I'm back to helping the creative folks at Sherwin-Williams remind everyone about the simple power of paint color in honor of National Painting Week.  As a designer who tries to live by the mantra of editing down to the essential ingredients of an idea, color is something that I approach with a significant amount of rigor.  If a minimal approach to design allows space to move, think and breathe, adding accent color can let a space speak.

Minimal design leaves space to move, think, and breathe. When color is added, the design speaks

To convey this point, I've done a small experiment with a gallery and studio space I worked on for a design school.  Being a gallery space, much of the effort behind the design lies in its subtlety.  A rigor is placed into all of the elements of the design so that it can remain a timeless backdrop for the exhibitions of design work that will constantly evolve in the space.  

But we can let that fly out the window for now because it's National Painting Week. 

Photo Courtesy of RNL Design - Edits made for illustrative purposes

Since the gallery space is normally a backdrop, use of color lets the space have it's day in the sun. Suddenly, the walls that make up the gallery actually become the exhibit. But this is more than just going crazy with paint colors.

Accenting a space with paint is a process that should be approached with great care.  Essentially, you're picking out what you want to be at the forefront of the experience in the room.  If you accent too many things, it's like witnessing an argument between two people who aren't listening to one another - it won't make sense.  In the gallery space, after playing around in the Color Visualizer on the Sherwin-Williams website, I've chosen to accent with two colors, an aqua tone, Turquish (SW6939) and Knockout Orange (SW6885).  The tones of the colors play off one another, but they're kept in balance by the white field color of the ceiling.

Accenting a space with paint is a process that should be approached with great care. Essentially, you’re picking out what you want to be at the forefront of the experience in the room.


To take geeking out on accent colors a step further, the thought process between how to balance the two accent colors was to create a heirarchy in the space - you'll have to excuse the architectural jargon on this one.  Basically, we have the white surfaces as our field, then the major geometric features in these spaces are treated with Turquish.  The second accent color is treated like an accent to the accent colors.  This allows particular parts of the space to jump out and adds a layer of playfulness (or complexity - some people like making things complex).  The tone of the two colors also played a role in where they were applied. Of the two accent colors, Turquish is bright, but a bit more calming where as the accent to the accent, Knockout Orange (as the name implies), is more high energy.  My thinking around being judicious with the more energetic color was like this analogy: maybe it's okay to drink a Redbull once in a while to get some pep in your step, but you probably don't need one in your hand every waking hour (unless you want an ulcer).  

Photo Courtesy of RNL Design - Edits made for illustrative purposes

So that's my take on how to rethink spaces for National Painting Week.  The important thing to take away is that adding a paint color - and particularly an accent paint color is simple, but powerful.  So work with a purpose.  In the term accent paint, the important word to bear in mind is accent.  Just like in language, accents are small things that have big impacts - it's like the difference between having and crepe and having a crap.


Check out all the great painting projects that designers around the country are doing at NationalPaintingWeek.com


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