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Bio-What? Add Nature to your Life and Feel Better Now


It’s not quite a “household word” yet, but is definitely becoming a regularly accepted fact: including as many references to “nature” as possible—in any kind of space—leads to more healthy living and working environments. How this plays out in a very real, practical way is documented in some very interesting articles.  You might say, it’s  even a matter of common sense—and dollars.

We humans need to be connected to nature.
We hear this so much that it borders on sounding trite. But it’s an innate aspect of our biological makeup—we’re “hard-wired” with this need, and it’s a good one. The very real, physical concept of Biophilia brings it into a larger scale of relevance; architectural projects ranging from a variety of workplaces, manufacturing, offices, and especially health care, can reap the largest-scale benefits—from improving their financial conditions to creating more socially healthy civic communities, in general.

According to a fascinating short article I recently read, * ‘Biophilic Design Could Save Millions of Dollars,’ including more vegetation in cities would visibly reduce crime rates “7 percent,” and subsequently save tremendous amounts of money “in incarceration costs from violent and property crimes.”

At this point you might be saying…Ok, that’s interesting but “What About Me? What can I do in my own home go introduce a more nature-relevant quality?”

beach view

How would you use this image as inspiration for creating your own nature-based color palette?

Even on a smaller, personal scale

there’s a huge benefit to creating associations to nature. Whether you have a small rented apartment, or a condo or home of any size that you own, you can really make a difference in the lives of yourself and family members.

So, on to a few quick comments about using color in your home or workplace, to help introduce some more natural qualities in addition to the houseplants you might already have, and your garden (which are a great start, by the way). We’re back to often-discussed topics included in what I often talk about: Supportive Color Design.

  • Lighting: incorporate as much natural lighting as possible. Be sure to test your paint colors in all available lighting condition in your setting.
  • Color: Specifically the benefits of using Full Spectrum Paint: Eliminate black and gray from your walls. Full spectrum paints using a minimum of 7 tints in each color will get you the closest to the colors of sunlight–at least as close as you can get considering it’s paint.
  • Shapes: Beyond the typical room shapes, look at shapes in nature and see how you can bring those elements into your own home.
  • Space design: Creating a comfortable and supportive interior environment: arrange your furniture and other decorative items in an orderly and balanced way for maximum comfort, taking into consideration their sizes, shapes, and placement in the space.

From the original article titled “The Economics of Biophilia” prepared by the environmental consulting and strategic planning firm, Terrapin Bright Green,  is this statement by E.O. Wilson, the person who defined Biophilia:

Biophilia is the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms. Life around us exceeds in complexity and beauty anything  else humanity is ever likely to encounter.” – E.O. Wilson, 1984

Image courtesy of FIGUURA, from the Terrapin Bright Green article.

How do contemporary designers incorporate Biophilia in their own work? In ways not specifically “interior design” but even in specific products used in interiors. Wall coverings, office cubicle textiles, and the drapes in hospital patients’ rooms are just a few. Textile designer Laura Deubler Mercurio, whose work is shown in the image below, is a long-time colleague of mine through the IACC (International Association of Color Consultants). She is completely involved in Biophilic and fractal design, creating exciting, beautiful and thoughtful designs for woven textiles, that are used in the three types of locations I just mentioned.

fabric design by Laura Deuble-Mercurio

Fractal studies have inspired Laura Deubler-Mercurio to design fabrics for hospital use.
Her textile designs are based on our senses relating to fractal divisions in nature.

Personally, I’d heard about Biophilia many years ago, and since then that awareness has had a significant connection to my own approach to Supportive Color Design, that applies to interior or exterior color design. Thanks to, a publication of the AIA, for bringing this in-depth article to my attention.

What you’re reading in this post is intended to encourage you to read the entire, original article that you can download from the Terrapin Bright Green web site.


Ready for exterior color?

Following the last post here about price of paint and Titanium White (a major ingredient in house paint products) I want to share this article with you.

From the magazine Period Homes, it’s titled “A Primer on Paint,” and offers a detailed view of trends in paint products. It’s not about ‘color trends’ but rather about the actual development of paint products.

It's the pigments that make color visible. Aren't they beautiful? Kremer Pigments manufactures pigments from natural materials to create a wide range of historically authentic paints and finishes. Photo: courtesy of Kremer Pigments.

Major paint and pigment manufacturers are featured, with comments from Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, Behr, Fine Paints of Europe, and Kremer Pigments.

If you have been wondering about Waterborne – vs. – Oil based paints, differences in paint qualities, “VOC’s,” and pigments, be sure to read the article. You will also glean a few tips from color consultants James Martin and Barbara Jacobs (Yes, I am honored to be included in this article).

I hope you enjoy reading it, and perusing the magazine, in general.

color design by Barbara Jacobs Color and DesignFrom the Period Homes article: photo by Barbara Jacobs

Do you have a “Period Home?’ What are the joys and challenges?  What do you love the most about it? Let us know about your experience.

“Yellow,” she said! And, 3 tips for exterior color selections.

It’s not often that a client is adamant about a house color. At least not to the extent of being so fixed on one color family that all others are not available for consideration.

With that caveat, I began to look at various yellow paint colors for the exterior of a Victorian home in a Boston-area suburb.  Not only was the only option to be “Yellow,” but the painting was going to be done by an area company specializing in a ‘never-paint-again!’ method, and so it had to be the right yellow to last…and last…and never be changed.

Back of house view - Before painting

One view, from the back of house, "before." Note existing color-testing by the owner, on the siding

Originally built as a single family house, as were most structures of this general style, this house has been made into apartments.

Original colors and some testing

Stuck on Yellow, the owner had done a few swatch tests and come up "empty."

The house was already yellow…

The house was already mostly yellow

Before: looking for the right change to make the difference

Selecting a different yellow for the body, with a more subdued color for the doors and an earthy color for porch floor and steps, was not a huge color change but it was a significant one overall.

The new palette: Sherwin Williams colors

  • Body: SW 6374 – Torchlight
  • Shingle accent:  SW 2817 – Rookwood Amber
  • Window and door casing trims, and stair risers: SW 6372 – Inviting Ivory
  • Porch floors and stair treads, front and back: SW 7053 – Adaptive Shade, a stoney gray
  • Front and back doors: SW 6278 – Cloak Gray, a deep plum

    Sherwin Williams Colors

    The palette: all from Sherwin Williams. Note: your monitor will not look like mine so please get the actual paint colors to test them.

Newcolors, almost done - but lacking the detailed accents

New colors, almost done - but lacking the detailed accents

I had specified Rookwood Amber to be used on the details of millwork as well, which would have been a lovely detail, and would not have appeared over-decorated. Some of the column detail was done, but other details that were to have been done on the peak trim and some of  the other decorative millwork would have completed the picture.

Ultimately of course it’s up to the homeowner, who is the person hiring the painting contractor. Sometimes the finishing touches are omitted due to the budget constraints and the result, even if beautiful, seems to be missing something.

Three quick tips

  • In homes with architectural detail, consider using color in the architectural details as a way to add balance and refinement. “Painting out” the detail sometimes works but the inclusion of the right, subtle color can make a world of positive difference in the overall appearance of your home.
  • Even a simple color change can make a big difference. In this case, where Yellow was the only color family considered, it was a matter of getting the right one to suit the building.
  • Testing: you can see that the tiny strips of color-tests, applied close together, don’t provide you with much ‘information’ about how the color will look on the house. It’s important to test on large areas that you can move around the building at different times of day, on the different surfaces.  Testing your paint colors on primed card stock or even pieces of wood (ideally, using siding to replicate the shadows) is a better method that small swatches. Be sure to use 2 coats of any colors  you are considering.



View from the street

Overall, it's a big improvement!

View from the street. The colors of doors, porch and stair treads complement the roof color.


Color of the Week #2 – Loving Versatile Red

The focus in on Red!

Energizing, passionate; communicating intensity and warmth; advancing, into the space… and on the other hand sometimes overly heavy, drab, imposing, oppressive…just a few of the characteristics of this color that can make reds hard to use.

Red, as a paint color
This week I’m featuring the rich, warm, essence of a very livable Full Spectrum red paint color: EcoHues—Venezia Rose. Most red paint colors include black in their formulas. The true beauty of any color red comes through in Full Spectrum formulas. The rich, atmospheric quality of true full spectrum paints also makes them easy to decorate with since so many other colors are included in each paint color mixed this way.

EcoHues - Venezia Rose

“Red” is a color that has enjoyed a great popularity in homes, in particular when used in a dining room or often in a bedroom. Red is often applied as what we who do decorative painting refer to as “straight paint…” meaning, out of the can, not as a glaze or other special treatment.

Red, Faux Sure
Red is also a great color to develop in layers, for “faux finishes” or Venetian Plaster or other special translucent or textured effects. Red can be used in many different settings, however: commercial spaces, home kitchens, and other areas.  I often have recommend that clients consider a layered finish when they want to see red in the best possible way.

Layering colors allows the decorative artist a way to bring light into the surface, literally. A light-infused finish helps avoid the feeling of heaviness that can accompany a red wall color.

A few different examples follow, of finishes I’ve developed to take advantage of the drama of red in a variety of spaces.

This waxed, pigmented plaster finish has depth and richness that play well in any time of day or night.

Samovar Tea Lounge, Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco

Samovar Tea Lounge, Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco

Powder room walls, private residence, Boston area. Can you guess the colors used?

Multi-layered glaze radiates warmth and mystery

This multi-layered, multi-color red glaze finish glows with warmth and mystery.

Rusty-Red kitchen walls have interest without pattern.

Kitchen walls, a rusty red

Kitchen walls, a soft, rusty red glaze without pattern. Kitchen design including custom cabinet design, by Carolyn Anderson /Anusara Home.

Tasty Reds


Delicious Summer Strawberries at Powisset Farm CSA!

Perfect complementary colors in red apples

Apples offer a perfect study in complementary colors

Red Underfoot
Three new colorways in Red from Silk Road Weaves: LOOPY/Gems, hand knotted Tibetan rugs.
I developed these new custom rug colorways at a client’s request for specific colors. Combining 3 different reds with aubergine in various ways, using wool and silk, here they are together, and separately.

Three Reds Together, from Silk Road Weaves

Three new red colorways in LOOPY GEMS, from Silk Road Weaves

Red Aubergine

LOOPY Gems: Red wool background, aubergine silk design lines

LOOPY GEMS: Aubergine-Red Tibetan rug

LOOPY Gems: Aubergine wool background, red silk design lines.

Silk Road Weaves - LOOPY GEMS: Wool and silk Tibetan rug

LOOPY Gems: 2 colors of red in the wool + silk background, with red silk design lines

As with any color, but most noticeably with a red, yellow, or other strong colors, the brightness of the color and the effect of the actual space and lighting has a tremendous effect on the appearance of the color.

Please share your own favorite reds, with a note about how you’ve used them!





“Apples to Apples” Tips for a Successful Paint Project

I’m so relieved to know more than one excellent painter I trust, whose presence in my home is at the very least pleasant and unobtrusive, who is orderly and respectful of my personal environment. Personally, I’m more comfortable with someone working in my own home–or in homes of my clients–who has a fairly low profile on the job site and is focused on the project at hand.

You’ll probably also want to feel comfortable with people in your  home even though you don’t know them well. There might be times when you are not there, but the project must go on!  Even though it’s temporary, their presence is a part of your life. Some of these things you can infer when you meet them, and some things you might just have to ask directly.

Apples to Oranges?

Trying to level the playing field can be tricky, because when you start to interview your painters you find that each one can have perfectly reasonable explanations for practices and processes. If you develop a way to keep track of comments and suggestions, and balance that with your own list of project requirements, you will have something to review to try to make “apples to oranges’ into “apples to apples,”  to make your best-informed decision.

Here are a few questions to start with:

How long have they been in business?

Don’t be shy–ask for references.

Do they work alone or with others?
If using a crew, will the owner be available for questions, follow-up and supervision? This will have a lot to do with your level of satisfaction and confidence.

What brand of paint do they use?
You may want to just take the painters recommendation for brand, but you should also feel comfortable discussing this, and specifying the brand you want.

Painters often suggest substituting brands with “we can mix any color in any brand.” However, paint companies have base materials that differ and this can affect the outcome. For example, it’s simply not possible to replicate a “Full-Spectrum “paint color in a non-full-spectrum method, no matter how it looks on a small piece.

Three questions about preparation

  • How would the painter treat mildew areas?
  • Will the painter plan to fill all holes and caulk seams?
  • Will the painter be sanding the walls for a smooth finish?

What is the painter’s typical procedure?
General painting practice specifies two topcoats and often a primer/sealer coat. Does the painter plan to prime the walls under the color coat? Some topcoat colors require a tinted primer.

How many coats of finish color do they recommend?
What kind of paint for ceilings and walls? In most cases, flat finish paint is best for ceilings. However, the paint that is used for walls is often a higher quality than “ceiling white” especially if a tint or stronger color is used.

Contracts are essential
The purpose of a written contract is to make sure all parties understand the scope of work, with clear explanation and details about surfaces to be painted, preparation, methods of working, time schedules and payment procedures for the project. Once you have met the painting contractors in person, this is the best way for you to evaluate the different proposals you receive. Equally important, it protects both you—the client—and the contractor. Reputable contractors will encourage the use of a written contract.

Last but not least: remember these important documents
Do they carry commercial liability insurance?  You can request a certificate of insurance from the painter’s insurance company.

As with most home repairs and other big projects, aligning the details in advance will set the stage for a better experience.

Do you have a question you would like to see addressed here?
From time to time my blog will include a specially selected Q & A item. I’d love to hear about your projects.

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