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Trending or transcendental

Have you ever noticed how interior design trends reflect trends in fashion? That’s true for color, too. This year’s trending color palette is one of extremes. The choice: a full, bright palette of vibrant colors or deep, dark neutrals. The artistry, in 2018, is in pairing colors and neutrals in novel, complementary ways.

Neutrals go dark with black, onyx, chalkboard black, indigo and denim blues, deep violet, and even brown on walls and clothing.

Bright colors: They’re are all over the map, from shades that elicit thoughts of spring and summer: yellow-green, chartreuse, lime green, hunter green, sage green, cherry red, tomato red and the blues of forget-me-nots to fall colors like ochre, orange, and brick red. Pastels from lemon yellow, robin’s egg blue, lavender, pale peach, and pistachio green offer options for those who prefer a softer, muted palette.

Goodbye to blush pink as lavender and the palest mauve are being shown on sofas, pillows, throws, clothing, and shoes. Also fading fast is the popularity of grey—to be replaced by black, blue-black, and indigo.

With paint names like Black Magic, Deep Onyx, Shadow, and Black Flame, you might guess where this is going. No, not witchcraft it’s a trend toward dramatic, modern rooms that offer an air of mystery. The desire for privacy is winning out, even in design, as a tendency to overexpose our private lives on social media reaches new heights.

Walls aren’t only going dark this year—they’re also going bright. Call it a trend toward happiness. Yellow walls, a cherry red room…color is intense and unapologetic. Subtlety aside, if you can live with a red room, then this is your year. And if you cringe at the thought of pairing tomato red with coral or peach, then it’s definitely not.

Gone is the idea of an accent wall in a strong hue: now it’s an entire room…which leads me our color of the year. No surprise here, it’s intense color and one that’s not for everyone.

When Pantone announces its color of the year, a collective sigh can be heard among interior and fashion designers and other creatives (and it’s not necessarily a sigh of relief). This year, Pantone’s Ultra Violet, a bluish purple—sure to have a short shelf life—isn’t a color that plays well with other colors. Purple is a hard sell: many people have strong feelings about it; they either love purple or they hate it.

Pantone’s autumn 2018 colors have been announced, too. A line-up of Red Pear, Valiant Poppy, Nebulas Blue, Ceylon Yellow, Martini Olive, Russet Orange, Crocus Petal, Limelight, and Quetzal Green (where do they get these names?) join Ultra Violet in this year’s palette.

Color trends come and go. The real story comes from choosing colors that you have an affinity for and that complement one another and your lifestyle. Selecting colors to wear, or to live with, begins with understanding what color can do.

Color can elevate mood and elicit emotion. It can enlarge or reduce a room and make you look thinner or more endowed. Exploring color is about being open to unexpected discoveries. It’s a study in relationships: what works with what.

Pairing color is not only about hue, that is, the color itself, but the value of a color: in other words, where it falls on a grey scale. Think tints and shades.

Collect some colors you like and start to play with them. Find intense colors, soft colors, and neutrals. Buy a color wheel at a local art supply store and discover which colors are naturally complementary: opposite one another on the color wheel such as red opposite green, blue opposite orange and purple opposite yellow. Some people prefer complementary colors, while others enjoy finding new pairings of color.

For many of us, our first true introduction to color and color mixing is in the garden. My father was an avid gardener with a God-given green thumb. A scientist by day and a pretty conventional guy, in his garden he knew no limits. He’d experiment with unconventional flower and foliage combinations when gardening. A blush pink lace hydrangea—an ornamental tree that had to be replanted every spring because it never survived a winter—next to pink coral bells and flame-red scarlet hummer (bouvardia). My father loved lilies of any kind. Particularly, he loved tiger lilies and wouldn’t hesitate to plant them next to blue iris or pink peonies.

Yet the array and placement of colors was amazing. I remember a row of green boxwood behind pale pink hyacinth, a tall emerald green arborvitae along our walkway surrounded by lavender, the dark red foliage of a Japanese maple with clusters of yellow flowering forsythia in a hedge nearby.

Getting cues from nature and then learning how to use color takes time and experimentation. When I first started to paint, colors were so exciting that I used every color on my palette. With time, I learned that restricting a color palette to just a few colors and mixing neutrals from those oddly created a greater sense of color. Like most beginners, I never realized that neutrals make color appear more colorful.

Another thing I learned was that colors change in appearance depending on what they’re next to. This realization opens the door to the real nature of color, not only in painting, but in interior design and fashion, too.

When you’ve mastered an understanding of color, you can start using color expressively and creatively to achieve your intention, whether to calm, excite, entice, or enhance; to send something back into space or to bring it to the foreground. The magic lies in looking and experiencing color as a force, an energy, an element of design to build upon.

Whether building a wardrobe or a room, color is the foundation. Consider the trends, learn the language of color, and then select colors that express your vision and your style.

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