Whatever your decorative tastes, the colour palette you use in your kitchen will enhance the overall style if it's been considered carefully; while there are no hard and fast rules regarding "proper" colour usage, there are certain combinations and ways of using colour that promise success. Balance is the key. Here are some basic tips to consider when developing your kitchen's palette:
Here are some basic tips to consider when developing your kitchens palette:
Avoid using equal areas of contrasting colours. Use lighter or more neutral colours on large expanses, and confine your bright colours to accents.
Too much dark colour can be depressing. Give dark colours life with white or light tints to accent. Conversely, punch up lightly tinted expanses with dark, rich accents.
Never use a colour just once in your kitchen. Repetition in colours and patterns ties the space together.
Balance pattern with plain Too much pattern or too many textures are overwhelming. Use plain areas of colour to give the eye a rest, and use texture and pattern to relieve the boredom.
Colour intensifies with area. The more of a colour you use, the stronger it will seem. Choose a value or two lighter than you think you would like.
Wall colour will reflect upon itself, intensifying the colours. Compensate by choosing a lighter shade, or use a flat finish.
Light effects colour. Natural light changes colour and intensity as the day passes.
The direction from which your light comes should be considered. For east windows that greet the morning sun, choose cheerful, yet muted, warm colours such as yellow. For southern exposures, select muted, cool midtones and neutrals. Northern exposures need light tints, accented with bright, warm colours. West light requires a cool palette of light values with accents in colours ranging from blues to violets.
Basic Principles For Working Out A Colour Scheme
1.DOMINANT OR CONTROLLING COLOR
Decide on your dominant or controlling color, which may dominate by
covering a large area or by strength of color in a smaller area.
Decide whether your foundation or background color is to be the
dominant or a secondary color. Plan to use a large amount of quiet
background color, a small amount of bold, strong color. All large
foundation areas should be in light or grayed tones.
Clear colors are gayer, more cheerful, but grayed tones are more
restful, their harmonies more subtle. Mixing gray with bright
colors brings them into relation with other colors in the room. As
red and yellow in bright tones seem to clash. Mixed with gray, they
become rose and tan and go very well together. Use this principle
also in buying materials. Avoid too much graying. It gives muddy
tones, dirty grays, flat greens. A little gray goes far.
3.RELIEF AND CONTRAST COLORS
Decide on relief and contrast colors and bring them into all parts
of the room composition. Remember the order in the amount of space
allowed each one, foundation, then relief, then contrast. All
colors including background colors should be keyed to the dominant
color. Soften strong contrast colors with white. Contrast is less
in lighter tints. Soften darker contrasts with grey.
Use pure bright intense colors only in accessories, etc.,
Distribute them so they eill not be spotty. The smaller the area
the brighter the color may be. The larger the area the softer the
tone should be. Don't use large amounts of pure bright color.
This is another means of creating harmony. A key color is the one
about which the color scheme is built- the dominant, or controlling
color. All other colors in the room must be "keyed" with it-
harmonized. Two colors in which any part of a third color is
present will be linked together. Example, to key red and yellow to
each other, mix them both with a little of the third primary hue -
blue. Violet and green will result, and these are harmonious to use
with your strong tones. Remember this principle in buying as well
as mixing colors. A lovely print or art object will have these
tones keyed for you, and you can use them for your own composition.
The safe rule is to avoid too many colors and too strong tones
except in accents, etc. Most colors eill "go together" if you
1.Use larger samples if possible, especially in patterned materials, but keep approximate proportions of chart. Sizes are determined according to area and interest. Ceiling and floor areas, for example, are equal- but floor interest is greater, hence the larger sample. If several items are the same color add them to make one sample.
2.Make allowances for texture. Soft rough surface in paint, paper, or fabric makes colors appear darker. Hard glossy surfaces appear lighter.
3.Make allowance for distance. Colors look brighter when they are close, farther away they seem softer, grayed by atmosphere. Colors which match exactly 1 ft. away may seem quite different at 15 ft. This is important in a large high ceilinged room.
4.Make allowance for proximity. When side by side, Complimentary colors brighten each other, related colors, when both light or both dark, deaden each other; neutral colors brighten clear colors, but pure strong primary colors deaden neutrals such as grays, browns, etc. Light and dark tones brighten each other, especially white for dark colors and black for light tones; one color may seem to change another's hue as when a strong clear color gives a tinge of its complementary to a neutral- red for example, may give a greenish cast to gray unless a little red has been mixed with the gray.
5.Make allowance for proportion. The larger the area the darker the
color will appear. Choose a wall color slightly lighter than you
really want it. Don't decide exact shade of a painted wall until
all other materials have been chosen. It is easier to match paint
to fabric and paper than the other way around.
Each section in the color wheel is called a hue. To change a hue,
another color (not black, white or pure gray) must be added to it. Every hue has a different wave length from every other hue.
Mixed with its complement equally it produces gray.
Also called "normal", also "fundamental". Primaries
are the three pigment colors which cannot be produced by any
mixture of other pigments. These are red like that of a geranium
flower, yellow like that of ripe lemons, blue like the deep clear
hue of a sunny southern sky.
Secondaries are the three colors which are
produced by mixing two of the three primaries in equal amounts.
Red + yellow = orange, red + blue = purple (or violet), yellow +
blue = green
Tertiaries are the colors produced by mixing a
primary with a secondary, the exact shade depending upon the
All colors which are made up of more complicated
mixtures than those producing secondary and tertiary colors are
Black and White are considered neutral. Also all
those tints and shades in which tones of gray or brown predominate
The light tones resulting when white is mixed with a color. Much
white makes a color cold.
The dark tones resulting when black is mixed with a color. Much
black deadens the color.
Each hue has many tones. By tone- or tonal value we mean the
relative strength of the hue as it approaches black or white at the
opposite ends of the value scale. Mixed with white, a color is
"pale" in tone; mixed with black, it is "dark" in tone. The upper
and lower extremes of any color would be white (or very pale gray),
This term is used interchangeably with value, tonal value, and
intensity. The chroma of a color such as yellow is "light"; the
chroma of a color such as Navy blue is "dark". When a color fades,
it loses chroma.
This term is used to describe a quality of warm clear colors in
light reflecting tones and finishes, such as light golden-yellow.
Clear white is also luminous. Literally "luminous" are only metals
in gold, silver, platinum, or clear plastics.
COLOR AND LIGHT
After the design element of space, color and light are probably two
of an interior designers most powerful design tools. Color and
light can alter the use and perception of a space since they can be
manipulated for effect or emotion. Color can be used to define form
and give a sense of scale rather than merely provide a background.
Color can be used to create an illusion or to emphasize a dramatic
architectural form. Color is a mood setting and emotion producing
tool. Working with color is a science as well as an art.
HOW WE SEE COLOR AND LIGHT
Color is not a physical part of objects we see, but rather is the
effects of light waves bouncing off or passing through the objects,
in fact, if there were no light, there would be no color.
Therefore, light and color are inseparable.
MODIFIERS OF LIGHT
Indeed, color cannot exist without light, because colors are
actually other names for various mixtures of radiant,
electromagnetic energy. But how then do we explain colors in actual
objects? The colors that we see in objects are the result of light
waves that reach the eye after the object has selectively absorbed
some of the wavelengths and either reflected or transmitted the
others. In other words, the color, or pigmentation, of an object
absorbs all colors of light except its own color, which is either
reflected or transmitted to the eye. For example, if white light
falls on a red surface, that surface will absorb all the
wavelengths except the red ones, which are reflected back to the
eye, allowing us to perceive the color red.
The material or texture of an object will also influence how much
light is absorbed, reflected, or transmitted. When light falls on
an unpolished (diffuse) surface, light waves are reflected in all
directions because of the overall even surface. Smooth, shiny
surfaces reflect more light, and dull or matte surfaces absorb most
of the light waves, thus modifying the visual appearance.
COLOR THEORY AND SYSTEMS
To describe a color with reasonable accuracy, three basic properties have been designated to identify the dimensions, or qualities, of color; hue, the name of a color; value, the lightness or darkness of a color; and intensity, or chroma, the degree of purity or strength of a color.
Hue is the name, such as red, blue or yellow, given to each color to distinguish it from the other colors. It refers to the color in its purest form, that is, with no blacks or whites added.
Value designates the darkness or lightness of a color. Values can be expressed by shades, tints, and tones. Shades are produced by the addition of black to a color, which will darken the hue; tints are determined by how much white is added to a hue, which lightens the color; and tones are produced by adding gray to a hue.
The chroma of a color is the purity, saturation, or amount of pigment it exhibits. Colors that exhibit a high degree of chroma are those that are not grayed but rather are at their ultimate degree of vividness. Adding black or white to a color can lower its intensity, or vividness. Adding a complementary color can also lower the saturation of a color.
As Sir Isaac Newton continued his experiments with light and the
color spectrum, he recognized that a relationship formed between
each color and its adjacent color. By joining the end colors, red
and violet, to form a circle, he found that the bands of color
flowed together in a continuous spectrum. From these early
experiments, the color circle or color wheel was developed and
further refined into color systems. Several color systems have
evolved since Newton's early experiments, each one based on a
different group of basic, or primary, colors.
Here are some of the most commonly used systems:
12 Part Color System - Johannes Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832)
The Munsell Color System - Albert Munsell (1858 - 1918)
The Ostwald Color System - Wilhelm Ostwald (1853 - 1932)
The Gerritsen Color System - Frans Gerritsen (1975)
The Kuppers Color System - Harald Kuppers
The concept of color harmony is the basis of understanding the theories of arranging colors into practical color schemes. Just as the Munsell and Ostwald color systems use a systematic approach to determine harmonies, guidelines for arranging colors based on other systems have also been developed. Designers establish color schemes to set a basic guide, or rule of thumb, to build upon.
that follow are exactly that - a foundation of color principles to
build upon. They can be interpreted differently or modified
according to the situation. In fact, some designers color schemes
do not seem to follow any of the basic schemes, yet work very well.
A successful color scheme is not necessarily determined by which
concept was followed but by how it was applied and to what
Perhaps the most basic of the color schemes. A single hue is varied
throughout in tints, tones and shades. The one - color combination
seems to assure some unity or harmony through color application
The analogous color scheme uses colors (often three of more) that
are adjacent on the color wheel. Many designers select one of the
colors as a dominant theme and accent with the other analogous
Offer an even greater variety in contrast or accent by using colors that are directly opposite on the color wheel. When these colors are in their purest form and placed next to one another, because they contrast with one another, they appear more intense than if viewed separately. These brilliant contrasts are frequently used in graphic design when a forceful visual impact is needed. In interiors, however, the hues are generally toned down, reduced in amounts, or varied in value and intensity to lessen the harsh visual statement.
Any three hues that are equidistant on the color wheel comprise a
triadic color scheme.
A simple color scheme cam be created by using black, white, gray, off white, beige, tan or brown. Interiors with neutral, or achromatic ( meaning without color), schemes tend to visually expand a space and make good backgrounds for colorful furniture, artwork and accessories.
SPLIT AND DOUBLE COMPLEMENTARY
A split complement scheme resembles a narrow-armed Y on the color wheel rather than exact opposites or complementary colors. Such a scheme thus provides three colors instead of the two of complementary combinations, thereby offering a wider range of color selection.
Four colors equidistant on the standard 12 part color wheel form a tetrad scheme.
Color never appears visually as it physically is supposed to, for
color is perceived in relation to the total environment, rather
than by itself. Color can even deceive the eye, for it has the
ability to change or influence other colors. These visual illusions
are very important to interior designers, as their desired color
effect can change due to the interaction of hues on one another.
SUCCESSIVE CONTRAST OR AFTERIMAGE
Two hues directly opposite each other are called complementary
colors. When complementary hues are placed next to each other, they
produce a strong contrast and vibrancy, referred to as successive
If a person looks at a particular hue, such as a red surface, for
a period of time and then suddenly shifts to a white or gray
surface, his or her eyes usually will visualize the color green
instead of white or gray. The phenomenon of "seeing" the
complementary color is called afterimage.
Color is rarely seen in isolation, especially in interior
environments, where different colors are usually viewed together.
This creates an optical effect referred to as simultaneous
contrast, a perceived change of a color as the result of the
influence of a surrounding contrasting color.
The illusion of simultaneous contrast can be expanded by making
three different hues appear as only two. This is done by selecting
the mixture of two background colors to be the middle color. When
this middle color is placed on each of the two background colors,
it produces the visual illusion of the other background color.
SUBTRACTION OF COLOR
The background color "absorbs" or "subtracts" its own hue from the
center color. This process is referred to as the subtraction of
color and can be used to create still another illusion involving
the use of color, making two different colors look the same.
By experimenting with colored objects on colored backgrounds or in
colored environments, we find that a ground will subtract, or
absorb, its own hue and thus project the remaining hues. A blue -
green sofa against a blue background will make the sofa appear
"green" because the blue ground absorbs the "blue" from the "blue-
green" color. The lightness or darkness of a color will also be
absorbed in the same way that its hue is. Thus, light colors on
light backgrounds will appear darker because the light ground
subtracts the lightness of the center objects color.
Interior Designers must understand the perception and use of color and its resulting effects on human behavior. Studies have shown that color can create excitement, relaxation, calmness, or cheerfulness and can even increase productivity in working environments. The way a person interprets or feels about color can vary according to experiences, education, and cultural association with color. Color association, or symbolism, is generally based on a person's individual innate personality or cultural background. For example, in Western cultures, black generally symbolizes death and mourning, whereas in Eastern civilizations, the symbolic color of death is white. Some common color associations in Western societies include:
Red: is associated with battle, blood, fire, passion, love and excitement. Historically it represents royalty, majesty, and triumph.
Orange: symbolizes friendliness, pride, ambition, warmth, and relaxation and is stimulating to the appetite.
Yellow: symbolizes sunlight and is associated with springtime, cheerfulness, and optimism. Yellow also connotates safety because it is easy to see.
Green: represents nature and the feeling of calmness, friendliness, and freshness.
Blue: stands for the truth, honesty, loyalty, and integrity. It also is associated with coolness, repose, and formality.
Purple or violet: is the color of royalty and has religious significance.
Colors are also commonly associated with a psychological "temperature" and are divided into warm and cool categories. Reds, oranges and yellows produce a warm and active feeling. They also appear to advance toward the eye because they seem nearer than they actually are.
A chair or sofa in an intense red fabric will generally appear larger than the same piece in a cool color, such as blue. Also, if the walls of a room are painted the same intense red, the walls will appear closer, decreasing the apparent size of the room.
The cool colors are blues, greens and violets. Tints of these colors create a restful and soothing feeling unless they are too intense in chroma. Cool colors are also known as receding hues since they appear farther away than they actually are. The apparent size of a room will increase when these colors are applied to the walls, but furnishings using cool colors will seem smaller.
A major factor in the determination of advancing or receding colors is intensity. A very intense, bright cool color will seem to advance, but a dull warm color will recede. Whether a color psychologically advances or recedes depends on the hue. (Warm colors advance, cool hues recede)
Studies on the psychological effects of color have revealed that
people actually feel warmer in red and orange spaces than they do
in blue and green spaces, although the temperature is constant in
The complex area of the effect of color on people is still being
researched. Interior Designers should be aware of some of the
emotional effects color can create - especially in isolated
The effect of color on space perception, (the apparent, versus the
actual, size and distance of objects) and their distance from
viewer is a very complex relationship and will vary with different
When hues are placed closer to the viewer, they will appear more
brilliant and darker than the same hues placed at a greater
distance. More intense and darker colors will appear less demanding
when used in very large spaces than in small spaces. Spaces with
white or very light cool colors on the walls generally appear more
spacious than those with darker warmer hues.
Colors also appear more intense, or stronger in chroma, when
covering large areas. For this reason caution should be used when
selecting wall colors based on very small samples or color chips,
for the color will often appear darker when applied to large areas.
COLOR AND TEXTURE
The textural quality of an object or surface will also affect the
visual appearance or color. Rough textured materials will generally
appear darker because they absorb light and color rather than
reflect it, as do shiny surfaces and materials. Also, textured
materials, such as nubby fabrics, pile carpet, and velvets will
cast small shadows within themselves and appear darker than a
smooth material of the same hue, value and chroma.
This is extremely important in creating a feeling of unity within an
interior environment. Every color plan should ideally include some light, some dark, and some median values to create the desired
There are primarily two popular methods utilized for color
distribution. The first specifies that the backgrounds (floors and
walls ) should be the most neutral colors, the large pieces of
furniture should be in middle values, and the strongest chroma
should be used in the accents, such as accessories or small
furniture items. The second method is to put the darker values, or
stronger chroma, in the backgrounds (floors and walls) and the
small accent items and use more neutralized tones for the major
The choice of one method over the other depends on personal
preference and what is to be emphasized in a space - the
background or the objects in it.
Generally speaking, most successful spaces are planned around one
dominant color and two subordinate colors that are varied in value
COLOR APPLICATION IN INTERIORS
Color is a design tool. It's practical application ranges from
using luminescent colors for safety in highway signs and markers
to using specific colors for hunting gear, life jackets, and
reflectors for bicycles in order to be seen instantly.
A number of studies have been done on using color so that it is
conductive to activities designed for specific interior
environments. For example, hospital interiors have been painted in
specific colors because studies have shown that particular colors
can affect behaviour and personality. The following discussion
mentions some examples of color usage in commercial spaces.
Job performance is closely associated with satisfaction in the working environment. Because the work environment has a direct relationship to employee efficiency, drab offices can be counterproductive. It is important to design office spaces that will lift spirits, not depress them. Off-white, buff, and gray surroundings are not very stimulating if additional color is not used effectively. Earth colors can be comforting in an office environment, and yellow has been found to create a cheerful atmosphere and improve work concentration. Greens and blues are thought to be calming, but that effect depends on the value and saturation level of the hues. Too much white in a workplace can produce too much glare. More saturated colors, such as deep green or purple, are often used as accents, especially in executive or reception areas, to give a feeling of status and dignity. Another way to express prestige and status is through the use of natural materials, such as marble and wood. In some office environments, creating a corporate image is important. Black, gray, and white with one or more accent colors might be used. However, the brightness contrast ratio needs to be proportionate. Because white reflects 80% of light, and black approximately 5%, a brightness contrast ratio of 16 to 1, there could be physical eye discomfort.
Gray can be ideal for desk tops and working surfaces since it is a
neutral color and not distracting. And because it creates a good
balance in contrast between black and white, gray is able to keep
the eye at a comfortable and uniform brightness level.
Warm, bright color schemes are thought to be a good choice for preschools and elementary grades since children in these age groups tend to be more extroverted. Such color schemes can also reduce anxiety and stimulate activity.
In secondary schools, beige, light greens and blue-greens are
often used to create a more passive effect while enhancing the
ability to concentrate.
In general, warm neutrals, light greens, and blues are used in
health care environments. Blue walls create a calming effect and
give an impression of expanded space that will help keep patients
from feeling confined.
Red, red-orange, and orange tend to produce the most favorable
appetite sensations. Blue-greens, such as aqua and turquoise, can
be used successfully as backgrounds for food displays because their
afterimage of red-orange enhances these colors. Green salads will
appear greener on cool pink backgrounds.
In fast food establishments, bright, stimulating colors and light
tend to encourage rapid eating and movement.
Update by: Angela Baker of The Kitchen Emporium Inc.