- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2005

The contrast between the outside and inside of Robert and Tracy Ryan’s small Colonial home in Ashton is the difference between a wan sunrise and a wild sunset.

The exterior is a conventional light tan, but the interior is fast becoming a brilliant rainbow of colors as they seek to transform whole rooms with paint.

Using designer Mark Woodman of Laurel as color consultant, Mrs. Ryan decided that the walls in their sunroom should change from pale yellow to red — Roasted Pepper red from Duron Paints in a velvet flat finish. The living room will have terra-cotta walls and a tan ceiling; the family room and dining room sandy walls and a plum ceiling.

Tinted primer is applied beforehand in nearly every case, and several coats of paint usually are required.

“People today are far more prone to accept color than in the past,” Mr. Woodman says. “I’m seeing it all over the place — brights of all kinds. It depends on people’s mind-sets. If they are optimistic and forward-looking, they will go for cleaner, clearer, lighthearted colors.

“It’s the difference between sage and kiwi green,” he explains. “Sage is a grayed-out green, where kiwi is more upbeat and cleaner. There is an apple green — not quite traffic-light green — that is showing up mixed with black and white for spring this year.”

Darker green — a common pick for libraries in Washington-area homes, several designers say — is a “leftover choice” in Mr. Woodman’s view. He calls it a trendy color “because it is old, familiar and comfortable and makes us feel cozy and safe.”

“Color [choice] is emotion, psychology and marketing,” he says.

His suggestions to the Ryans were based in part on each room’s furnishings, a point many designers make when counseling clients.

“Color isn’t doing anything until it reacts to something else,” Mr. Woodman says, adding that, in part because of the modern technology of paint, it usually is easier to change the color on the walls than the furnishings in a house.

“I’ve told people upfront that after the paint is applied, you may come in and hate it, but please wait until everything is in place,” he says.

Another piece of advice from Mr. Woodman is to “always look at color over a period of days in the space you plan to paint.” He even suggests buying a hollow-core door that can be painted with the chosen color and then moved around, perhaps trying out a different color on each side.

Benjamin Moore Paints has come out with a line of sample paint bottles for consumers to use for testing various hues. The company also has published a handsomely illustrated paperback, “Interior Style: How to Use Color Throughout Your Home.” Also useful — especially for the amateur — is “Do It Now, Do It Fast, Do It Right: Paint Transformations” from Taunton Press, which emphasizes the practical steps involved in a paint makeover.

“Interior Style” includes advice from nationally known designers such as Washington’s Darryl Carter, who favors chalky washes of color and, especially, white hues. White is more reflective of light and more forgiving of surface irregularities often found in older homes, he says. He is partial to Benjamin Moore’s Moonlight White on walls, Simply White in a satin finish on trim and Simply White in flat for ceilings. Overdoing different vibrant colors in small intersecting spaces can make rooms seem even smaller, he points out.

Matte finishes are slightly more expensive than flat because they are washable, notes Andy Small of Frager’s Hardware in Southeast, but the effect of both is the same. Both can be applied to metal if no rust is present.

In truth, Washington painter-remodeler Robert Sestak says, almost 70 percent of local homeowners and apartment residents choose shell white or antique white with semi- or high-gloss woodwork. Apart from the normally conservative bent of area homeowners, one reason for the choice is that it is easier to touch up those shades when necessary because white is a widely available color.

The choices can be daunting. Benjamin Moore Paints offers 140 permutations of white among thousands of colors in its full spectrum.

“Taupe always is a classic,” says Silver Spring designer Dennese Guadeloupe-Rojas, who prefers neutrals.

The exceptions are clients such as the one Mr. Sestak describes as “an older woman who painted her entire apartment in purple with white ceilings to make the rooms seem taller and wider.”

The very bold will use metallic finishes on their walls — pearl, gold, bronze, copper or silver — which have become something of a trend, according to interior designer Sonu Mathew, Benjamin Moore’s Atlantic region color marketing representative.

She agrees that the past few years have seen a resurgence of color. “Look for personal inspiration when determining your colors,” she advises. “Personal association is important. It could be an antique bead collection with hues you are drawn to. Think about how colors make you feel. Start with what you don’t like, and go from there.”

Yellow is one of the hardest colors to work with, she warns. “It’s one of the hardest hues for the human eye to process,” she explains. “This is where trends and physiology work together. We love it emotionally, but it is hard to see physically. You have to consider the lighting [in a room] but also changing the lighting to accommodate color.”

Where trends are concerned, a nonprofit Alexandria-based professional society called the Color Marketing Group plays an influential role in determining popular variations across the board. With 1,200 members worldwide, CMG meets two times a year to discuss color forecasting two years out as it will affect textiles, electronics, fashion, furnishings and other industries, including paint manufacturers.

Another organization in the field is Pantone Color Institute Inc., a color-standards company based in New Jersey that issues a seasonal report of “hot colors” that is influential in the fashion trade.

CMG’s president is interior designer Charles Smith of Denver, who says the palette chosen often is affected by world events. “It’s interesting to see what happens with blue-greens — those relaxing ‘tealy’ Caribbean soft colors — after the tsunami. It probably won’t happen until next spring, but I predict they will become duller and not as clear.”

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