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The Perfect Palette
A primer for kitchen and bathroom colour trends

By Judy Penz Sheluk

bath green

Whether you're shopping for clothes, cars, furniture, window coverings, textiles, paint, cabinetry, or custom accessories, certain colours tend to come to the forefront while others slowly fade away to dusty rose obscurity. But just how do these colour trends get started? More importantly, how do you, as a professional home builder or renovator, get in on the cutting edge?
While any number of factors can influence the colour palette - from social issues to politics, the environment, the economy and cultural diversity - the Color Marketing Group (CMG) separates the Warm Wheat from the Chartreuse Chaff. That's because the association's major focus is to identify potential colour directions and then translate that information into saleable colors for manufactured products in all industries, from one to three years in advance.
Just how important is colour to your bottom line? According to several marketing studies, colour can be up to 85 per cent of the reason people decide to buy. "Even luxurious high-end materials like granites and other natural stones can look 'wrong' or be overlooked if the surrounding colours are not in harmony," says SHARON GRECH, Colour & Design Manager for Benjamin Moore Canada and a member of CMG. "The average person doesn't understand colour theory, but they just might think, 'I may as well go with the laminate countertop, if that's what the granite looks like.'"
Grech also notes that some builders are now offering custom colour paint palettes, either as an upgrade, or as a value-add. "Potential buyers go from a beautifully painted and decorated model home to the realization that their choices range from Builder's Beige #1 to Builder's Beige #2. They don't want to hear about nail pops and touch ups."

It's All in the Family

kitchen colour

To provide insight into the twenty-first century consumer mind, Grech broke down Benjamin Moore's 2007 Top 25 colour palette into families, noting that "our strip chips at retail each have three colours displayed, so I can't tell you exactly the colour, but I can certainly tell you the family."
The results? "Overall, there were 17 neutrals (beige, taupe, tan, white); five golds, two browns and one red - and  I can pretty much guarantee that red is CC-62 Sundried Tomato! The interesting thing is that five years ago the Top 25 paints were all neutrals with one green (Dry Sage 2142-40). While red has been new to the Top 25 for the past three years, it has been moving in and around the top 100 for a while.
"The browns show more use of deeper tones as neutrals, such as CC-482 Hot Chocolate," adds Grech. "I imagine the 2008-2010 data will show more greys coming into the forefront, since that is what we are seeing in trends, but this isn't your harsh 1980s grey. It's a warm, brown- or blue-based neutral. These earthy tones - colours inspired by natural elements - tend to harmonize most effectively with granite, marble and other naturally sourced stone, although we are starting to see blue tones enter the kitchen as it starts to develop a spa-like status in the home."
What about specific colours for bathrooms? "The bathroom has really become a cherished space for many of us, so soothing colours that blend harmoniously with finishes and furnishings remain the strongest colour trend," said Grech. "These colours can be deep or light, but always calmed with grey or neutralizing undertones."
According to Grech, the function of the space is critical in directing colour choices: If it's a powder room there may be fewer colour limitations, but if it's a main bathroom, then proper colour choice is paramount. That's because colours in the red/orange family are complimentary for most skin tones; conversely, many yellows and yellow-based greens reflect poorly on the skin even under ideal lighting conditions.
For a fresh, invigorating bathroom, Grech recommends colours in the green-blue family, such as Benjamin Moore's 1572 Raindance, or even the lighter 471 Tea Light, noting that "they both have enough grey in them to work well with natural materials but also enough colour intensity to contrast nicely with the clean, modern look of white tiles. If you want to create a soothing space, then try warmer tans like CC-488 Biscotti or the peachier 1138 Toffee Cream.

Cabinet Fever
Of course, bathrooms and kitchens are about a lot more than just paint and countertops. To find out what trends are emerging in cabinetry, we went to another member of CMG: KAREN ZAPP, product manager for Winnipeg-based Kitchen-Kraft Cabinetry.
"Right now, in kitchens we are seeing two trends that are actually polar opposites, much like the Prius and Hummer were both trend-setters at the same time," says Zapp. "The first, Old World Distressed, typically uses a lot of moulding and knotty woods such as alder, pine and cherry to create a rustic, natural feel. Distressed finishes with warm brown glazes over black, as well as earth-toned browns, toffees, mochas, creams and barn red are all very popular colour choices.
"On the other side of the spectrum is Clean Line Modern - slab doors, minimal detail, shaker rails, etc. We use walnut to emulate classic modern woods like teak and mahogany. Up and coming are the pearlescent and metallic finishes, such as the European-inspired foil-wrapped doors in shades from dark brown to champagne metallic to warm greys with blue undertones. Finally, as stainless appliances have become the mainstream expectation, we expect to see another European trend, that of bronze and copper appliances taking over as the top-tier in appliances. Jenn-Air has just launched an Oil Bronze that is stunning."
What about bathrooms? "Without question, they are becoming more streamlined and more functional. For example, we're seeing cabinets fitted with storage," says Zapp. "We also find that consumers are willing to pay more for an upgraded bathroom than any other room in the house. As for colour trends, we are seeing dark anchoring browns and light countertops, from creams to warm greys. But here's an interesting fact: There are no browns in the 2010 CMG colour palette! Blues are up and coming, from deep navy to aquatic to gun metal. So too are soft yellows and grey-based purples."
How does anyone who is not a member of CMG keep up with it all? According to the CMG Web site: "Colours are inter-industry related. As such, one industry influences another, causing colour to be dynamic."
Zapp explains: "Basically, that means that certain industries lead, while others follow. Luxury cars lead the colour pack, then fashion, and then home. Our range is slower;  fashion is quarterly, home décor is yearly. The other thing to remember is that once something has gone mass market - stainless is a good example - there has to be something on the horizon to replace it."
Good to know.

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