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Issue: # 2/2010 April/2010

 Welcome to the Spring issue of
Design for the Rest of Us 
I was hoping for a leap year.  Every day counts.  February seemed shorter than it used to be and March leaped by me.  Winter seemed way too long. Despite this confusion, Spring managed to arrive!   
As reported in my last issue, my trip to Guatemala was vibrant.  Writing about it helped to extend the issue before that on a discussion on color harmony.   Optimistically, this  current issue will reach you on a glorious day of spring weather showing off its blue skies, yellow, pink, and white flowers, and a burgeoning bright palette.
This month's "color" story is actually about minimizing color but maximizing results.  By using white, black and gray, and especially the neutrals, from beige to brown, there can be wondrous results.
Trust me. These hues need not be boring, especially when combined with other design elements, texture for one. 
Neutralis Maximus


Sunset on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Neutralis Maximus  
If you are getting more comfortable with color, return to the neutral comfort zone and shake it or stir it up.
Getting back to the basics of hue, value and chroma we can take a color wheel and create thousands of nuances of each hue with the addition of either black or white, or mixing a color with gray, the combination of black and white. 
White alone creates a tint; black a shade, but gray alters a color's chroma or brightness, creating a tone.  When a color is toned down significantly a "neutral" is produced.  (Another way to accomplish this is to add a color's oppositie, such as green to red).  The Munsell chart on the left shows reds, from light to dark, mixed with gray, producing tones.  The image on the right shows the neutralizing of red with its complement (opposite) green, creating a tone, in this case, rust.

Toned warm colors, generally from yellow to red-orange, then become part of the "brown" family.  Lighter versions in that family are given names such as ivory, beige and tan, and so on. 
Often maligned as boring, even safe, working with neutrals may be more difficult than working with bright colors.  Creating a palette that maintains visual interest requires an understanding of design tools besides color, such as texture, form, light, proportion, pattern, and contrast.
African textiles such as these, of natural pigment and materials, are far from bland with an array of geometric patterns and tonal differences
tableau below, almost like a Baroque painting, contrasts lightness and darkness.  Combinations of shiny, rough, and dull materials plus straight lines and curves, create a sumptuous stillife. Ailey 
Simiarly, the French country style kitchen is warm and inviting. Woods in varying tones and gray tone metals in both images provide a comfortable relief from the dominant  browns.
Earthy, natural, rich, and satifying are just a few words to describe how we might respond to a well-done neutral palette including a natural one.  Form, balance and rhythm culminate in harmony. 
Juxtaposing black and white is a rather easy way to create drama. 
It is, simply put, high contrast. For much of the last decade of the 20th century we were bombarded on all fronts with this palette.  Some were more successful than others, such as Carolina Herrara's showroom designed by Yabu Pushelberg, featured below.  It is both dramatic and elegant, with contrast of not only black and white but with form and rhythm.
West Elm features an asymmetrical balance of achromatics and neutrals.
The 21st century saw the subtle yet strong resurgence of gray to sober the intoxication of the black and white combo.  Steven Gambrel features a reserved, yet welcoming gray interior for this seaside home. 
I could go on and on with images from nature, architecture, about you?  Send me your favorites
I hope you have found this series on color and design elements of interest.  Color and the other design elements and principles (discussed here and in previous issues) are furthered explored in my text, Chapters 2 and 3.  Foundations of Interior Design is available for purchase through Fairchild Books, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.  Personalized copies are also available for purchase. Email me for details at .
If you know of a friend or colleague who would enjoy Design for the Rest of Us, please forward to them or have them write to me at so I may add them to my mailing list. 
Please scroll down further to see Upcoming Events!

Upcoming Events
6/14/10: NeoCon Trade Fair  in Chicago
NeoCon Seminar (click for more details on NeoCon and my presentation M111, Connect the Dots:  Design Style in Context
Arrive on the weekend and enjoy the free Chicago Blues Festival in Grant Park!
7/27/10:  ASID Webinar  1 - 2:30 ET: For the Love of Color
Details to follow.

Susan J. Slotkis
Profiles - Personalized Interiors
For more information on the interior design services,  consultations and seminars offered visit the website
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Until next time,