Why does blue look brighter next to gold than white? Why is the combination of yellow and purple pleasing to the eye even though they’re so opposite?
Well, the French had a lot to do with giving us the answers.
When Claude Monet put a bright orange sun in a cloudy blue sky and reflected its orange light in a streak across the cobalt water below, he demonstrated that contrasts create harmony. He also started the Impressionist movement!
The same principles apply to decorating your home. The right color combinations can create an emotional response.
And the secret is to use the color wheel.
Here’s the trick: pair a primary color with a complementary color: red with green, yellow with violet, and blue with orange. Don’t stray too far away from those pairings and your rooms will sing with color.
Putting colors to work for you
You’ve fallen in love with that quintessential French tableau: a rustic stucco wall painted glowing apricot interrupted by a pair of weathered French blue shutters and a flower box filled with reddish-yellow nasturtiums.
That’s the color wheel at work. Blue has more punch against orange and apricot.
We saw this done to perfection in a restaurant in Arles. The tiles behind the stove went from gold to bronze. And hanging above were glazed enamel pots of deep blue. It made our eyes as hungry as our stomachs.
There’s no reason why you can’t try the same thing at home. Place a handful of shiny metal utensils in a blue vase or pot next to your stove. Or pop a rich blue ottoman or our blue-green painted garden stool next to the brass and metal of the fireplace. You’ll love how it looks.
A few more brilliant color ideas
It’s easy to over-indulge in color when you redecorate a home because you want to catch the eye, and make statements. But you don’t want it to look like you’re inside a rainbow bright.
So, make vivid colors your ally. Paint them on walls sparingly and strategically.
Here are a few of the best examples we’ve seen throughout homes in France.
In the kitchen, paint one wall, or only the soffits, a brilliant citrus yellow or peapod green. Leave the rest of the walls and cabinets white or off-white. This will give the favorite room in the house an optimistic lift.
They say highly creative people are drawn to radiant orchid because it is so unique. If that’s true, why not put it to work in a library or home office?
Paint a contrasting tone like magenta on the walls behind a white bookshelf or the backs of a series of wall niches. Your room will look inspired and the feeling will rub on you.
In American bedrooms, you often see muted earthy tones on the walls and bright colors and patterns on the coverlets and linens.
But the French would flip that idea on its head and let the natural beiges and eggshells of the bedding become an oasis in a room with vibrant walls.
Our Basic Bedding is designed to do just that. Take a look at its textural possibilities and let your color choices be infinite for the walls!
When Renoir painted Oarsmen at Chatou, he used chrome orange straight from the tube for the boats and placed them in a sea of bright blue. He, like so many other French Impressionists, believed complementary colors are more emotional and passionate next to each other.
Try it at home. Just one more thing we learn (and borrow) from the French!