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Color is a tricky medium.  

Too much is overwhelming, too little isn’t memorable.  As a designer, I am often asked by clients how to quickly build a color/material palette for a space.  Typically, I begin with an inspirational image – this could be a photograph, magazine ad, art work, etc. that I’m drawn to because of its colors, textures or an overall ambience I want to reinterpret or emulate.  From this image, I pull a series of colors (6 or 7) I am drawn to from that image – making sure to select main colors (dominant palette) and a few accents.  I may not use all colors, but its good to start with a quite a few and edit the ones that don’t work.  After the colors are selected, I begin selecting furniture, finishes and accessories that reference the color palette in some way and compliment the space.  I’ll constantly work back and forth to provide an overall sense of balance between the developed palette and the space I’m designing for.  Below are a few interesting inspirational images that make it fun to build a design around:

It often depends on what color you want to focus on.  In the inspirational image (top left) the icy blue is dominant and is balanced by warm neutrals of cream, french gray and chestnut.  In the actual space, the icy blue is a main color for the walls, while the other colors unify the space by their pattern, shape and scale.  This palette has the serene feel of the inspirational image.

Bright color is often shied away from but when used in the correct proportion and with enough light, the result is quite an energetic space.  An important factor to remember when using clear, bright colors is that may “pop” when grounded with a few neutrals.  In this image, the “lines of color” are anchored by the white and gray stair and natural light.

Images from Shaw Commercial Carpet. Design by Robyn Kark Interiors, Zipherspaceworks and Gaile Guerava

Adding drama to a space doesn’t necessarily mean your space has to feel like a cave.  The key to using dark colors is to balance them with clear neutrals and natural architectural elements.  This dining room works well because of the balance of light to dark (light walls, dark furniture).  While the original color palette (linear color line) has 7 colors, the space only used a few – while still maintaining the ambience of the original image, a dramatic, but elegant space.