Lessons in color: 30 new Western hues and how to use them

Lessons in color: 30 new Western hues and how to use them – includes related articles on painting techniques

Ann Bertelsen

Sunset’s Centennial paint palette – launched in the March 1998 issue – proved so successful that we asked color consultant and author Jill Pilaroscia to help us expand it. Together we came up with 30 additional Colors of the West, ranging from pastel yellows and light greens to richly saturated brick reds and navy blues. Keyed to nature and the West’s strong, clear light, the new shades complement each other and the 50 in the original palette.

To illustrate ways to use this expanded palette, we created four scenes – in the entry hall, living room, dining room, and bedroom of a typical Spanish-style bungalow – by combining selected paint colors with furniture and decorative accessories from Suburban House of San Mateo, California. Each vignette illustrates a different painting principle. Along with tips and techniques from professionals, these visual lessons will help you develop your own effective combinations of colors.


define and connect

* Make each room a distinct element in a unified whole. If every room has its own color palette, your home can feel cut up and disjointed. By planning the sequence from room to room, you can make rooms complement each other so the entire interior is perceived as a consistent composition.

* Visualize openings between rooms as frames. At right, the dark green living room arch outlines both the entry hall and the dining room. The deep yellow of the dining room arch acts as a frame-within-a-frame, surrounding the pale green of the dining room with a vivid glow, like the gold band often at the edge of the matting in a picture frame.

* Let related colors work for you. The goal is to reinforce the separate identity of each room while pulling the areas together in a single sweep of space. The colors shown here are linked: If you were to combine the dark green and the yellow, the result would be close to the lighter green of the dining room.

* Balance wall color with the tones of flooring, furnishings, and accessories. In our example, the lighter paint shades in the hall and dining room are balanced by the dark floor and cherry-wood furniture. The yellow gerberas and vivid green anthuriums in the brightly colored flower arrangement play off the wall colors of all three rooms.

* Add dramatic impact to a space by juxtaposing two strong colors. A small space can take on new interest with an unexpected color combination. A simple, effective method is to paint intersecting walls in contrasting colors. The corner will become the focal point of the room.

* Make the contrast vibrant. At left, dark navy blue resonates against bright olive green, which brings an up-to-date vitality to the traditional furnishings.

* Use accessories to tie the two colors together. The blue, yellow, and green fruit pattern on the lamp provides visual connections with both wall colors. The still-life painting echoes the fruit on the lamp and draws the eye upward. Brush strokes on the leaves pull in a deeper shade of green, reinforcing the intensity of the green wall color.

* Be selective with ornamental features so the eye is drawn to special highlights. If you paint all moldings and architectural details to contrast with wall colors, the effect can be a little overwhelming. While this approach works in some’ instances, especially in Victorian interiors, an effective technique for less ornate interiors is to highlight sparingly.

* Use an architectural feature as a focal point. A light yellow is used on the fireplace front like a kind of spotlight, bringing it forward from the darker hue of the wall behind it.

* Accentuate one of two details to provide interest. The dark blue trim in the small window above the club chair attracts attention because it’s stronger than the other colors. Since there’s so little of the blue, it enriches the composition without dominating it. Repeating the same blue trim in the tireplace niche would diminish the effect. Likewise, the subtle cinnamon Shade On the tireplace molding outlines the relief without compromising the beauty of the architecture.

* Be selective in choosing colors for furnishings and accessories. They should blend comfortably without necessarily repeating all the paint colors. The brown leather chair picks up the colors of the floor and hearth, while the chenille pillows and rustic kilim reflect the colors of the wall.

* Use one dominant shade sparingly to establish a color theme. It doesn’t take a lot of different colors to energize a decorating scheme; sometimes the judicious use of just one or two will do the trick.

* Selecta dominant color that you can repeat or reinforce through accessories. The keynote in the bedroom at left is the lavender accent wall. The Streptocarpella saxorum ‘Concord Blue’ plant gracing the night table carries the rich tone to the other side of the room. Similarly, the lavender blue shades of the clematis print reinforce the accent-wall color, giving both picture and wall more impact. To soften the power of this strong color, butter yellow covers the other wall, and the bed is dressed in romantic ivory linens.


PAINT: These tones were selected from the Infinity paints available exclusively at HomeBase (888/731-2273), where you’ll find the entire Sunset palette of 80 colors.

NOTE: Photographic lighting conditions and the magazine printing process affect color reproduction, so allow for paint variation.

COLOR CONSULTANT: Jill Pilaroscia, Colour Studio, San Francisco (415/495-4760)

FURNISHINGS: Sources on page 55


Textured paint

To give a painted wall a distinctive pattern, drag a dry paintbrush over wet paint. Depending on which Way. you drag the brush, you can produce vertical or horizontal stripes. Combining the stripes in a crisscross pattern creates a linenlike texture. For an enhanced effect, apply two contrasting paint colors; the base color will show through the second coat.


* Use masking tape to mark off a section of wall.

* To create the texture, use a wide brush with coarse bristles or a special glazing bruSh With a beveled edge (from a home improvement store).

* Wipe brush with a lint-free cloth after each stroke to keep it firm and dry.

RELATED ARTICLE: Painting tips from the pros


* Soft colors and earth tones make a room appear comfortable. Bright colors, however, can add zest to a small room or one without much furniture.

* Always try out the paint color in the room where it will be used. Paint a square of the color opposite a window wall and look at it in different kinds of light.

* If you want to create the illusion of more light in a room, try painting the two walls opposite the windows with a satin-finish paint. Then paint the other two walls with a flat finish for contrast.

* If you have children, consider using latex in either eggshell or semigloss finish for the walls. These surfaces ate the most washable.

* Use oil-base paint in humid rooms, such as bathrooms and spas. Oil doesn’t absorb as much moisture and is less likely to sustain water damage.

* If you’re making a big change in the color of a room, you’ll need at least two coats of paint.

* On a previously painted wall, always patch nail holes and cracks with good spackle before you start. If you have done a lot of patching, use primer on these spots to prepare them for the smoothest coverage.

* Invest in a lamb’s-wool roller (and a good brush) for a few dollars more. You’ll have less stipple (a pattern created by the roller).

* Remove lint from a roller (so it doesn’t end up on your wall) by rolling it over masking tape before applying paint.

* Don’t use a paint tray. Dunk your roller into the paint can itself for more saturation, and use a roller grid to take off the excess. This technique will help you apply more paint at once. To avoid spattering, pour about 2 gallons of paint into a 5-gallon can, hanging the roller grid inside the can. Roller grids are available in most paint and hardware stores.

* Use a paint roller for most of the room, but first “cut in” the corners and edges with a brush. A roller can’t reach into corners.

* Wear a cap; paint spatters.

* Cover the paint can with a cloth when you close it so the paint won’t spatter when you hammer the lid shut.

* To avoid wasting paint by washing your brush or roller, wrap it in foil and place in a zippered plastic bag, then put it in the freezer. Bring the brush out the night before you plan to resume painting, and it will be wet again in the morning.

* Dispose of thinner at an approved toxic waste disposal site.

COPYRIGHT 1999 Sunset Publishing Corp.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group