Too Much Color? Too Much Color?

Q: I am working with a client on choosing paint color for an open floor plan dining room, living room, and kitchen. You can see all three areas at the same time, although they are separated by columns. The ceilings are all about 16' throughout these areas. I would like to use a red for the dining room, a deep gold for the living room and a lighter gold for the kitchen. Although I think these colors certainly flow well with each other, I am not sure about the kitchen, which is mostly black, white, and gray. Given this, would a gray tone be better in the kitchen than the light gold?

I'm a little concerned that three different colors are way too much for such an open area, which is why I chose only one shade difference from the kitchen to living room. The owner loves the red dining room. Also, do you think the living room and kitchen should be in the same color strip?

A: You may at first think that using so many colors would make this Anxious Decorator's blood pressure rise, but in reality, this seems like one of the best decorating ideas I've heard in a long time.

Color strips are those little cards of coordinating paint samples you can pickup in the paint aisle of any hardware store. They show different hues of paint colors in the same family or complimentary colors. While you are right to consider the color strips, don't let them rule your life. The colors in a strip are there for a reason - a carefully considered reason - and you can trust that the varying shades in a strip will indeed work well together.

However, that doesn't mean that you can't branch out and choose coordinating colors yourself from other strips. Just be sure to carefully consider the shades, so that you're not choosing a green that has too much yellow in it to coordinate with a green that is more blue-dominated, for example.

Given that your client is crazy for the red dining room, I'd start there. Don't even think about changing that, especially as it will work well with the black and white kitchen. The black and white kitchen is a classic, and will be nicely brightened up with red, gold, yellow, or a bright, hard blue.

And you're also right to be considering how the different colors will look from any given point in the open room. In fact, decorators would do well to consider this even when developing colors for a home that is not based on an open plan; it's crucial that if you can see more than one room at a time, the colors of the walls coordinate to give a pleasing, uninterrupted feeling.

You could therefore have three colors; you don't necessarily need to limit yourself to two, the red and the two shades of gold. If you're going for a Mediterranean or Spanish look, you could have the dining room red, the kitchen gold, and the living room a bright blue, a cinnamon, or an off-white color. Limiting yourself to the two colors will give a more classic look, and will go with a wider variety of styles of furniture.

Even if the owner didn't love the idea of the red dining room, I would not use gray here. Gray is such a cold color, you want to use it sparingly, and in a dining room you want to foster a feeling of warmth and camaraderie, which will be enhanced by using the red.

Finally, consider ways in which you can bring the three areas together, as well as delineating them from one another. You can do this with color, such as by having red accents in the living room and kitchen, or with style, such as by having accents in the living room that echo the classic look of the black and white kitchen.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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