Monday, November 3, 2014

Colorful Quilted Landscapes at Material Test Farms

As architectural colorists, we are often faced with the questions of how the materials and finishes we recommend to our clients will stand up to the test of time.  When specifying color for those materials, durability is extremely important.  We rely on companies to provide accurate information about the lifespan of their products.  This information is gathered at weathering test farms, which form colorful quilted landscapes in some of the worlds' most extreme climates.

Atlas Outdoor Testing Facility, Arizona

Vast arrays of test fences showcasing a variety materials, ranging from metal panels to textiles and automotive coatings, provide unprotected exposure to deadly elements like UV rays, moisture, and heat.  The process is simple, and yet imperfect because weather itself is unpredictable.  However, outdoor weather testing is still the most reliable way to observe product responses to the elements.

Atlas South Florida Test Facility

Atlas South Florida Testing Facility

The first weather testing of architectural materials and finishes was recorded in 1906 at the Government Agricultural Experiment Station in Fargo, ND.  Outdoor testing facilities later opened in South Florida in 1931 and in Arizona in 1948, where climates are particularly harsh.  Outdoor testing facilities have now spread across the world to North and South America, Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia.

Q-Lab Florida has the most southerly exposure of any outdoor weathering facility in the United States
Testing materials in different geographic settings allows us to make informed decisions about the materials and finishes we recommend, and allows the industry to improve products on the market.  At Colour Studio our clients rely on us to recommend quality products that will offer high performance  after installation.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Color Icon : Alexander Girard

 "Art is only art if it is synonymous with living" - Alexander Girard

Alexander Girard (1907-1993) designed vast volumes of textiles, wall paper, furniture, and interior architectural details that brought together color and function to enhance quality of life.  His confident use of vibrant colors and playful patterns defined a generation, and still remain relevant today.

Miller House and Garden. Interior designed by Alexander Girard in 1953. Girard's design included custom furniture, seasonally rotating textiles, chair cushions, and rugs.

An Italian-American born in New York, Girard spent his childhood in Florence.  He studied architecture in London and Rome before moving back to New York City in 1932. Though formally trained in  architecture, Girard is best known for his textiles, which incorporate rich colors and folk-art references.

Alexander Girard at Herman Miller

In 1937, Girard opened a second studio in Detroit.  His involvement in the Detroit Institute for Art "For Modern Living" exhibition introduced him to Charles and Ray Eames's, who were exhibiting their molded plywood chair.  With Charles Eames' influence, Girard became the founding director of the Herman Miller Textile Division in 1952.  He served as its director until 1973, producing more than 300 vibrantly hued fabric and wallpaper designs in that time.

Girard completed projects independent of Herman Miller.  In 1959, he was commission to design the interior for La Fonda del Sol restaurant in New York City's Time-Life Building.  Girard called the design concept for the restaurant a "significant group," where design momentum is achieved because each individual piece is enhanced by its relation to the group.

Braniff International aircrafts featuring Alexander Girard's color design.

Braniff Airlines Aircraft Interior

In 1963, Braniff Airlines selected Girard to redesign their entire visual persona.  His design included seven final schemes for the plane exteriors and a new logo in the shape of a dove.  Girard originally wanted each aircraft painted all one color with a tiny "BI", however the company's advertising department wanted a bigger logo and bigger type, so the design was modified.  In the end, Girard initiated over 1700 design changes to plane interiors, logos, stationery, condiment packages, dishes, blankets and playing cards, among among numerous other aspects.   

Ottomans by Girard for Braniff Airlines.  Featured in the "Alexander Girard : An Uncommon Vision" Exhibit in New York May of 2014.  Photo courtesy of Herman Miller.

"Alexander Girard : An Uncommon Vision" showcases textiles, furniture and other objects that Girard designed as head of Herman Miller's textile division and for other private clients.  Photo courtesy of Herman Miller. 

As Architectural colorists, we share Girard's vision of a world that uses color to articulate form and energize function.  His approach to design was whimsical, and yet practical.  He produced spaces that people wanted to be in, using bright colors and folk art reference to create comfortable and welcoming environments.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Art of Seeing : Josef Albers and Relative Color

At Colour Studio, our job as architectural colorists is to please the eye, but visual perception of any one color is one of the hardest variables to control.  Josef Albers, German-born American artist and professor, taught that all color is relative.  His work explores the variances in color relationships and how subtle shifts in those relationships can have drastic results.

Josef Albers "Homage to the Square"

Albers stated that "... In visual perception a color is almost never seen as it really is — as it physically is."  His teachings are based on the idea that the world is controlled by vision, and that our eyes become accustomed to the world around us and begin to take certain things for granted.  He believed our brains process only what it expected and not the entire reality of what is actually in front of us.  Teaching first at the Bahaus, and later as head of Black Mountain College in North Carolina, Albers challenged his students to experiment with visual perception.

A color has many faces, and one color can be made to appear as two different colors. Here it is almost unbelievable that the left small and the right small squares are part of the same paper strip and therefore are the same color. And no normal human eye is able to see both squares -- alike. - Maria Popova

 Albers's art work illustrates his ability to see beauty in the mundane.  He worked with non-representational forms in an impersonal and detached style.  Rooted in his theory on the art of seeing, his work is devoid of his own sentiment in order to challenge the viewer to form their own emotional reactions based on their perception of color and the subject matter.

Josef Albers "Variants" 1947

His work is summed up in a treatise titled "Interaction of Color" published in 1963.  Written while teaching at Yale, the book investigates the properties of color.  An extension of his life long fascination with the deceptive nature of color, the treatise expands upon his teachings of visual perception as well as his own exploration of color relationship.

"Homage to the Square" 1964

For example, in his series of oil on paper paintings Homage to the Square, Albers experimented with the effects of perception, such as the apparent oscillation between the flat surface design and the illusion of movement and depth.

"Homage to the Square" 1972

Albers says of his work, "They all are of different palettes, and, therefore, so to speak, of different climates. Choice of the colors used, as well as their order, is aimed at an interaction - influencing and changing each other forth and back. Thus, character and feeling alter from painting to painting without any additional ‘hand writing’ or, so-called, texture."  Forever trying to teach the mechanics of vision and show even the uninformed viewer how to see, Homage to the Square embodied a shift in emphasis from perception willed by the artist to reception engineered by the viewer.

"SP-V" 1967

 Albers work demonstrates that subtle shifts in color relationships can alter our perception.  Color interactions can elicit emotional responses that influence the way we perceive our environments.  Everyone sees and perceives color differently, but with thoughtful color combinations one can create with the eye and brain in mind.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first edition of Josef Albers' Interaction of Color, Brenda Danilowitz, Chief Curator for the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation,  and Philip Tiongson have developed an iPad app that expands upon principles and experiments featured in the book.  Follow the link below and tell us what you think!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Monticello : Historic Trends for a Modern World

This week at Colour Studio, we have been researching historic color palettes and thinking about what exactly makes a  palette "historic".   When we are asked to consider historic palettes, we are essentially looking at color trends from a past era.  While some colors may be more popular than others at a given period of time, the fact is, trends are fleeting.  What is trending this year will be inevitably be replaced by something new the next year.   So what is it about these historic colors that continues to inspire us today?

Thomas Jefferson's Dining Room at Monticello

West facade of the Palladian inspired plantation in Virginia

In historic preservation, recreating historic palettes means maintaining pieces of history, allowing us to experience monuments of our past as they were originally intended.  Paint analysis research being conducted at Thomas Jefferson's famous home Monticello in Virginia has allowed color experts to recreate historic colors by providing scientific information about the chemicals and pigments used to make them.  Until the mid-1880s, paint colors were custom mixed by hand, and so your colors were only as good as the ingredients available to mix them.

Dining Room interior with table setting designed by Charlotte Moss

The Dome Room

Thomas Jefferson himself rejected the idea of trends, turning away from the somber Georgian blues, grays, and greens popular in America at the time in favor of more vibrant hues being developed in France.  The dining room at his Monticello home, for instance, was painted a brilliant chrome yellow in 1815.  The color was new at the time, mixed with lead chromate yellow pigments that had only just been discovered in France in 1810.

Entry Hall

The original palette was designed while the plantation was under construction in the early part of the nineteenth century.  It was an exciting time for color.  Advancements in color pigments in Berlin were making new hues possible like Prussian Blue and  Verdigris Green.  Both colors have been identified in samples of the original palette used at Monticello.  This historic palette is more than just a collection of colors, but a collection of new ideas stemming from cross continental travels, scientific discoveries of pigments and the cultivation of knowledge.  Many of the rooms have now been restored to their original color thanks to a generous donation from Ralph Lauren.

Tea Room

Monticello in Fall

Historic color palettes are more than just specific pairings of colors used on old buildings.  Each palette  represents a moment in time allowing us to channel the feel of generations past. This is why they continue to color our built environments today, so many generations later.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Corbusier Color - The History of the Corbusier Paint

At Colour Studio, we love a bold matte paint. And yet, in the United States, it is nearly impossible to find.  There is always a little bit of sheen in the finish, which is especially visible in deep saturated hues.  Shine on a wall surface bounces light back toward your eye, giving the surface a hard, impenetrable feel.  Worse yet is when the deep hue takes on a synthetic or plastic like appearance.  In contrast, a matte finish allows your eye to sink into the wall plane, giving colors a mysterious depth.  

A few years ago, friends alerted us to a color book and fan deck from a company that sold matte finish paint  palettes by Le Corbusier.  Yes, Le Corbusier. 

Some fifty years after his death, Le Corbusier's achievements have firmly established him as one of the most influential figures, not only in modern architecture, but in the art world as a whole.  He wore many hats as a writer, painter, urban planner, designer and architect.  His work with color is less discussed, perhaps because we remember most of his modernism only through black and white photography.  Many of his projects utilized white, natural wood or concrete against saturated  bright colors to enhance form, volume and space.

He was commissioned by the Swiss manufacturer Salubra in the 1930s to design two series of wallpapers.  The first were released in 1932, where he invented and revealed his color keyboard.  His arrangement suggested how a designer should use the colors in combination.

Only one company in the world has earned permission from the Le Corbusier Foundation to reproduce hues from the Salubra wallpapers. Situated in Switzerland, KT Color has 81 different pigments matched to Corbusier’s palette. Each paint is made of all natural, non-toxic ingredients, matching the recipe and technique of Corbusier himself, who ground his own minerals and pigments. Instead of using synthetic tints, KT Color still creates the palette using natural mineral pigments offering a matte finish product for painting that even in deep colors looks like velvet.  

At between $2 and $5 per square foot, the colors aren’t the most inexpensive option but are arguably the best.  We thank the man for his color legacy and find the palette offered to be timeless.  


To read more about the paint deck and the history of the Corbusier paint, check out the following articles:

Monday, June 30, 2014

Crosscurrents of Color - Valentino and World Cup

Valentino just released a dazzling resort collection for 2015. It is being heralded for its vibrant use of color and folkloric sensibility.   His mixture of patterns, geometry and accent hues are truly spectacular. 

Valentino Resort 2015

At this same point in time, World Cup fever spread globally and we began to notice the attention to style, color and detail being paid to the uniforms on the soccer pitch.  

Fashion has historically been a barometer to interpret mood and mark events in a particular time.  The disciplines of art, architecture and design  follow this same pattern. Careful observation can reveal cross currents of thought and borrowed ideas from one discipline to another.
Here are some favorite comparisons from different contexts: World Cup athletics and Valentino couture.

1. Red and Black Stripes

German uniform with red and black stripes. 
Valentino Resort with a black underpinning
and red lace stripes.
2. The Accent Color  

Russia, World Cup 2014 - blocked
white with red and blue stripes
Valentino Resort, blocked green
with blue and orange sash stripes.

3. The Patterned Collar

Ghana, in a white jersey punctuated  at the collar with
black, green, yellow and red accents.
Valentino, a black dress with multi colored flowers
 framing the neck and bodice.

Ghana, detailing of collar pattern.
Valentino, collar detailing

4. Color Blocking

US, blue white and red jersey with stripes brought to sleeves.
Valentino, white bodice, yellow skirt and red violet color blocking brought to the sleeves

What do these similarities mean? They are a  testimony to the fluidity and transcendent nature of creativity across different artistic disciplines.

There is an idea of global community and the realization that what affects us and inspires us, inspires many. And possibly a few of these jersey designers subscribe to Vogue magazine.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Color Matters

Photo Credit : Jerry Levy 

This week, the Colour Studio will be operating on auto-pilot.  Jill has taken color on the road and is giving a presentation at the first annual D+D Summer Conference in Cincinnati.  In her lecture, Color Matters, she will highlight the importance of color in architecture and break down the nuances of how color affects the way we experience space.  We have summarized the key points of her lecture, so even if you cannot make it to the conference, you can benefit from her knowledge on the subject.  We will also take advantage of the subject to showcase some of our work.

Color Matters

In the built environment, color matters. Applied strategically, color can add value for every market segment, for both new and existing buildings, whether on the exterior or interior.

Project: Avalon Ocean Avenue
Architect: Pyatok Architects
Photo Credit: Cesar Rubio

Owners need brisk sales, quick rentals, and efficient approvals. What compels people to rent or buy, besides the costs involved, is often subliminal. Whether strong or subtle, good color needs to add value to the experience.

Developer: Regis Homes
Project: Irvington Villages
Photo Credit: Patrik Argast

Color can be chosen to appeal to a specific user demographic, to look appropriate in a geographic location, to articulate architectural form, and to enhance productivity. Smart selection and placement of color can direct the movement of the eye through an environment as well as signal paths of travel.

Color is powerful because it impacts us on so many different levels, eliciting responses both learned and automatic. A person cannot be exposed to color and remain neutral—it affects body, mind and spirit. By acknowledging the complexity of responses we can choose color to enhance  peoples experience of their environment.

Here are some Colour Studio case studies to illustrate Jill's arguments.

Color to Sell: 795 Folsom Street
Architect : Wilson Meany & Cornerstone Real EstateAdvisers LLC
Location : San Francisco, CA
Photo Credit : ColourStudio with Vale Bruck

Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers LLC, one of the world’s largest real estate investment managers, came to us with an existing asset in San Francisco that they were interested in putting on the market.


This bland, all-beige building faded into the streetscape. Cornerstone invested in public space renovations and asked Colour Studio to develop an exterior painting scheme. The solution placed four modern accent colors in a random pattern on the fa├žades to create a dynamic street elevation that would appeal to potential technology clients. 


Now fully occupied, the building sold for a roughly $30 million dollar profit.

Color to Reposition: PCT 100, 200, and 222 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
Architect : STUDIOS Architecture
Location : El Segundo, CA
Photo Credit : Michael O'Callahan

Colour Studio teamed with STUDIOS architecture to create a program for CBRE and the building owners to reposition this Class A corporate office campus consisting of three 20-story towers in El Segundo, California. Originally, a single tenant occupied the buildings. Over time, the tenant base diversified.


Our goal was to rebrand the property to attract high-tech tenants. The building’s skin includes Kynar aluminum panels and three different colors of glazing. We used a palette of warm blues, ranging from light to dark, to give the building a dynamic profile against the sky. The clients have experienced a dramatic increase in occupancy.


Color for Learning: De Anza High School
Architect : DLM Architects
Location : El Sobrante, CA
Photo Credit : Timothy Maloney

Built in 1955, the original DeAnza High School in El Sobrante, California, was long considered inadequate and had a reputation as a troubled school. Test scores, enrollment, and school spirits had all sunk. In 2010, the school district broke ground on a new high school designed by DLM Architects. 

Color science and color psychology play a vital role in how a school functions. Active spaces need active colors, while classrooms and auditoriums need colors that help students focus and pay attention.

Enrollment grew from about 800 in 2010, when construction began, to nearly 1,200 students by the new facility’s opening in 2013. Grades have gone up, and the West County Times quoted student body president Iris Wong as saying that after two weeks in the new school, her classmates’ attitudes had improved.

 Determining what colors to select for successful environments is a process.  Color can be a volatile topic—it’s hard enough to pick a winner even when we’re choosing a color of paint for our own home.

The process is worth it, however. Creating a unique built environment with color can enhance user experience, streamline city approvals, help brand or rebrand a property, speed up rentals and sales, create a sense of place, and deliver a memorable product. Color matters, and it provides clients with a positive return on investment.