Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Bright colors are everywhere now: home interiors and fashion are the most obvious. Now that spring is here (or ALMOST here if you live in Boston), you might have tried to incorporate some bright colors in your home home, and maybe noticed that it doesn't quite "fit" like it does in the store display. 
Why is that? if your home is decorated in browns, beiges and other muted earth tones, you'll find that these deeply muted earthy tones simply clash with bright colors. I'll explain this below.

Complex vs. pure - Earth tones contain a predominant bright color PLUS a little of the complementary color in them, which is what "mutes" or takes the edge off the brightness of the predominant hue.  For example, a muted red has some green in it, or a burnt orange has a bit of blue in it. This is why earth tones are considered "complex" colors. It simply means they contain more than one hue in them, and that is exactly why earth tones easily blend with each other like in this picture below. 

Earth tones also blend really well with each other in home interiors.

Bright colors, on the other hand are more "pure" which mean they contain mostly one hue (yellow, blue, red, orange, blue green etc.) plus some white and maybe a tiny bit of the complementary color just to take off that edge a little. 

That is why bright colors appear "cleaner" then earth tone colors, and that's exactly why if you try to bring in a bright colored pillow or rug into a room full of earth tone colors (like the one above) it will make everything else around it look "dirty".

bright colors are more pure and work best with white and grays
 (design - Lindsey Harper)
So what  if your current decor is predominantly earth toned but you'd love to bring in some more color? here's my advice:

1. Brighten up the room with spice or jewel tones - not all earth tones are born equal. Some are brighter than others. Nature, of course is a full of great examples. Look at the picture below: the yellow and purple leaves are much brighter then the other leaves, yet they still blend well with the more muted hues of the other leaves.
You can apply this to your decor.

bright and dull earth tones can live together happily

Spice colors (burnt range, reds, mustard yellows) are richer and brighter then the more muted earth tones (browns, amber, beiges), but still blend well with each other 

spice colors

This bedroom is another example of rich ethnic colors and textures (though not Russian inspired).  Or should it be included in the earth tone palette?  One of the best things about design is that the label doesn't really matter if you like it.
earth tones jazzed up with orange spice tones

The color palette above is an excellent example of a combination of muted earth tones and brighter spicy orange. Nature, of course is full of examples, like in the foliage leaves photo I found
Autumn Leaves Fall Foliage
foliage color range brightness - from dull to bright

Jewel tones can also blend well with earth tones.

2. Going lighter and brighter on the walls  - for an updated sharper look, try repainting your beige walls with a warm off white or cream. This will brighten up the space and create a bolder,  more contemporary look. Yet, this "trick" will only work if you have lots of natural or warm artificial light in the room.White or off whites will look sad and dingy in a dark room. 

rich and bright spice colors with a warm off white backdrop
Bottom line - if you fell in love with the current trend of bright colors, but own a home full of earth tones, you can still brighten up the space by adding the brighter "cousins" of earth tones such as spice or jewel tones.
feel free to leave any comments below,


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