Color selection the OA way!

Paint colors are as vast and boundless as the inhabitants of earth. Everyone from Martha Stewart to Tommy Hilfiger to Benjamin Moore have their stake in the market whilst striving at pushing the masses towards the lively and bold, or the more subdued and elegant.  Whatever your preference may be, you are sure to find something that brings out the details and emotion of your home.  Perhaps the challenge then is not finding colors you love but more so narrowing it down to the right colors for your space.  There is an entire industry devoted to color selection that has been around since the 1800’s. Color forecasting is considered imperative to the design industry whether that’s fashion design, automobile color, or paint and textile design.  Companies like Pantone and Benjamin Moore have even taken to publishing their ‘Color of the Year’, possibly as a marketing ploy, but not without much research and perhaps thousands of hours of intense meditation.  In 1999 Pantone, the self-dubbed “world-Renowned authority on color” kicked off their color campaign by selecting Cerulean Blue as the “Color of the Millennium“.


Cerulean Blue- Pantone Color of the Millennium

Every year since Pantone has selected a new color of the year-  2015’s Pantone color of the year is Pantone 18-1438 or Marsala.  Coming up with the names for paints must be a fantastic way to pass the days.  In 2009 Benjamin Moore chose “St Elmo’s Fire” as their color of the year. Whether they were referencing the weather phenomenon (more likely) or the 1980’s Demi Moore flick (doubtful) it’s still one of the more catchy names we’ve heard.


Benjamin More’s 2009 color of the year- St Elmo’s Fire

When we at Otogawa-Anschel do color selection for a client we are always surprised to find that it is a deeply personal and intense adventure.  We sat down with Otogawa-Anschel principal Michael Anschel to get his take on color selection-

OA Blog: Tell us a little about how you select color?

Michael: (dead faced) “Magic”.

OA Blog: (silence)…


From the living room nook looking out. This open floor plan provided an exciting opportunity for multiple layers of color working and flowing together.

Michael: “I start by looking at the art, prized possessions, furniture, all the stuff that will remain in the home.  I try to discern what their pallet is- how they are dressed, the things they select.  How someone dresses says a lot about what colors they like.  We have large color books and we start at the beginning with the yellows, oranges, and golds. From there we work through all six books and all of the colors.  I pull a pallet with the client present so I can see their reaction to each color as it’s pulled.  With the pallet in hand, I begin to assign colors to the room(s) depending on the mood we are trying to evoke, the illusion we are trying to create and the function of the space”.


From the kitchen out- another angle of this modern and elegant pallet.


View from the main living area to the kitchen and living room and staircase. A good example of several areas both defined and working together with color.

OA Blog: Do you ever disagree with clients about color?

Michael: “No”.

OA Blog: Do clients ever disagree with each other about color?

Michael: “Yes”.

OA Blog: What are some ways clients can come to a compromise?

Michael: Generally speaking there are certain colors that one or both clients strongly don’t like and those won’t make it into the pallet.  One of them might have a stronger feeling about a color and then the other will concede. In instances where one is unsure about the color and the other client is pushing for it, the other clients will come to us a year later and say I didn’t think I would like that color but now it’s my favorite room and I love that color!”.


From top to bottom we selected 43 colors for this home. The cheery and playful pallet complements and softens the architectural details of the space.

OA Blog: How many colors do you typically use per room/project?

Michael: “It varies but typically we will use two to five colors per room.  The most colors we’ve used in a project were 56 colors and the reason I know this is because they were a referral from another client who they were good friends with.  We had used 43 colors in their friend’s project and the stipulation upon hiring us was that we had to use more colors in their house!”.


Not to be outdone, these homeowners who are friends of the previous home’s owners, requested “more” colors than their friends had. This home comes in at 56 colors throughout!


Often times we use color to transition from one color to another. Placing an intermediate color in-between two colors that would otherwise not pair well together.


Of course we don’t always follow the lines either. This space looks amazing with the added depth of a diagonal break along the right side creating more depth and interest.

OA Blog: Why so many colors?  Is that your ‘thing’?

Michael: “It’s Nature’s thing. Honestly who wants to live in a monotone, monochrome world.  OCD white, it’s not realistic, it’s not practical to live in.  It’s interesting to look at, but humans are nature, and we love nature, nature fascinates us.  The complexity of the natural world is the only thing that continues to capture our attention”.


Another favorite trick is to use slightly darker variations of the same color to create permanent shadows. Here we have several closely related shades working to create even more depth and interest to the ceiling and walls encompassing this brick accent wall.

OA Blog: You are a big fan of using several colors in a similar tone, why is that?

Michael: “I’m trying to define the shape of the room as it needs to be which is sometimes different than what it is”.

OA Blog: Um… Could you elaborate?

Michael: “By shifting the value of the color I can create the illusion of shadow and depth. I can move your eye from a true corner to someplace off the corner and thereby change how your brain sees the overall dimensions of the room. So I can make a big space that is impersonal and out of scale with people, feel cozy and comfortable. Likewise we can take a very small, tight, cramped space and draw the eye diagonally across the room and up to the ceiling, tricking the brain into believing the room is larger than it is”.


Another great example of similar colors working together to create depth and interest.

OA Blog: You tend to tread more lightly in kitchens it seems, what is the reasoning behind that?

Michael: “You’re right.  A kitchen is a celebration of food and the colors present in the various vegetables and meats and sauces need to be visible and seen.  So the colors of the room need to support that and not challenge the food. So Yellows, creams, light tans those are general neutral colors that are happy and clean. We don’t put strong colors in the kitchen except for as accents.  They aren’t the wash, they aren’t the thing that’s holding the space”.

Remodeled kitchen in older home with modern arts & crafts style

Finally, not all color needs to be bold. Often in the kitchen and bath we let the tile do the color work. Here, we use subtle shades of cream, beige, and yellow for an effect that is open and clean

OA Blog: In conclusion what is your favorite color?

Michael: “I don’t have one”.

OA Blog: That’s your answer?

Michael: “It changes”.

OA Blog: Well what is it this exact moment?

Michael: “I tend to gravitate towards pallets that have an earthiness.  So even my bright colors will still have a bit of a muted dirt/earth quality.  I don’t like two dimensional colors. I like rich colors.  It doesn’t mean bright, it means deep…

OA Blog: (pauses and wonders if we’ve come to the answer yet) So would you say your favorite color is dirt?

Michael: (laughs) “No. When you look at a pine tree- it’s a blend of greens and browns so it’s got an earthy quality.  When you look at the rocks in the mountains they are brown and red at the same time…”

OA Blog: … So Earthy is your favorite color?

Michael: “Sure”.


A lovely landscape of color influenced by nature

So there you have it folks.  Color 101 with the folks at Otogawa-Anschel.  In conclusion, just like Michaels views on earthy colors, there are multiple facets to color selection.  The most important thing to take is that color is a living breathing component to your design.  It both evokes emotion and defines space.  It is as important as any of the design elements and deserves thought and care when deciding which ones will be used in your home, which ones will make you feel alive.

Can you feel it?