- - Thursday, May 5, 2011

Fire-engine-red lipstick, a lime-green dress and a pumpkin-colored throw pillow may not seem to have much in common at first glance, but color trends in fashion and home decor are intertwined with myriad aspects of daily life.

Mark Woodman, president of the Color Marketing Group (CMG), an international association of color experts based in Alexandria, says his organization gathers global color experts who compare their research and forecast color trends for multiple industries.

“Color trends are influenced by a variety of factors such as travel, politics, the economy, art and consumer confidence,” says Mr. Woodman, who owns Mark Woodman Design and Color in Laurel. “For example, England is capturing a lot of attention right now because of the royal wedding and the Olympics next year. We are starting to see a lot of red, white and blue and stripes showing up in fashion and in home decor. The stores are full of items with the slogan ‘Keep Calm and Carry On,’ which was popular during World War II.”

Mr. Woodman says an example of how a trend can influence a wide range of items from paint colors to tablecloths and tableware is the Latin-inspired color scheme from a few years ago.

“Color experts were looking at the emergence of Hispanic culture worldwide, from the popularity of Jennifer Lopez and the Buena Vista Social Club to Spanish food and tapas restaurants,” Mr. Woodman says. “People started noticing how good indigo walls with orange accents could look, and we saw people taking these bright colors and using them for their dining room walls and tableware.”

The Color Marketing Group says “honey moon,” a mustard gold inspired by optimism and honeybees, with blended yellow and honey tones, is big for 2011. The color was chosen by CMG’s color professionals at the 2010 Fall International Conference.

“We’re seeing the influence of preppy colors and classic fashion looks coming into the home, such as a classic navy blue, white and tan palette, mixed with some bright colors that look like naval signal flags in cobalt blue, yellow and red,” Mr. Woodman says.

Pum Lefebure, co-founder and creative director of Design Army in the District, says people in the design business need to pay attention to color trends about one year to 18 months before consumers begin to see the new trend.

“We have a daily feature we call ‘color consumption’ on our Facebook page to showcase new color combinations we have seen in street fashion overseas or other places for inspiration,” Ms. Lefebure says. “For example, we have had ‘cotton candy’ up, which can be great for kids’ rooms, and ‘toxic pollen,’ which is a green-yellow color.”

Carlyn Guarnieri, CEO and co-founder of Carlyn and Co. Interior Design in Great Falls, says the recession has had a big impact on color trends and home design.

“When the economy slowed down, there was a lot of stagnation, and everyone was doing more muted and muddied colors for a little while,” Ms. Guarnieri says. “Now the colors are clearer as people begin to have more confidence. We are seeing more patterned wallpaper with graphic or nature-inspired patterns.”

Ms. Lefebure says the recession created two trends: an urge to be thrifty and a different urge to use bright colors to make people happier.

“We started seeing more organic cotton, natural colors and linen, for things to look plain and simple so that they appeared thrifty even if they weren’t,” Ms. Lefebure says. “On the opposite side, we started seeing people use a pop of bright, exaggerated color. Studies have shown that women will buy red lipstick even during a recession in order to make them feel like a new person. Colors in the home, too, can change how we feel.”

Another trend that started during the recession and is continuing is that gray has become the favored neutral color rather than beige. Ms. Guarnieri says gray is being used for paint, furniture, bedding, tiles, bathrooms and kitchens.

“We’re also using a lot of a color I call ‘grello,’ a greenish-yellow, along with very clear purples and dark turquoise,” Ms. Guarnieri says.

While most people think of color being used mostly in the living room, family room or bedroom, painted surfaces can brighten a kitchen, too.

“While I am designing a lot of white kitchens, I am also seeing a variety of gray coming in for flooring and walls,” says Nadia Subaran, owner of Aidan Design in Bethesda. “In many homes, the kitchen and family room are open to each other, so it is a good idea to pull the space together with the use of color.

“For one kitchen I recently designed, we put together a bold palette of pumpkin-colored walls with dark cherry cabinets and a colorful backsplash. That was a classic kitchen in most ways, but the bright color accents made it distinctive. Homeowners can always add color with paint or decorative light fixtures that can be easily changed when their tastes change or when they want to sell the home.”

Ms. Guarnieri suggests that homeowners on a budget can use a neutral palette for most of their home, then change pillows, accessories and even art to try out new colors.

“I change things around seasonally, switching to lighter, clearer accent colors in summer for accessories and even switching the lampshades,” Ms. Guarnieri says.

Ms. Guarnieri says another inexpensive way to get a fresh look, besides paint, is to use large-scale stick-on graphic patterns that are similar to 1970s wallpaper.

Ms. Lefebure recommends that shyer homeowners start with pillows or a lampshade, and perhaps painting stripes on one wall; then, as they become braver with color and pattern, mixing and matching patterns.

For 2012, Mr. Woodman predicts, “We will see a new take on neutrals, in which they are softened a little and slightly influenced by color, like a gray with a soft, subtle pink undertone.”

For now, consumers can start looking at fashion magazines and street fashions to see what their homes could be wearing in a year or two.

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