Leatrice Eiseman on paint and color | Home Front

Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.
Feb 26, 2015

Leatrice Eiseman is executive director of the Pantone Color Institute and founder of the Eiseman Center for Color Information and Training. She is the author of nine books on color, including her most recent, "Pantone on Fashion, a Century of Color in Design," (Chronicle Books, SF, 2014).

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

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Good morning everyone! Happy to help you with your color questions, particularly those dealing with color and emotion. How would you like to feel in your environment?

Leatrice Eiseman our chat guest today is one of the leading authorities on paint and color. Leatrice is the executive director of the Pantone Color Institute and founder of the Eiseman Center for Color Information and Training. She knows the ins and outs of color trends and how they move between home design and fashion and other worlds. A great opportunity to ask for her advice and wisdom. Let's chat!

My shaker style kitchen cabinets are a warm cream with a matching cream subway tile backsplash. Countertops are absolute black granite. The walls are a warm-blush-beige color with white trim. I would like to repaint the walls a lighter neutral and prefer the light grays. I'm willing to repaint the cabinets, but I'm stuck with the cream backsplash. Any ideas for a wall color that will compliment the tile backsplash without feeling too beige?

Your existing features set you up to do almost any color as long as the color is repeated in other accents in the room.  You can certainly do a warm gray, since you are leaning toward a gray.  It doesn't sound like you NEED to paint the cabinets, so try painting the walls first.  See how that feels since the color you choose should firstly be pleasing to YOU and not just about trends.

I just bought a freshly renovated house and I need help with a kitchen paint color. The kitchen has cream raised panel cabinets with a light brown glaze and brown granite (I think the granite is "Solaris" from Home Depot, or something very similar). The kitchen is totally open to the living/dining room, and the whole house is painted a mostly-inoffensive off-white tone. The off-white IS offensive in the kitchen - it makes the cabinets very washed-out looking (I wouldn't have chosen them myself, but they are new and decent quality). The floors are medium-dark wood, and the furniture closest to the kitchen is all dark wood. My plan is to paint only the walls forming the "L" that the kitchen cabinets are on, at least for now. I'd also like to install a backsplash, but I am kind of at a loss as to what would accentuate those kitchen finishes. I tend to like glass tile or ceramic tile better than metal or stone backsplashes, and I don't want either the paint or the backsplash too dark. I generally prefer cool colors, and I plan to paint the original square muntin window trim at the front of the room in a (not tooooo bright) turquoise or teal. What paint color would you recommend for the kitchen? Any backsplash or window trim color suggestions?

As you have a proclivity to the teal and turquoise families and you need to feel comfortable in your space, I would suggest staying with the blue greens-- a lighter version for the wall colors and a more vibrant tone for the trim.  That will add a bit of excitement to what you are describing as non-descript in the main off white color.  If you want another fun touch, do turquoise on the interior of the cabintets.

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Can you tell us about the color trends from this recent Fashion Week in New York? How will they affect home design?

Any of the current trends for fashion in the runways, especially those included in the Pantone Fashion Color Report (available online at www.Pantone.com) are possibilities as fashion is translating very well into home interiors at this point in time.  I think the most outstanding runway color that would work in the interior is Pantone's color of the year: Marsala.  It is a grounded, warm and robust wine red with a brown undertone that would work for a multitude of uses-- accessories in the home, bed linens, an accent wall in the entry and what would be most dramatic is Marsala in the dining room-- a delicious, appetite stimulating shade.

What color is your living room?

Thank you for asking!!  I live in an area that does not get much sunshine in winter, so a warm, umbered shade that gives the illusion of sunshine all year round.  It lifts everyone's spirits!

Does anyone have a good online source for bathroom towel racks/towel bars? I'm looking for something unfussy, clean-lined, and more matte black/dark gray in finish (NOT antique bronze, which is everywhere).

Sending this one out to our chatters. Any ideas?

What are the best colors for a bedroom? I mean colors that inspire rest and relaxation.

Conventional wisdom has it that the best shades for relaxation in a bedroom are in the blues and greens or any variation of those two shades.  However, if you are not a blue person (or green) a perfect shade to use that gives a feeling of relaxation is a periwinkle blue.  It's the happiest of the blue tones because it has a slightly red base to it and that is what inroduces a bit of energy into the space.  

We are renovating/adding on to our house and need to completely redo the kitchen. I was sure I wanted a white kitchen (white cabinets, white marble countertops) with grey walls but I am suddenly seeming that color scheme everywhere and am now completely sick of the white kitchen/grey walls combination. Any ideas on how to add some color to a kitchen? I was thinking of a butcher block island, pietra cardoza side countertops and cabinets painted Farrow & Ball Bluegreen or cooking apple green. Not sure what color the walls will be painted just yet. I'm open to suggestions even bright colors. Thanks!

Actually, you have already answered your question!  Thank you for mentioning what you are thinking about doing with color because that should always be the first clue about the direction to go in.  If you are bored with blandness and feel the need for color, then go with the cooking apple green (love that description).  It will feel cheery and vibrant.  As I am constantly telling people-- be a bit brave with your choices, especially with paint colors as they can be changed so easily when you get tired of them and feel it is time for another change.

Hi Leatrice - We're trying to pick out exterior stain for a cabin and are wondering if you have thoughts on how to coordinate exterior wall and trim stain colors with interior wood colors. We have lovely Amber Acacia floors and there are cherry-ish wood ceilings and accents inside, but we don’t know what stain was used on the interior. Do you have any suggestions on how to pull together the various wood/colors to integrate the exterior look with the interior?

There is a huge movement afoot now for using reclaimed wood and that is creating the trend to mixing various wood tones, so you don't need to be concerned about match-matchy any more.  That might take a leap of faith, especially if you are still in a matching frame of mind, but I would not be concerned about trying for integration of the wood tones.

I would like to paint one wall of my living room with a yellow color. I have a beautiful six foot dried flower spray above one of my living room doors that incorporates brown, orange, black and yellow. What yellow do you recommend?

The spray you are describing is mostly warm in tone, so I would go with a very creamy warm yellow tone.  That is the least obtrusive of the yellows and functions very like a neutral tone to all of your other furnishing colors.

How do I make a master bedroom warm and inviting? I have off white carpeting, Sherwin Williams China Doll on the walls and ceiling, oatmeal colored padded headboard and bed frame and chocolate brown dresser and night stands. Haven't chosen the bed linens or the drapery.

Sounds like you are  on the path to warming colors in what you already are using.  If that is comforting to you, then go for it.  But one thing to bear in mind is that an interior can become too warm, sometimes uncomfortably so (especailly in summer) so a bit of coolness should always be injected.  I have explained in one of my books "Colors for Your Every Mood" that there is a need for color balance in any living environment.  This does not mean bringing in a great many cool colors when your goal is warmth, but simply a touch of coolness.  This is often found in prints and patterns, perhaps in the bed linens--especially a touch of greens within the pattern.  Remember that mother nature often uses green as a neutral color-- it provides a cooling background to all other colors in the spectrum.

Could you recommend a store where I may purchase a decorative medicine cabinet? I don't like what Home Depot and Lowe's have to offer.

Have you tried Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware? Also Ikea.

I am looking for a gender-neutral sophisticated neutral wall color that will pair well with my beige and cream bedding and my pink euro shams. The room is small for a master bedroom and gets afternoon light (it's dark in the morning).

Although I tend to shy away from too many neutrals as they can get very boring (I am a colorist, after all, so I crave color)--you have have described your situation and colors well.  My best advice is to choose a warm taupe with a slightly rose undertone,  This is non-gender specific, will work well with your other colors and won't darken the room. 

I have a basement gym. Currently the walls are white but it feels very blah. I would like to paint the walls a color that encourages energy and working out, but not something that will look too neon, especially given that the room receives no natural light. The gym equipment is charcoal gray and black in color.

Having no natural light enter the space is always a challenge, but challenges are fun for working color miracles.  My suggestion is using an energizing family, such as the orange tones, but as you stated you don't want anything too neon, I would go for a mid tone orange-- closer to the peach family.  It is warm and energizing, has a golden base which will also help to introduce a feeling of sunlight into the space, when there is actually no sun present. 

So, this really isn't a home question, but I'm doing some repainting at my office (which is currently painted in a light plum and some light and medium blues). There is one room I'd like to paint in a warmer color, and don't think reds or yellows would work. What would you consider a warm, neutral relaxing gray for the room?

You are asking a colorist to move you from what I would consider a fabulous combination in an office space to a neutral!! But I am not the one inhabiting the space-- you are-- and if feel the need togo with something more neutral, choose a warm gray (as you are thinking).  But why don't you keep one wall in the plum tone?  that will brighten up the space a bit and that plum wall induces clear thinking-- not a bad think in an office setting!

Just wanted to say "thank you" to Leatrice Eiseman for her color advice for my situation - what she said makes great sense.

What great insights you have on color and you really shared some wonderful information with us. Hope everyone enjoyed it. Thanks Leatrice for being on the chat. See you all next week.

I think I have answered those that are most pertinent to my responses. My final message is to pay attention to the instincts that you have about color and not be tgoo concerned about "making mistakes" when you heart and mind are leading you in a particular direction with color. there is usally a good reason for those instincts!

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Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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Leatrice Eiseman
Leatrice Eiseman is executive director of the Pantone Color Institute and founder of the Eiseman Center for Color Information and Training. She is the author of nine books on color, including her most recent, "Pantone on Fashion, a Century of Color in Design," (Chronicle Books, SF, 2014).
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