The Bold Primaries: Yellow The Bold Primaries: Yellow

Go into any paint store these days and you'll see that there's an array of subtle colors available for your expressing your creativity in decorating. There are mauves, and browns, and hundreds of shades of green, from the nearly-yellow to the nearly-blue.

With all these varieties at your fingertips, it could be tempting to lose sight of the importance of using primary colors, especially those clear, bright, shades that can really energize a room.

When some of the Sheffield School of Interior Design staff went to Mexico this winter, we found a riot of blue, yellow, and red; in fact, using primary color is integral to creating a look of Mexican or Mediterranean design.

The colors of hot-weather locales tend toward the brightest and boldest, perhaps because these are the colors of the landscape: the bright blue sky, the yellow sand. They're also frequently found in natural dye sources of plants and animals.

Of course, there is also plenty of secondary color in Mexican design. The green pottery of southern Mexico, the bright orange rebozos which can be used to drape furniture.

But it's the yellow, blue and red tones that really stand out in Mexican design, because these colors are traditionally more readily available.

In rug-making, for example, reds and blues predominate. Most prized are the rugs in brilliant yellows, because these are rare, as the color comes from "palo amarillo" trees, and is hard to cultivate.

If you look at the two photos of this entryway below, you'll see how effective bright yellow is in waking up a living room. A bright yellow rug can anchor a room's color scheme, if you have walls painted a paler yellow, yellow curtains, and pale upholstery.

Or, you can go for a look of deeper contrast - and a look that will sing "Mexico" - with a floor done in dark quarry tile and dark wood or wrought-iron furniture.

Yellow can also work nicely in a kitchen or bath. The tiles in the photograph below are in a kitchen, along the wall, and keep the workspace clean and bright. And here, you can see in the second photograph how the tiles and sink in this bathroom make every morning cheerful and bright.

A wall that gets a good hit of sunlight each day will really ignite if painted a yellow, whether it's a paler version of the color or something more saturated. When you're choosing a yellow for a wall, remember that once it goes on, it will appear brighter than it does on the paint chip, especially if it's hit by direct sun.

Pale yellow walls are a great way to brighten up a room that's small or dimly-lit, and does wonders for a room with few or small windows. And in this photo, you can see what it does for an exterior wall that's hit by the sun!

As you did with the paint chips, let yourself live with this color for a little while. See how it strikes you when you come home in the evening, when you first see it in the morning. If you like changing the artwork on the walls, try each of your paintings with the paint sample.

Yellow is just one of the primary colors that are used often in Mexican design. Next issue, we'll take a look at blue, and how you can use it in your own home design.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design.

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