Design Basics

A reader writes that she is confused about warm and cool colors and why this is important in design. This is a fairly complex subject, because lighting, saturation, and hue can all make a color go cooler or warmer. Colors can also be either cool or warm (for example, green) depending upon the undertone. A quick overview of color theory:

Warm colors are yellow based. Warm colors are vivid in nature and tend to be associated with daylight or sunset. Warm colors are bold and energetic, vibrant and lively. Many warm colors are “earthy.” Examples of warm colors are *brown *yellow *orange *yellowish green *ecru *black *tan *gold
*beige *red *pink *off white
*terra cotta
Homeowners love warm colors. Most wood and stone colors are warm. Iron and leather are warm. Metals are polished, brushed, or antiqued and include gold, brass, bronze, and copper. If an element in your design needs to pop out, consider using warm colors to do that. Warm colors are great for social rooms such as your kitchen, dining room, and living room.

Cool colors are blue based. Cool colors are associated with a gray or overcast day. Cool colors give an impression of calm and rarely overpower the main content or message of a design. Cool colors are soothing and tend to recede. Examples of cool colors are *white *ivory *silver *gray
*blue *bluish green *violet *purple
Cool metals include aluminum, chrome, nickel, and silver. If some element of your design needs to be in the background, give it cool tones. Use cool colors in a bathroom or bedroom to evoke serenity and comfort.

As you decorate, first decide if you want the room to be warm or cool. The majority of color in the room should be either warm or cool. Can cool and warm home decorating colors be mixed? Yes, but sparingly. A good rule to follow is to pick one color from the other group and repeat the color at least twice and no more than three times.