Color Saturates the Marketplace

Judy Garland captivated Americans’ hearts when she crooned “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in “The Wizard of Oz.” Since that notable song was first sung, the story of being transported via tornado from black-and-white Kansas to the color-saturated land of Oz is a familiar one. The 1939 film is memorable not only for its imaginative story and hummable music, but also for it being an early adopter of introducing color on the big screen. The munchkins, Emerald City and, of course, horse of a different color mesmerized movie-goers.

Color is no less mesmerizing today. It appears everywhere, often in bold renditions and on unexpected items. For example, one appliance manufacturer offers its stand mixer in upward of five dozen colors.

Inspiration strikes from anywhere — from sprawling country fields of wildflowers to the latest couture showcased on the fashion runways in Milan, New York and Paris. Every room in the house and each fixture in that room is susceptible to an infusion of color.

Shades of Gray

Kitchens and baths often are deal makers or breakers for people when house shopping. They are also the first rooms people tend to remodel.

Mark Woodman, owner of mark woodman design+color, president of the Color Marketing Group and a member of Global Color Research Limited, North America, reflects how kitchen color schemes featuring chocolate, mahogany and espresso stains on cabinets were popular for a time.

Today, that trend has done a one-eighty. “Gray kitchens are moving in. A gray wash over wood gives it a driftwood-type look, and we can see the grain of the wood come through. It looks incredible with stainless steel appliances.” According to the 2012 Kitchen & Bath Style Report from the National Kitchen and Bath Association, 9 percent of designers used gray schemes moving into 2010. In 2011, that figure expanded to 17 percent, and the following year nearly doubled to 33 percent. In the same time frame, grays in baths rose from 12 to 40 percent.

The gray color gives warmth to a space that pure white kitchens lacked. “Pure white kitchens, popular for a time, had white marble countertops, white cabinets and maybe white tile floor,” Woodman says. “The client would then go in and say, ‘I’ve just created a surgical studio,’ because it was too white and too sterile. That’s when all the color started coming in.” Color infiltrated these sterile-looking spaces through brightly colored towels and small appliances such as mixers, toasters and blenders. “The appliance world has just gone gangbusters on color. It’s a way of bringing color in and moving us from those neutral palettes we had for so long. You can only live in beige for so long.”

Paint, the Powerful Player

Color cannot be discussed without addressing one of the most powerful players in the color world: paint. Cleveland-based Sherwin-Williams Co. develops color forecasts and several color palettes each year based on research and trends. The 2013 palettes are High-voltage, Honed Vitality, Midnight Mystery and Vintage Moxie.

High-voltage, as its name suggests, incorporates neon trends and is driven by pop culture, fashion and technology. Sherwin-Williams’ director of color marketing Jackie Jordan and her team followed the neon trend in fashion, electronics and home goods for several years. “We saw it trending in commercial office spaces,” she recalls. “When people see it in their office space, they think they could live with that at home, as well. It was about color blocking and big, bold bright colors balanced by black, white and gray. Very saturated colors make a big statement.”

Honed Vitality explores the opposite end of the spectrum with soft, soothing hues. “That was driven by our desire to shut off our electronics and just relax in this beautiful environment that isn’t screaming with color but isn’t completely neutral either,” Jordan says.

Midnight Mystery pays homage to the recent throwbacks in pop culture to different eras — for example, from movies such as “Hugo,” “Snow White and the Huntsman” and the Batman trilogy. “There are dark, moody characteristics and overtones to those,” Jordan says. “We’re creating these interiors that have a beautiful masculine vibe to them.”

Vintage Moxie complements midnight mystery by offering a feminine palette. “The drivers there were looking back to the ’50s and ’60s,” Jordan says. “There’s also a definite fashion influence because we saw all of these great designers having a beautiful, vintage styling to some of their clothing. Pop culture also factored into it. Take Adele, for instance. She has this great ’50s vibe to her but this kind of moxie, as well.”

In fact, the Sherwin-Williams 2013 color of the year, aloe, is a member of the Vintage Moxie palette. “I chose that color for a few reasons,” Jordan explains. “We started to see this color rising at a global home furnishing trade show we monitor and seeing people talking and blogging about this minted green color. We also saw it in fashion for 2012/2013 fall and winter. It was interesting to see pastels for fall. We’re now seeing it in spring and summer fashion, as well as for the home. It’s a color that’s starting to trend heavily in 2013.”

How Color Affects Design

Design is a crucial part of any conversation about color trends. “Color and design are part of one another,” Woodman asserts. “When you’re designing a space, color is always part of it.”

Unique combinations make statements. With countertops specifically, it’s common to design them with contrast between light and dark shades. “If someone is not 100 percent sure they want a lot of color, we’re seeing more high-contrast changes,” Woodman explains. “An island may be darker in a kitchen, and the surrounding countertops would be lighter. It’s the same thing that was happening with changing wood on cabinets — where the island would have a different wood or finish than the rest of the kitchen to make it look more like a piece of furniture. It’s a nice way of introducing something and making it feel a little different. No one said it had to match. We coordinate it, certainly, but we realize how interesting it is to change things up a bit and not have everything be exactly the same. It’s a thought process in design that things don’t have to match.”

Woodman is seeing more color in what he refers to as unexpected places, such as on the interior of cabinets and closets. “Maybe you can’t go out and afford a whole new wardrobe, but if you open up your closet and the inside is a different color, everything looks new,” he says. “It sounds silly but it’s true. If your favorite color is yellow and you open up the door to be greeted by your favorite color, even if a lot of it is covered up by clothes, it makes you feel better and ready to start your day.”

Ceilings and floors also lend themselves to colors. “Blue is an important up-and-coming color,” Woodman says. It’s not only a big player in the fashion industry, but it’s making a splash in the carpet market in area rugs and some broadloom. “The blues are very much based on denims in variations from a mid-range washed denim to the dark indigo-dyed piece,” Woodman says. “The carpets themselves look like they were aged just as denim ages on a pair of jeans. It’s really interesting.”

Blues that are too pale or monochromatic can create an illusion of having water underfoot, which can make some uncomfortable. “Denim makes perfect sense because it’s a textile we recognize immediately,” Woodman says. “It feels very natural to us. We know how it feels. We live in it every day. Having that underfoot is nice because it relates to something we’re in all the time. Think about it in your own life. We’ll take anything and put it with a pair of blue jeans, but if that same blue was on any other textile or fabric, you’d likely coordinate differently because that blue would show up differently in fabric. Denim has variations in it. In a home, it doesn’t feel so much like a blue carpet, just like jeans don’t feel like blue pants. There’s a neutrality to it.”

Where Trends Originate

Jordan and her team generate color palettes by reviewing trends and keeping tabs on interiors, fashion and electronics and from current events and pop culture. “We get a lot of information from a lot of different places,” she says. “We go through all of it and try to determine what is the most significant. There’s so much information out there you really have to be conscious about what is actually driving color.”

Speaking to the denim trend’s origins, Woodman has participated in discussions with other professionals who have seen the same development. “You have a group of 12 to 18 people in a workshop who are from different areas and not necessarily talking to one another throughout the year,” he says. “This is all happening individually. When they all come together and realize they’re seeing the same things, obviously there’s a bigger story there.”

People also are starting to look at laminate or solid surface countertops after such a long phase of selecting stone countertops. “People would like to see a really cool, blue countertop,” Woodman says. “You see some of that showing up in bathrooms. It feels lighter, it looks lighter, they’re easy to maintain, and it’s a nice way of freshening up that space. It’s a little smaller [than kitchen countertops]. The movement toward solid color can go into those spaces because it’s easier to experiment with that. If you don’t like it, then it’s easier to switch out.”

Jordan agrees. “Powder rooms are the places I always tell people are the best rooms to experiment with color,” she says. “It’s a small room and not the main bathroom you’re in every day. It’s someplace you can make a bold statement and get a feel for the color to see if you like it there. Then you can extend that color into other areas of the home and not be quite so intimidated by it.”

When people are thinking about remodeling or refreshing their homes, Woodman stresses they have to work to not be afraid of it. “Experiment with it,” he instructs. “We tend to be afraid of it, and one of the biggest things is to fight the fear of it. Going back to blue, one of the taglines from a colleague is ‘blue is your color friend.’ I like to say ‘color is your color friend.’ Any color can be your friend because it can make a person happy and personalize a space. The key is to make that little leap of faith and get it, have it, live with it and love it.”