Interior Design Trends 2012 – Chartreuse!

Trina Turk Pillows from (left) image (right) from a beautifultripleeffectcom

Chartreuse follows on the heels of yellow, because it could be considered by conventional color theory the perfect yellow….

No, really! I am not under the influence, but this vivacious color truly is…

Grab your favorite caffeinated beverage; it’s time for some color theory! No, don’t leave – this is must know stuff if you plan on embracing this season’s chartreuse and acidy greens with any hope that it’s going to work in your room! The key to making chartreuse work is understanding chroma….

chromachromatic purity: freedom from dilution with white and hence vivid in hue.

Munsell Chroma specs for Chartreuse - blue from the Munsell Color Standardization system

The 19th century explanation of color mixing related to a foundation of six complementary hues. Now this is more fine arts than walls, but design principles imitate art frequently. To translate this long-winded theorem into practical and provable application, yellow paint would have to transformed into a material that reflects primarily “yellow” light. But that’s not how yellow works…

This theory described the light mixture reflected from yellow paint as “red” and “green” as if it were a color mixture comprised of yellow mixed with some green ( as is chartreuse). This traditional color theory relied on paint mixing calculus.

The the mixer “deconstructs” the visual color of the paints into the six traditional pure colors at the foundation of color mixing – the primaries – red, yellow, blue – and the secondary colors; orange, green, and purple. Complementary colors are colors situated directly opposite of one another on the color wheel. I promise that I have a point…stay with me!

These pure hues if mixed in a 50-50 part ratio cancel each other out and become absolute neutrals – that is to say, gray. Yellow cancels violet, orange cancels blue, red cancels green – in each case resulting in a shade of gray. It follows then, via conventional wisdom that if orange is mixed with yellow, and a green blue, that the orange cancels the blue to produce gray, and this gray will dull the mixture of green and yellow that remains. That is allot to take in, but trust me….However, “yellow light plus some green light” is not what appears in the reflective curve of a saturated yellow paint – which reflects nearly all the incident “red”, “orange”, “yellow” and “green” light. This is necessary for the yellow to create “attractive subtractive” color mixtures. I know…get to the point!

If we take traditional color theory at its word, then the result should be some pure yellow that reflects only visual yellow light. In the reflective spectrum however such a material appears not to exist, but using the available tools of colorimetry to specify what such a “perfect yellow” material would look like, the theoretical yellow actually turns out to be a deep chartreuse, infused with umber! (just above, left).

The more that saturated yellows mix into saturated green, (particularly in areas oriented to a strong natural light source) the more it screams. This transform a a really potentially beautiful color with a unique color story into a hot mess that few people could find comforting for the long or any term.

Fight or flight? a chroma saturated green kitchen

I am color-blinded by science!

High lighter inspired chromas on the runway don't always work in settings like the rest of the world - image from Pantone's Color Planner 2013 webinar.

Let’s take cut back the Chroma, to create some spaces that you’re not using as a green-screen to shoot the sequel of Avatar….

Pantone created a palette that solves the problem by combining that strong green amid other clear color voices and modest chroma ratios.

Bright Chartreuse Pantone 14-0445

But to understand why it works, take away the color to find the balance.

The Pantone Palette (above) in gray scale

Gradating strong colors in very dark to light hues provides contrast, that takes the emphasis away from that green, changing it from a screaming mezzo soprano to a soloist amidst a harmonious quartet.

Here’s how it works in application, using the 60/30/10 rule:

At 100% saturation mixing chroma chartreuse with both bluer and redder greens.

Amy Butler Green Living room -Ideal Home Magazine

At 30% contrasted with the raw woods raw wood accents.

Chartreuse with contrasting whites, creams and black - image via House To Home UK

Occupying 10% of your room’s color landscape in the form of accents.

Chartreuse packs a punch, even at 10 percent of your room's color saturation! Image from Modern Ideal Home

Chartreuse in combination with black and white (the gray-scale counterpart of Pantone Spring Fashion palette) acts like a laser pointer to your focal point, but….

image from

Turn the ratios around, and black and white create a stunning focal point by moving chartreuse to the backdrop, like the room below. This is my favorite Candice Olson re-do;  a plexiglass feature wall dominates an “apple green” (Benjamin Moore) wall with a black and white custom 3M rub-off decal motif – gorgeous!

Candice Olson from Divine Design days creating a focal point extraordinaire for an attic renovation.

You can’t see it well, but that small acid green feature wall was flanked by black silk and gray wall color, before I added the toned-down olive-green painted dresser. It’s fabulous in person!

My hand-painted dresser

Mix up the green families to create uniform conversations, or scale back your saturation levels to tame that beautiful but domineering chartreuse.

I love this color, so you see it represented on its best behavior at!

The grassy green of 2013 are in too, like this brand new Design Legacy Pillow!