Hot Color – Cool Tones


black body kelvin scale

Hot Color and Cool tones are masters of confusion, leading us down slippery slopes of assumptions that leave our designs threads unconnected. We started a discussion of use of accent color yesterday. Today we use green (or yellow and white added to blue) to tame blues.

Black body temperature tells a story worth hearing about color temperature that flies in the face of what we think we know of color. We think of blue as cool, but the wavelength at which stellar radiation is strongest is measured by Wien’s displacement law. The overall power emitted per unit area is given by the Stefan–Boltzmann law. The up-shot is that, as temperature increases, the glow color changes from red to yellow (at the cooler level of light temperature to white to blue. Even as the peak wavelength moves into the ultra-violet, enough radiation continues to be emitted in the blue wavelengths that the body will continue to appear blue. What all this means to our designs here on earth is that blues are powerful representations of color whether in the depths of space or on the walls in your house.

Blue does some interesting things while flexing its iconic color strength.

image via

Matte blues are nearly impenetrable tby light. There is little reflectivity in certain shades, creating a blunted effect of light that can make your room feeling as though you are in an aquarium if the you lack sufficient light sources.

Blue blunts light, creating an instant visual effect of depth. image via

A blue feature wall in a shade that incorporates very little white in the color mix will have the effect of punching the wall back visually, creating depth. This can be very eye-catching, again, if this effect resides within your color comfort zone….

image via undecorateblog2

Where as mentioned yesterday, yellow has a great deal of movement, blue shades lacking white or green infer very little movement, and create instant depth calling to mind the feel of a tideless sea. But there are some tricks to manage and optimize blues, and one of them is to add yellow. Yellow and blue make green, as we all learned in kindergarten – and like the blackbody measures, playful yellow and brilliant white combine to have a very uplifting effect on blue – in the form of turquoise.

image via thegiftsoflife.tumblr

While the addition of yellow and white to create green or turquoise add sparkle when used in combination of blue range colors….

surface variation adds sparkle and interest – image via cinderellaproject.blogspot

…some blues can seem very matte. A blending of green and the constrained addition of metallic surface or transparency both function in concert to lighten this heavy color group.


Although these shimmering Kartell Ghost Chairs may be hot in color temperature, we don’t tend to draw our influences from the bigger picture. We relate to what we know. On terra firma, this is the color and finish of ice.

The office image to left has used icy blue transparency to its full potential in this inspirational office setting. Every trick of style has been lobbied here to create an environment that bolsters creativity, productivity or a winning combo of both.

The ecol tones are repeated, unifying the room. The chairs are weightless because they are transparent. The warm (if cool in Kelvin) glass chandelier is repeats the transparency, further unifying and warming the space, carrying the warm tones onto the ceiling, which becomes the unexpected focus in the room relating to, rather than ignoring the emphasis on those chairs. I’m ready to sit down with a cup of coffee (which I can wipe easily from the counters or floors is I become too absorbed) and get to work!

Blue and blue greens create stunning color accents that while a bit feminine with the introduction of white and yellow into the color base will not offend male sensibilities. If you act fast, all of these add a spot of color, yet an airy zen feel that grounds your design in a manner that is not obvious or short on style. The gorgeous accents (below) are available at Joss & Main at fabulous prices while they last – just click the names in the captions to have a look.

In summery:

1) The best way to introduce blues within a limited color comfort zone is by way of accents. – So to begin, get inspired!

I refer to the bigger picture – the science behind color and design so frequently because there are deep and explicit connections between what lays out of reach beyond the blue marble we call home, and the world that we know. In our own back yards lives that connection in the forms of endless inspiration that can be translated with just imagination at absolutely no cost. For example – a gorgeous river in Greenland can inspire elements in your table story:

A river in greenland so clean that it's utterly transparent and stemware from RoyalDoutton - image left via

A river in greenland so clean that it’s utterly transparent and stemware from RoyalDoutton – image left via

2) Get instruction –

If you look through the archives, you will find everything you need to know about proper selection, execution and design theory to make it work – there is no substitute for doing your homework, and no reason to shy away since I’ve done it for you! Remember: 60% of people get color results they feel they need to re-do – and a large majority of the remaining 40% live with their results less than happily. Your time matters – make a plan and get it right!

3) Create a board – doesn’t need to be fancy – that assembles your color and considers your layout.

Measure everything and all entry ways and paths that your furnishing must fit in and through, and blue tape it on the floor. Now take that out and shop – with blinders on! Most people crash and burn due only to lack of restraint. If the plan is good trust the plan. When everything is in place it’s then time to edit – that’s why the God’s of retail created returns!

4) Have fun!

Design is an expression of you! It doesn’t cause wars nor end world hunger. It is a way to channel what is quintessentially you and share that expression with the people who give your life meaning. Don’t forget the fun!