Color Trends 2013 – Pittsburgh Paint’s Ruth Ann Hanlon

Pittsburgh Paints & Glass Color Expert Ruth Ann Hanlon and The Elusion Palette from PPG’s Color Forecast for 2013 / 2014

Color Trends 2013 are here and every trend-setting paint source has their exciting new interpretations of colors that will shape our view of the year  to come.

A few weeks ago, Sarah at my favorite paint source invited me to see a color talk given by Ruth Ann Hanlon, National Color & Design Manager at PPG Architectural Coatings. I really like Pittsburgh Paints; my living room is done in three of their atmosphere colors. It was a fun and informative evening, and a chance to connect with a kindred soul. Ruth Ann does color presentations across North America on color trends and their influencers for design professionals, as well as seminars on how to choose and use color in residential applications. Ruth Ann is an IP member of ASID, IIDA, NKBA and NARI.

I asked Ruth Ann if she might consent to share her color ju-ju with all of us, and answer a few questions. A fresh perspective is always a great opportunity, because one voice does not a chorus make.

I asked her questions that I based on those I hear most often to see what her take might She was kind enough to share both her perspective and Pittsburgh Paints’ forecast on the workings of color trends for 2013 / 2014.

Kim – Ruth Ann, thanks so much for agreeing sharing your formidable color experience with the readers of Re-Do it Design.

Ruth Ann Hanlon – My pleasure!!

Kim – Let’s begin with a bit about you, and what you do before we zone in on some of the yummy color trends that Pittsburgh is introducing.

Everyday Hero palette from Pittsburgh Paints for 2013 – 2014

Ruth Ann  – I’ve been in the field of design since graduating from Villa Maria College in 1994. Since then I’ve worked for a cabinet and appliance distributor focusing on high-end kitchens and baths, a furniture gallery where I assisted customers in selecting both case goods and upholstery along with space planning, and have been in the architectural coatings industry since 1999 working for Pittsburgh Paints & Glass. Color is definitely my passion; I love the powerful effect it has on a room and those who enter it.  My position entails consultations on projects ranging from new home construction, to residential repaints, to commercial properties and historic restorations.

Kim – I love it! being inundated with color for a living sounds like heaven on earth! During your presentation in my local, I loved the New Bohemia, Instinct and Up-cycle palettes – and I was so happy you dedicated some of your presentation to black rooms – I think they’re so stunning!

Pittsburgh Paint’s Elusion Palette

Ruth Ann Hanlon – I’m glad you like those palettes, New Bohemia, Instinct and Up-Cycle are from our 2011 trend forecast but are still relevant, and quite popular!  Black walls are among my favorites; the drama, mystery and sophistication it provides is very intriguing.

Kim – I report and discuss trends, but I think it’s really even more important to know what you love – the past two years have been great for me, because I loved them before they became trends, and they will probably speak to me long after! So how did you become a color expert?
Ruth Ann Hanlon – Throughout my career with PPG my focus has been on color; how it impacts a room, creates an atmosphere and transforms a space.  More importantly, the powerful emotional response we have to color has proven to be just as instrumental when selecting colors; whether that be to personalize a home to reflect the style, tastes and preferences of those who reside there, exterior schemes for new homes, or hotels and retail stores that need to appeal to the masses.  Over the past 12 years my experiences in the field have honed my knowledge of color; as has attending industry meetings and CEUs that include color specific topics.

Color Consultation inspiration in Pittsburgh Al Fresco

Kim – What is the biggest obstacle to effective use of color that you encounter?

Ruth Ann Hanlon – The fear associated with color that makes many hesitate, especially when it comes to darker or stronger colors. We often know what colors we want to select but don’t have the confidence to actually use them. Oftentimes providing that confidence is all that’s required in consultations, and those are those rewarding.

Kim –  The landscape of lighting is about to change as incandescent lighting becomes unavailable. What energy efficient lighting choices do you prefer to showcase your designs and color schemes?

Ruth Ann Hanlon – I prefer any light source that mimics natural light. When compact florescent lamps (CFLs) were introduced the light was very cool and could drastically alter the colors of a space, including flooring, fabrics and wall color. Technology has progressed and even CFLs are now available in warmer light. My preference is Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) but their current cost makes them not suitable for every fixture. Hopefully in time that will change.

Kim –  Many of the trends for 2013 are showcasing pastels and a move away from darker or richer tones. Do your color experts at Pittsburgh Paints concur?

Ruth Ann Hanlon – PPG’s recently launched 2013/2014 color forecast features palettes that celebrate the complexity of pairing pastels with deeper, saturated hues as evident in our Elusion palette. Bright colors such as fuchsia and sea foam are the energetic middle ground between dramatic black and the pastel pinks, blues, and greys that serve as neutrals.

Kim – Can you explain to everyone how are color trends compiled? What processes of elimination do your experts use to narrow thousands of colors down to a few that speak to a given year?

Color Consultations in Pittsburgh, using Pittsburgh Paint Colors

Ruth Ann Hanlon – Our trends are compiled by our Global Color Team; PPG representatives from the automotive, aerospace, consumer electronics and architectural coatings segments from around the world. We identify not just the forecasted colors but more so the reasons behind them. For example; technology, environmental concerns and our connection to our communities, fanciful escape, cultural diversity and nostalgia are among the important influencers in recent trend stories.

Kim  –  What are the most commonly over-looked color opportunities and biggest mistakes?

striped painted ceiling via houseofturquoiseblog

Ruth Ann Hanlon – Looking to the room for inspiration and ignoring unique architectural features are among the most overlooked. If you have a beautiful area rug, exotic granite countertops, favorite piece of art or gorgeous window treatments your wall color, or a shade of it, is most likely within that element.  Tray ceilings, architectural niches and coffered ceilings are the perfect opportunity to add accent colors but are often overlooked. I say show those features off and add some character to the space through the use of color.

One of the biggest mistakes I see homeowners make is falling in love with color selections then changing them because a friend or family member influenced their decision thinking they were too light or too dark, too bold or too subtle.  We almost always know what we like but don’t often trust our instincts.  I say surround yourself with colors you love and don’t let others sway your decisions.

Kim – I couldn’t agree more! If you had to build a design around just one element, what would it be?

Ruth Ann Hanlon – That would depend on the room. If I had to choose just one element it would be an inspirational piece that best represents the homeowners; it could be a vacation photo from a favorite destination, heirloom china, investment piece, favorite sports team, etc.

Kim – How can readers differentiate between warm and cool hues – for instance cool reds and warm blues?

Ruth Ann Hanlon – If you reference a color wheel it’s easy to differentiate. Typically reds, oranges and yellow are warmer, blues, greens and violets are cooler. Reds with an influence of blue are cooler than reds with an influence of orange. Greens with an influence of yellow tend to be warmer while greens with an influence of blue tend to be cooler.  That’s part of the beauty of color, the possibilities are infinite and there’s surely one to suite your tastes and compliment your space.

Kim – What fail-safe tricks would you give Re-Do it Design’s readers for creating a winning look within your comfort zone?

bright palette from Pittsburgh Paints inspiration gallery

Ruth Ann Hanlon – Trust your instincts. If you’ve always wanted a dark red dining room or aqua master bath just go for it.  Color is so subjective and there are few rules to follow, personal preference should be the ultimate decider; beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all.  If in doubt reference PPG’s Color Sense Game at, it’s a system that helps you identify your color personality with ease and confidence while eliminating much of the guesswork with the color selection process.

Kim –  What are the most important design / color lessons you have learned?

Ruth Ann Hanlon – Two important lessons come to mind;

1. Never underestimate the power of color. I’ve seen it transform spaces and impact the lives of those utilizing the space that surprised all involved.

2. There are no wrong colors. There may be inappropriate colors for a certain space but if used artfully any color can be the perfect choice. When I started in this industry a well versed homeowner selected a unique shade of bronze with a strong green undertone that had many shaking their heads in doubt, when I saw it in the space it literally took my breath away – the room was stunning and the color choice was perfect. I have never doubted a color since.

To yourself be true – you couldn’t ask for better advise than that!