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    What’s Hue Got to Do With It…

    To most interior designers, 50 Shades of Grey is less erotic thriller than a primer for choosing the perfect shade of grey.  Color is deeply embedded into the human psyche and elicits a visceral response that I think connects to some of our base memories. While scientists hold that smell is the most powerful elicitor of memory, I would venture to say that color ranks a close second. Yet the question remains, why do so many people shy away from using color in their home?  What is it about color that makes it the dirty little word of design?

    Don’t let fear stop you from including color in your home. The first step to conquering fear is to look it in the eye. So grab a pair of comfortable shoes and head for a walk because Mother Nature is the best color theorist around. When in doubt, take your color cues from the outdoors. In the accompanying picture, we pulled inspiration from the client’s stunning Oakland Hills view—a palette of orange, brown and green was used throughout the bedroom to create a warm and inviting space perfectly suited for relaxing and lounging.

    hueIn choosing a color palette, I tend to work with the following formula: a light to mid-tone for the walls + a dark tone on the floor and small accents + mid-tone for furniture + healthy dose of white = color perfection…well, not perfection, but an almost fool-proof plan for executing color like a professional.

    Always be sure to test out your colors in the room and look at them during different times of the day. What may seem like the perfect shade of red may appear ashy or orange in the indirect afternoon sun. I like to test wall colors in at least three different areas of a room to ensure the room will look cohesive from all angles. And here is a tip I learned from my painters: never paint your swatches directly to the wall.

    First, paint is perceived in context, not isolation. So when you layer on the perfect shade of grey on top of your existing blue walls, you are changing the undertone of the paint and impacting the new color. Second, it takes several coats to see a paint’s true color creating build up on the swatches edges, which can cause the samples to appear as reliefs under the final paint coat. Instead, use a piece of white foam core to test your colors; you avoid tainting your color and the pesky touch-up job in one swoop.

    So be brazen with color. Go shocking! Be bold. After all, it’s only paint!

    Courtney Lake is the interior designer and lifestyle expert behind Monogram Décor ( and his celebrated blog, Courtney Out Loud. He and his work have been featured both in print and on television, including coverage by “The Wall Street Journal,” “The Nate Berkus Show,” the “San Francisco Chronicle,” “Life & Style Magazine,” “RUE Magazine” and “7×7 Magazine.”