Versatile neutrals are in, but colors are not off-limits

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published February 22, 2017

 A sophisticated living room features a neutral palette with pops of color and a touch of outdoor green, as seen through the windows.

A sophisticated living room features a neutral palette with pops of color and a touch of outdoor green, as seen through the windows.

Photo provided by Gail Urso


METRO DETROIT — Neutrals are a sophisticated, timeless option for those who may want to create a classic look and not redecorate every season. But personalized color can be a winner in private homes.

“I think 2017 was kind of the year of the neutral,” First Impressions Home Staging President Corie Conroy said. “If you decide you need some kind of vibrant hue, you can do florals or inexpensive pillows. You don’t need to have buyer’s remorse when you want to change your interior.”

Conroy recommended using darker neutrals in a larger room with planes of white or lighter paneling, carpeting or furnishings. She cautioned against using dark colors in smaller rooms, however, to prevent a closed-in feeling.

In past years, she said, grays had become very popular. Now, she said, she is seeing warmer shades of gray, taupe and beige coming into play.

“This year, more complex khaki and brown colors (are popular),” she said. “The hybrid of gray and brown together give more hues that mix with more colors.”

The 2017 Sherwin-Williams Color of the Year is called Poised Taupe, and Conroy said the gray’s earth-brown undertones pair well with yellow, burgundy and jewel tones.

For those afraid of using color, Conroy recommended using black.

“Black can be used to give a bold element to a room that stabilizes the room,” she said. “White livens up a room, but (I try to avoid) really bright white in a room that has a lot of light coming through.”

Linda Shears, of Linda Shears Designs in Troy, said that as a Michigan designer, she is glad to see a warmer transition in grays.

“‘Greige’ is all the rage,” Shears said, referring to a blend of the words “gray” and “beige.”

Besides designing, Shears also delivers lectures to consumers on color. She touched on how certain colors could affect a person. She said different shades and tints of a color also have different effects.

“I love red. I have a red kitchen. The walls are red and the cabinets are white,” she said. “Red affects the body by raising the blood pressure. It stimulates conversation and is great in a dining room. But you don’t want to paint the walls of a cardiologist’s office red.”

Shears said green, specifically the 2017 Pantone Color of the Year, Greenery, imbues a sense of tranquility, peace and relaxation.

“Green represents the heart chakra and can help slow down the heartbeat,” she said. “The simplest thing a consumer can do is incorporate some wonderful bright green plants into the room. Greenery looks fantastic with Poised Taupe and works great with its complementary color, purple.”

At the recent Novi Home Show, Shears said, she learned about how the color of a front door sets the tone for the homeowner who lives in the house.

“They say the color purple (is representative) of a more spiritual or creative person,” she said. “I like that idea. It’s nice to not just have a beige front door, but a purple front door.”

She added that yellow is a happy color, especially for garden rooms, and orange is also cheerful.

“In my sunroom, I have three walls of windows, and the one whole wall that backs up to the house is a bright yellow color,” Shears said. “It’s always sunny and summertime in that room for me — even in the gray, cold days.”

Blues, she said, are commonly used in offices, professional logos and bedrooms.

“Blue is one of the more universal colors people love,” she said. “It gives a sense of authority and trustworthiness.”

Gail Urso, of Urso Designs in Grosse Pointe Park, said that the most important thing is for her clients to feel good. Urso is known for her daring use of color, but she said she also loves a classic neutral look.

“To me, the most important thing is someone’s emotional response to color,” Urso said. “People love or reject color for all different reasons. I think, in your own home, you need to be surrounded by a color you love.”

While some people are more open to dramatic color, others are afraid of using color on a wall, she said. In the same vein, she said some people might think they dislike green because it invokes the memory of 1970s kitchens, but they do actually enjoy a more lush green. 

Two of her favorite colors to use, she said, are a deep eggplant and a chocolate brown with crisp white woodwork.

“I like those so much because of the way art looks against them,” she said. “They are great background colors for almost any color. Another color that is wonderful is a deep shade of charcoal gray.”