A Fresh and Fruity Interview with Better Homes and Gardens

I am honored to be featured in February 2010’s issue of Better Homes & Gardens. If you haven’t picked up your copy yet, go get one!  It’s the annual color issue and is packed with lots of good info and inspiring, colorful photos. If you turn to pages 43-44 you’ll find a few quotes of mine on how to use citrus colors in your home. For those of you who want a little more color guidance with these tart and tangy hues, I’m including the full Q&A right here! 

BHG} We’re taking our inspiration from the whole citrus fruit (mostly grapefruit and blood orange): the peel, the pith, and the flesh. What makes these colors so appealing?

KB} Citrus fruit colors are appealing because they stimulate the senses on several levels. There is a strong synesthetic quality to them, meaning you can taste and smell the colors just by looking at them. In addition to being energetic and warm, they also emulate freshness and a bit of playfulness - characteristics that any interior can benefit from.

BHG} What sort of message do some of these brighter pinks and oranges send, especially when used in an interior?

KB} They send the message of energy and warmth. They are youthful, playful, fresh, sassy, friendly, approachable, social, lively and open. When you use these colors in your home you are expressing these qualities in yourself. Citrus-infused colors tell everyone who comes into your home that you are full of warmth and energy. If that’s the message you want to send, then these hues are right for you!

BHG} What about the nuances in this color—so many people just see bright pinkish orange when they look at these paints—what gives them depth?

KB} Too-bright citrusy hues can have an overbearing and overstimulating effect. Tropical Tangerine might look great on the chip, but when it’s on your walls it could make you feel like you’re swimming in a giant pool of orange juice. That’s why it’s important to add your own artistic interpretation to these hues when using them in your home. There’s not much room for literal translation when working with

citruses. Find the right colors for your home by experimenting with different versions of oranges and pinks. Most likely you’ll find that a muted version - one that looks almost too muted on a paint chip - will work best. You may need to gray down your grapefruit before it goes up on the walls!

BHG} We struggled a little bit with this color because it is so strong. How do you make it livable?

KB} Citrus colors can be bright and light or deep and dramatic, depending on how saturated and clear they are. When selecting citrus tones, it’s important to first think about the overall mood you want to create in a space. If it's depth you want, go bold and rich with a deep blood orange. If it’s airy and flirty that’s got you hooked, get your inspiration from a less dramatic clementine. And don’t forget to keep color balance in mind. A room’s depth and interest does not lie in the hands of any single color. Depth is created through balance and contrast, both in color and texture. A quick way to cool down citrus? Add a splash of turquoise. It’s like adding water to fire - a perfect balance, one that humans gravitate towards.

BHG} So, as a reader, if you’re faced with paint chips ranging from pink to orange and you’re looking for that great stand-out color for an accent wall or on the back of a bookshelf, how do you isolate a great citrus tone? Do you look at undertones? Do you match it to fabric?

KB} If you don’t already have some form of red or orange in your space, go with the citrus colors you are most attracted to. The ones that make you feel best. Then alter them a little to work within your room. For example, a ruby red grapefruit paint color that you just love on the chip might need to be muted a little to balance with your existing furniture. Instead of grabbing hold of the first paint chip you see and

shouting “This is the one!”, explore some different variations of ruby red grapefruit. And ALWAYS test these samples on your walls before you commit.

If you currently have a red or orange color in your space, try to pick a citrus tone that has the same undertone. If cranberry red already has a presence in the room, lean towards a deep red-orange citrus for continuity. Already have a fuchsia infusion? Lean towards a more pink-y hue. Sometimes you can trick the eye into believing two different colors are the same!

It’s important to remember that colors are relative and contextual, meaning they will change appearance as you introduce them into different environments. When introducing any color to a space, always pay attention to existing elements, including lighting, architecture, furniture, flooring, wood and metal finishes. Everything has a color, and every color has an undertone. By paying attention to the details you’re more likely to introduce a new color successfully.

BHG} What colors traditionally pair well with these citrusy colors?

KB} That depends on the overall mood you are trying to achieve. If you are searching for sophisticated and dramatic, pair them with dark chocolates or aubergine. Want fresh and cheery? Mix them up with soft, buttery yellows. Looking for playful and beachy? Set these colors off against a bold turquoise. Citruses can also look great with a crisp white, which emulates the pith and rind of the fruit. But just be aware, if you go bold you’ll end up with a bit of an orangey glow...and that crisp white might not look so white anymore!

You can also look at a citrus fruit’s natural environment for color pairing inspiration. Think about the colors that would surround a grapefruit in nature - the greens of the tree leaves, the browns of the branches, the whites and yellows of the blossom, the blue of the sky...the stem, membrane and seeds of the fruit. Use the color harmony of nature to inspire the color palette in your home.

BHG} What about fabrics and accents—what are some ways to get this in small doses and what else should be in the room (textures, metallics, etc.) if you’re using this as an accent?

KB} If you’re a little commitment-phobic, introduce these hues in small accents. Citrus colors pack a powerful punch and can liven up any room with a few artfully placed accessories. A blood orange pillow on a solid colored sofa will quickly bring a lively energy to the room. Just remember to balance your accent color throughout the room. If you use a grapefruit throw pillow on your sofa, carry that color through the space in other ways - vases, flowers, artwork, candles, lampshades, draperies, etc.

If the color isn’t evenly distributed all attention will be on that one little pillow, and the room will feel off-balance. And you aren’t relegated to solids! Stripes and florals are a great way to bring in a little pop of citrus color without making a full-fledged commitment.  Because grapefruits and blood oranges are so bold, you don’t need much to enjoy the benefits of their warmth and energy.

BHG} What about pairing this with wood tones, say flooring or trim—any tips there?

KB} Citrus colors work beautifully with most wood tones. When combining these hues with woods, however, it’s important to think about balancing the depths of color. A deep mahogany floor can handle a more intense citrus, whereas a light maple might require a less saturated hue. And again, consider the overall mood you want to create in your space. The deeper the floor and wall color, the more dramatic and rich the room. The lighter the floor and wall color, the more refreshing and playful the space.

BHG} How have you used this in any of your projects—I know you said you just used it in your bathroom. How did it go?

KB} I recently painted my bath in a medium saturated hue of grapefruit. It is just gorgeous! It might not be the right color for everyone because it is pretty bold, but I love it. It’s fun, full of energy and casts a beautifully healthy glow on my skin. And at night, with a few lit candles, the wall color completely illuminates creating the perfect environment for a relaxing bath at the end of the day.

Thanks, BHG, for giving me the opportunity to be a part of your annual color issue! And thanks also to my very talented friend and photographer Vanessa Stump for shooting my surprisingly color-coordinated headshot.