Pacific Northwest MagazineMay 25, 2003seattletimes.com home
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CONTENTS
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COVER STORY
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PLANT LIFE
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TASTE
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ON FITNESS
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NORTHWEST LIVING
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NOW & THEN
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PREVIOUS ISSUES OF PACIFIC NW
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WRITTEN BY ROBIN FOGEL AVNI
PHOTOGRAPHED BY BENJAMIN BENSCHNEIDER

PhotoColor Match
Follow the expert and pick the paint that suits you

AS ANY OF THE POPULAR shelter magazines or cable decorating shows will tell you, the quickest way to improve your home's appearance is to find a great paint swatch, grab a brush and bucket, and make some bold strokes. Knowing that, it's no surprise to hear that painting was one of the first items on the agenda when nationally recognized color expert Leatrice Eiseman moved into her Bainbridge Island home six years ago.
 
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Creating a gracious entertaining space in the dining room was Leatrice Eiseman's goal. By using yellow, which represents energy and life, she created a warm atmosphere for guests and family.
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"Paint is one of the easiest things to change and one of the least expensive. It has instant impact," says Eiseman, who is executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, author of "Colors for Your Every Mood," and an often-quoted color authority.

At first, she and her husband, Herb, added a few windows and skylights to bring in more light. Then they enlarged the master bedroom and kicked out the wall a bit in the dining room to create a gracious entertaining space. But there was never any doubt that their 2,700-square-foot home would display rich hues and bold color choices — from the periwinkle blue of their bedroom to the claret red of the home's exterior. "I'm an evangelist for people using colors in our Northwest environment that evoke warmth. The winters can be gray and dull, but inside my house I've created sunshine."
 
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Following her own advice to be confident about making bold choices, Eiseman uses plum with gold accents in her powder room.
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An expert in the history and psychology of color, Eiseman believes personal color palettes stem from a variety of influences, including "your childhood, your cultural background, social trends, changing lifestyle, geography and personality."

"Some people are quicker to adopt new color trends, because that's who they are," she says. "And then there are others who are more traditional." But gradually, trend colors do reach a tipping point and enjoy a wider acceptance. Suddenly, the citrine green of the film character Shrek looks good on everything from T-shirts to table linens.
 
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The open floor plan allows a flow of light from one room to the next. Eiseman chose to keep the kitchen a bright white, and since white represents purity and cleanliness, it's a good choice. Eiseman added strong color accents throughout, however, including a collection of vivid teapots that are displayed in kitchen cabinets.
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"It will be in your peripheral vision, you may not be out there searching for it, but it's out there — and your consciousness starts to widen, and your acceptance," Eiseman says. "First, you do it in a small touch, and you realize it's kind of fun." That's how the color you weren't really sure about when it started showing up in stores and catalogs ends up part of your next clothing purchase.

Color forecasts are developed two years out, so the shades of blues that are now being featured in the marketplace — aqua, cobalt, periwinkle and eggplant — were predicted to have popularity even before the new millennium began.

"We knew that blue would be a strong color. If you give people a word association, the deeper blues are associated with outer space and the heavens," Eiseman says. "Blue is also the color we associate with tranquility and serenity. And that brings comfort to a lot of people. There is a general fear factor that is at the end of any century, and from a psychological standpoint it was blue's time to come back."
 
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Following her own advice to be confident about making bold choices, Eiseman uses plum with gold accents in her powder room.
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But when it comes to major pieces of furniture and purchases for the home, choice becomes less about popularity and more about staying power. "Trend is the item you'll want to change more quickly. In furniture, people want something that's going to last for a while," she says. "You might try a trend color with the pillows and maybe the lampshade, or the linens and placemats. But, the more space you cover, the less it is about trend and the more it is about comfort level and your personal taste."

Eiseman works with a variety of other design professionals, from many industries, to project how all these influences will affect products for the home. Then she works with Pantone to prepare each year's Home Color Forecast. For 2004, she has scoped seven palettes reflecting the influences of the environment, multicultural mixes, cosmetics, candy, the beach, antiques, quilts and comfort foods.
 
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"I like the idea of blue in the bedroom," says Eiseman. In the master bedroom, Eiseman uses her favorite color, periwinkle. "Of all the blues, it's the happiest in the family."
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But whether your personal color choices are influenced by macaroni and cheese or your recent trip to the tropics, using a shot of color on the walls can still be intimidating. Eiseman believes it's not really fear of color but fear of criticism that hampers people. When you make a bold choice "you're laying it all out there for the world to see," she says. "But you need to be confident and not be thin-skinned. Just think: 'I've always wanted to do this, I'm living in my house, and you're not living in my house.' "

After all, you can always paint it again.

HELP FROM THE BOOKS

It can feel like there are almost as many books about colors as there are paint chips at the home-improvement store. Here are a few recommendations:

• "Colors for Your Every Mood: Discover Your True Decorating Colors" by Leatrice Eiseman (Capitol Books, Inc., $29.95). A primer on using color, including color history and psychology, as well as 150 color combinations to help create the mood you desire.

• "Think Color: Rooms to Live In" by Tricia Guild, Elspeth Thompson and photographer James Merrell (Chronicle Books, $40). The latest in a series of color books offers a modern approach to using color in a bold way.

• "Decorating with Color, The Best of Martha Stewart Living" by editors of Martha Stewart Living (Clarkson N. Potter, $22). Very Martha, of course. All the palettes that you've come to know and love, including the pastel hues of Stewart's Araucana chicken eggs.

• "Debbie Travis' Painted House: More Than 35 Quick and Easy Finishes for Walls, Floors, and Furniture" by Debbie Travis, Barbara Dingle (Three Rivers Press, $19.95). The latest in Travis' books gives step-by-step methods for a variety of different finishes for walls and floors, furniture, trim and accessories.

Robin Fogel Avni is a free-lance writer specializing in lifestyle issues and trends affected by technology. Her e-mail is robinavni@msn.com. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.

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