavender, reflect consumers' need for back-to-nature serenity and sanctuary, she adds.

Tim Mullally, president and general manager of the Norcross, GA-based KWC Faucets and HANSA America agrees, saying, "Blue reflects consumers' desire for balance and harmony, and can therefore work in many different environments from the kitchen to the bathroom."

Eiseman adds that, in 2003, "We will be seeing a lot of the grayer tones in the blues," while the greens will be influencing this palette, as well.

On the white track
While white may be giving way to other neutrals in the kitchen, in the bathroom, "white is as popular as ever," according to Uhl. "It is a good neutral base to accent around, whether it is decorated tile or color countertops," he says.

Coleman concurs, stating, "In the bath, I think we're seeing that whites are still here, and stronger than ever."
"I am [also] seeing a strong preference for painted cabinetry [in the bath], explains Coleman. "Even if we put white aside, there are people interested in the creamy yellows with some character and the antiquey blue-greens in that genre."

The white bases and lighter values emerging in the bath also allow designers to integrate soft creams or taupe glazes on a bisque background, for instance, or white glazes on a cream background making it more palpable for the client.

Uhl notes, "We are seeing more of an increase in the popularity of white, with the white fixtures remaining in the basic background and the consumers bringing furniture pieces into the bathroom, such as accent pieces."

Coleman adds, "If you took a white bath and a pale green or a Corian beech glass, it offers that little hint of color. So, consumers might be choosing all their fixtures in classic white but doing their faucets in brushed nickel and getting a color in the soft, aquatic-water feel."

Summarizing, she notes, "We're seeing two very schizophrenic looks. One is the really strong, powerful, earthy, almost rustic quality and the other is a very clean, elegant white-on-white and pure bath look."

The reason for this, according to Eiseman, is that consumers are opting to mix colors, finishes and materials not necessarily intended to match something that was once frowned upon, but now is embraced as adding depth and interest to a design.

Coleman adds, "I think the fact that we have so many more choices has really allowed people to do their own thing and make their own unique statement. At one time, your choices were so limited. With what we can do with counters, tiles or woods, it has opened up the floodgates for us to do a lot more." And, with more sophisticated color choices comes a more sophisticated consumer, she believes.

Says Uhl, "Consumers are becoming more educated, and I think that is a good trend."

Eiseman notes that it's important to listen to what consumers are saying about their design needs, and choose colors that reflect that. "They need a quiet space in the home and that quiet space is the bathroom. Both the kitchen and the bath are almost taking on a religious fervor, and these spaces can be as much about art and beautiful design as they are about function." KBDN