Friday, December 28, 2012

All the lovely lights

We may be snow free here in San Francisco but we have been looking around to some colorful winter wonderlands for our white Christmas inspiration this year. In lots of cities around the world that lack pine forests beautifully encrusted in white snow architectural lighting stands in and rings in the holiday cheer. Lights, originally candles then white bulb lights then to the more modern multicolored, blinking, fading, etc, have long been one of the corner stones of the Christmas celebration.

Its not hard to see why we celebrate light in a season in which, for those in northern climates and from which the celebration originated, the winter means short harsh days and dark freezing cold nights. Not only have we taken to decorating our homes and trees with the small twinkling lights, some even shaped to look like blankets of snow caught on the eves, but our larger downtown and government building use architectural lighting to create whimsical, beautiful, and resoundingly modern displays.
Denver, Colorado has a long standing colorful tradition for their capitol building as well. They even threw in a Peace on Earth sign in for good measure. Via Flickr

Winter in Ottawa, Canada is especially cold and dark but the are lighting up the cheer with this colorful and bright winter themed lights display on the capitol building via Ottawa Rickshaws
Though we are celebrating these wonderful creating we should also keep in mind the extra electric and resources these displays take up and be mindful of conserving in other areas to compensate.  Keeping the heat lower and wearing a sweater for example. We hope everyone has a warm bright winter season this year. Thank you for reading our posts this year and thank you for all the color you bring to the world. Oh and if you think governments and businesses have the upper hands when it comes to amazing holiday lights, this video will change your mind.

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Grey Grey Winter

It is winter here again in San Francisco and while we don't get snow,  cold winds and constant rain,  definitely  can give one the winter greys. And when  life gives you charcoal clouds why not use them to make silver linings.  Grey  offers an alternative when trying to avoid the strict contrast between saturated black or  crisp white.

Slate Grey Kitchen via Jamie and Byron House Tour
Grey Bedroom via Heaven and Home
While we have waxed poetic before on the subject of grey as  an important neutral color when deciding on your home color palette, we have left it out of most of our seasonal decorating schemes. The effects of season changes, like fewer hours of sunlight and dipping temperatures dampen our moods. We have traditionally turned to  reds and greens for temporary colorful relief from the bleak of winter. But in a world where technology makes all colors in season all the time,  maybe we should embrace a bit of grey and fully embrace winter. 

Ghostly White Wreath via AM Growers
There are an ocean of white twinkling lights made to look like snow for those of us that don't get snow. There are inflatable Santa's riding on puffy sleighs,  trees flocked with fake snow and snowy window dressings.  This beautiful grey green  winter wreath is made from  lambs ear, a hearty plant with a soft cottony coating.  The the elegant string lights below celebrate the twinkle with a bit of silvery sting. 

Starry String Lights via Restoration Hardware
Christmas tree decorations, glass bulbs, candles, stocking, and garlands all come in graceful grey or charcoal. Last year we may have encouraged the rampant use of gaudy neons sprinkled in with your red and greens but this year we are more in the mood for a quiet contemplative winter. A bit of grey around feels like a warm blanket to comfort us through the cold and never ending rain. What color do you need this winter?

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Friday, December 7, 2012

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Normally around here we like to like to focus on color in architecture, homes, science and history but this week we wanted to show you our nerdy side. We admit it. We are bookish color nerds. Conveniently for us this particular Venn diagram of conditions is perfectly covered by a wonderful book, Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde. 

Shades of Grey Cover via Fforde's site

The book description begins with the intriguing:

"It's summer, it's hot, it's our world, but not as we know it. Entire cities lie buried beneath overgrown fields and forests. Technology from another time litters the landscape, and there is evidence of great upheaval  Welcome to Chromatacia, where for as long as anyone can remember society has been ruled by a Colorocracy. From Underground feed pipes that keep the municipal park green, to the healing hues viewed to cure illness, to a social hierarchy based upon one's limited color perception, society is dominated by color. In this world you are what you can see."
What a Green Citizen sees via Bob Stewperson

The wonderfully odd spelling of his name aside this book is a joy to read. It begins with the premise that in the alternate future everyone's color vision has been reduced to one color of the spectrum, leaving everything else grey scale. The color you can see determines which strata of social class you belong to.  The Greys who see no color all  are on the bottom strata while the class structure moves through the spectrum all the way to the   elite Purples. The whole society is structured by and obsessed with color. Character names come from hues and CMY color is piped in to keep the cities bright. Why? Because while their vision for natural color is rudimentary for some unexplained reason everyone can see synthetic color.

Can you imagine being a purple? Sure it comes with the highest social status but you would see so little natural color in the world. Fforde does a great job of taking all the implications of this colorless and also color dominated society to their logical extremes. The system of laws is intricate and wonderful, the marriage contracts, the technology, the habits of daily life all feel richly steeped in the color mythology. For a mostly grey world Fforde painted a bright and colorful picture. We highly recommend a read for our fellow color obsessed readers out there.

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Modern Skyline, Part One

Chicago River Skyline via Wikipedia
Cities today are huge influences on our lives. They are where most people live, work, create and invent.  They even influence even our walking speed. Looking at the emergent color of city skylines is one way of tracking the evolution of our dominant building materials as well as advancement in engineering skills and changing architectural trends.   Many cities have major buildings from a scattering of decades all packed in together. Historically the skyline had a decidedly earth tone palette.  The  buildings were constructed from regional stone, masonry and brick made with  soils from the geographic locale. This  view of the Chicago skyline is dominated by a color scheme of  muted grays and browns. The earth tones suggest the feeling of  strength and solidity while still being friendly  and inviting. But what will our future skylines look like?

Current Skyline Color Pallet
A rendering of the future skyline of Abu Dhabi via Construction Weekly
With the recent construction booms in China and the Middle East,  they are good places to look for the future of skylines. The rendering above is a projection of what Abu Dhabi will look like in coming decades. Shapes or placements of specific buildings may change but the color trend is clear. Admittedly all glass and metal buildings are taking over city space. The crystalline blue of the sky reflects in the glass but there is little other color.  The city skyline seems to inching toward grey scale.  With so little color the shining city of the future starts to look monochromatic.

Future Skyline Color Pallet
We are moving away from paint and nature based building materials.  Glass and steel  are the new kings of architecture. Color is left to the lighted signs of advertisers. These colors compete for our attention in busy outdoor environments.  Advancements in light technology and  flat screen projections  create  increasingly brighter and visually stimulating experiences  as evidenced by this Tokyo street corner at night.  The colors bleed together on the wet sidewalks. The future of cities and our everyday experience of color is definitely changing. On our next post we will highlight a few beautiful architectural anomalies in the skyscraper business and see how they are using shape instead of color to differentiate themselves in a glass and steel world.

Tokyo via Tokyo Nights Tumblr

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

The Modern Skyline, Part Two

New York in the New York skyline via Notoriety Inc.
In our most recent post we talked about the encroaching grey scale of modern skylines. In this post we wanted to show you a few ways architects have used shape, instead of color, to differentiate their creations from the surrounding buildings. The visual appearance of  predominately flat high gloss buildings has become ubiquitous as  glass and steel become the preferred materials for skyscrapers. But within those constraints some very unique buildings have been recently designed.

This is Aqua, a skyscraper in Chicago completed in 2010. It was designed by Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects. The building won many awards for it ground breaking design. The wave like surface is made with a series of curved balconies, wrapping around the building in ripples.

Aqua via Wikipedia
With a tall rectangular core and floor to ceiling windows, the basic structure of the Aqua makes it sound like it would melt into the background  of  similar  downtown buildings.   The unique design of the curving  building skin makes it stand out dramatically. Even though this building lacks  color variation from it neighbors it curved balconies give the over all structure a twisting undulating motion to the eye creating contrasts in color value. These wave forms, inspired by nature, are a unique way to augment the standard steel and glass skyscraper. 
Aqua in the Chicago skyline via Critique This
Another great example of this  direction in skyscrapers is the Frank Gehry residential high rise in New York.
These rippling buildings look a bit like pebbles disturbing a smooth pond. They are breaking out of the formalized vertical  curtain wall of the modern high rise. Gehry himself says the building is an architectural representation of the texture and energy of the city. Ripples pass through the seemingly other wise standard flat steel and glass high rise as through the winds were pulling the surface along with it. Their site has a great video showing the interaction of the  the building with the city.

New York via Notoriety Inc.
Up close we can see that Gehry too is using a fairly standard  high rise model which is then augmented with shaped balconies and windowsills. These two building are great example of natural/modern hybrid skyscrapers. But not all uses of this shape focused innovation have come out to critical acclaim. While not a high rise, the new Burberry flagship store in Chicago definitely tried to innovate inside the contemporary gray-scale palette.

Burberry Flagship Store in Chicago via Burberry's Google Plus page
Architectural Record put it this way "Burberry works hard to hold on to an upper-crust image and to look forward at the same time. The clothing, accessories and ads do all that. But this building, with its backlit, angled, checked pattern is the dissonant score in the company repertoire. It is loud and vulgar. It's the car salesman who won't go away. Worst of all, it's not architecture -- it's a building as billboard." The architectural criticism is harsh and suggests the design concept was to cover the building  in Burberry plaid.  While still colorless  and monochromatic, the contrasts in  light and dark  color value are notable    Lets hope that color will tag along with shape innovation and lead to the potential for chromatic skylines in the future.

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

This week is one of the most colorful holidays of the year! Thanksgiving isn't just a feast of food its a treat for all the senses. To do our  Thanksgiving part we wanted to bring you a color side dish to spice up you Thanksgiving table! 

A Riot of Color via Design Sponge
Oranges, deep reds and browns have long been the traditional colors of Fall and Thanksgiving. But contemporary design has mixed in  unconventional  colors and patterns to modernize the autumnal  palette.  Fresh greens and brights pinks liven up this table for a effervescent harvest feel. The meal is served on a joyous and energetic slate. 
Thanksgiving Kids Table via Sweet Design
With the right use of color the kids table is no longer a second class seat. Who wouldn't love sitting at this colorful and creative place setting. The right colors bring out the celebratory feeling of the holiday and add to all the wonderful things we  have to be grateful for.

DIY Paper Lantern via Martha Stewart's Crafts Department
If you are someone who likes to make the magic themselves this is a great leafy autumn lamp project to hang over your beautiful feast. Hand made projects add festive detail to a meal and a day made with love and gratitude. And while our own tables may be more focused on chocolate cake and turkey it nice to see the riot of color one of our favorite holidays inspires!

Need a great place to take a nap after all the festivities? Architizer has a list of ten beautiful spots to curl up. Have a great Thanksgiving!

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Superkilen Park a Blaze of Color

A colorful new urban park has been completed in Denmark. The kilometer long park is located just north of Copenhagen city center. The press release describes the area as "one of the most ethnically diverse and socially challenged neighborhoods in Denmark."
Superkilen Park via World Architecture News

The park is separated in to three areas. A large sporting green, a black and white themed square for playing chess or having lunch, and a stunning red orange zone for recreational or cultural activities. The park is  populated by over a hundred cultural objects from around the world that reflect the diversity of the surrounding community. Beyond the  integration of the cultural milieu surrounding the area the park is a stellar example of color usage in urban planning. The three spaces of the park are colored specifically for their intended  usage. The sporting area is green for obvious reasons. But the other two spaces have intention and color psychology behind them.

SuperKilen via Big

In the black and white area there are sweeping lines painted on the ground reminiscent of traffic flow or  topographical elevation patterns. This public space is designed to allow people to  mix and mingle. Its a shared space in an area in need of lowering barriers. It is sparsely sprinkled with trees, benches, tables and includes a quirky  childrens playground.   There is an open spacious feel to the area and the neutral color  palette allows the people to be the attraction. 

Superkilen via Romex

The red orange space is filled with a high velocity patch work of color. From above the reds, oranges, and pinks seem to spill out over everything, catching buildings and bike paths and benches. It is a bright visual beacon surrounded by blues and grays. The color helps draw eyes toward the park and gives people an energy boost. A happy, creative, active space seems like just the thing this neighborhood needs. A park cannot fix all cultural disparities of course, but hopefully Superkilen will get residents interacting and more urban planners on the color train! It so beautiful we want one in San Francisco too!

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Monday, November 5, 2012

Chinese color symbology

When thinking about color for modern architecture we often turn to color theory and studies on the effects of color on psychology to support the function of the space. While these methods are effective and work well for the modern system it hasn't always been the way color was chosen for buildings. 

For thousands of years cultural color symbolism had supremacy over the aesthetics or function of color. A great example of symbolism as the dominate paradigm is 14th and 15th century Chinese architecture. Architects of the time were very concerned with color. Colors acted as cultural sign posts.

Imperial Yellow via Wikipedia

Examples of   using color  for delineation  are  the Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City. The two spaces were identified for different uses by their roof color. Imperial color at the time was a strong distinct yellow and  the Forbidden City was all given distinctive  yellow tile roofs,  the architectural element  reserved for buildings built for the Emperor of China. The roof and figurative ornamentation distinguished the buildings as having the highest status. The symbolic color  can be seen from great distances and thus indicated the seat of power without written signs or Google maps.
High Status Yellow Roof  via Wikipedia
Temple of Heaven via Wikipedia
The Temple of Heaven, or more literally translated the Alter of Heaven, in contrast to Imperial Yellow,  was built using rich sky blue tiles. Blue was the symbolic color of the gods.  In a comparatively advanced and literate society color was  used to delineate city structures. The buildings were essentially color coded. A beautiful large format panorama of the Temple of Heaven can be seen here.

Blue Temple of Heaven roof via Mondo

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Friday, October 26, 2012

Color Coded

A few posts back we talked about color carrying information from planets outside our solar system. The colors were a visual indicator of the chemistry on the planets surface and whether or not life as we know it could exist in that environment. Color is used in a myriad of situations to communicate information.
Hospital way finding example via Design Center

Take the  example of using colored stripes on the floor or wall to lead people through buildings. Many institutions like hospitals, airports and large office environments can get people turned around very easily. Does the upward pointing arrow mean straight  as in forward or back the way you came ? Color is an effective method of solving architectural way finding problems.

Visitors may be illiterate or speak a language not covered by the hospitals signage but they can still follow a colored line. Go to the orange door is an easier mental task than 5th door on your left.  Frequently  the situations that bring you to large unfamiliar  institutional settings is stressful.  This compounds the task of determining if you are  getting  off  the elevator on the right floor or finding the right department.
A fun twist on way finding at Revolution Salon via Inthralled
Before we file this great architectural color application  under function only take a look at this creative salon in Mexico City. Even though the space is small and the doors could easily be numbered, a more  inventive approach was used. Each of the private rooms has its own color theme. Clients commonly request their favorite vibe. The receptionist then instructs the client to follow the corresponding color on the floor. Instead of  the straight  or parallel lines we find in more utilitarian settings, these colors meander. They accentuate the geometric repetition in the architecture of the space. Form and function are fused.

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cutting Edge & Bigger than Life

Undersea decals by Inaninstantart
Adding color, texture and imagery helps us personalize our spaces. It can make a standard room feel like our own personalized lair.   It  can make an anonymous space feel comfortable. Composing wall colors is a huge part of that process but  paint isn't our only option. New technology gives us state of the art  options.

The recent proliferation of laser cutters has opened the market for vinyl decals. Designers draw the patterns using vector programs. Then the decals are produced using a laser to cut the patterns out of vinyl sheets.
Tentacle decal by Pillboxdesigns
These colorful accents are a great option for renters or  color commitment-phobes. Because the vinyl sticks to the wall using static electricity instead of adhesive they can be removed without damaging the wall. They are also great because buying them supports small design shops. The vinyl comes in an amazing varity of colors.
Vinyl colors by Pillboxdesigns
Are you a bit more adventurous but the thought of painting your own mural is daunting? You can move up to custom wallpaper murals. While more expensive, a variety of large format printing shops make custom murals to fit your chosen wall. Large format printers are very similar to home printers but they can print up to 100 inches wide and can accommodate special papers like wallpaper.

Wallpaper mural via Epiplo Aris

Wallpaper murals are much harder to install and to remove but they pack a visual wallop. The example above is  'Lady from the Orient ' by Vladimir Tretchikoff.  These beautiful murals  can enhance  neutral minimally  colored  spaces and lend an air of sophistication and scale to living.   They can take "accent wall" to a new level.

In contrast, children's murals, can add color and imagery to spark the imagination.
A half sized wall mural via Eglue
Will you consider using laser cut vinyl decals or wallpaper murals to spice up  your environment ?

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Planetary Color

Color matters in art and design but it also matters in science. Especially to scientists looking for extrasolar planets, or exoplanets, which lie outside of our local solar system. With predictions now topping out between 100 and 400 billion planets in the Milky Way galaxy, and each planet a potential source for extraterrestrial life, scientists are eager to learn more about them. The problem? Well thats two fold. 

First, their distance from Earth is an immense hurtle, the nearest known specimen being 4.37 lights years away. So even with the use of today most advanced telescopes the planets are still tiny specs in the night sky. The second and perhaps more daunting problem is their proximity to the nearby star makes them especially hard to detect. With the star giving off so much light, the reflected light from the planet, and thus our means of detecting it, gets washed out. 

How is this sovled? Well initially scientists could only tell if a star had planets at all by looking at the star itself. They checked for wobbles in the stars rotation, caused by the gravity of orbiting planets pulling the star this way or that. This revealed lots of gas giants similar to Jupiter because they were massive enough to give the star a good yank. That was a good starting point, but astrophysicists are rarely satisfied with first tries, and recently the astronomical tool kit has gotten more advanced. Now astrophysicists are working on direct detection techniques. This is where color comes in. Using a system laughably similar to holding your hand up to shade your eyes, scientists are now learning to block out the stars light to see Earth sized planets, tucked closer to the star in the zone most habitable for life. And once they can image the planet itself with minimized interference from the star, they can take a picture of the exoplanets spectrum, all the light it reflects. But what can the color of a planet tell us? In an article on the NASA Astrophysics Data System one Dr. Traub summarizes why color is important:
The color of an extrasolar planet is an important property because, for the case of direct detection, color is likely to be the first post-detection quantity to be measured... Color carries considerable information on planetary properties.
But what kind of information can color carry? What does the dominate color and the full spectrum of the planet detected tell us? For familiarity, lets think about our two closest planetary neighbors: Venus and Mars.

Mars via Wikipedia
While the surface of Venus is similar to the moon, when viewed from space its obscured by a thick blanket of muddy yellow of clouds. Without the need for chemical tests, the yellow tint reveals an atmosphere saturated with sulfur dioxide. That color chemical signature alone tells all about the conditions of the planet. Acid rains, green house effects, and molten temperatures make Venus fascinating but not likely to harbor life. Mars is a similar story. Its strong rust red color was our first clue that the surface would be saturated with iron oxide. Just like for our nearby neighbors, the colors themselves carry with them the chemical information that help scientists build models of these far away planets. From simple color spectrum data they may be able to determine if the planet has liquid water, breathable air, or the potential for life all from light years away.

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Color in the built environment around us sometimes goes unseen   With rich luminescent high definition screens at every turn we can't ignore the visual  impact technological devices  have on our daily lives. Thinking about screen color in our environment sends us straight to a ubiquitous culprit. Swiping on the nearest smart phone causes  fields of green and blue icons to appear. 

What if we thought of these screens as an environment? Not a space for our bodies to hang out but somewhere our eyes and minds spent a lot of time, especially on social network sites. There are 16 million possible colors on the web. And while lots of different colors are used around the web, our social environments, the coffee shops of the internet, seem to be self selecting a cooling cyan. 

This infographic from Infochimps  tells an interesting tale of cyan on Twitter. The length of the dripping colors show hows many twitter profile background pictures primarily use that hue. The graphic shows that over half of the users on this social site chose a cyan themed background. 

But why are we choosing  cyan?  If we research color psychology, turquoise, a cousin of cyan, is   defined as a hue to help with focus and concentration. Cyan can enhance clear thinking  and support one in making  well thought out decisions. Maybe in a sea of constant chatter we are crowd sourcing a color that calms the storm and recharges our waning energy. Color psychology also claims that cyan and turquoise can make people more emotionally aloof. 

Or is Twitter's corporate color the big influence? Could the twitter fail whale  be communicating subliminal messages? 

We hope you will start noticing the palettes in social networking and consider how they influence your psyche.

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Colored Concrete

"This Hawaiian kitchen with blue floor, designed by Michael K. Smith, is bright and fun."
 via Apartment Therapy via 
When we get to coloring personal spaces,  floors sometimes get ignored.  Typical floor solutions like tile, carpet and hardwood are an investment  to install.  There can be a reluctance to change from a traditional material  to the contemporary look of dyed concrete or opt for a painted floor.  For those people willing to explore finish options, many great color solutions are out here. 

A shining blue floor via Quelle Horreur

The rich navy mottling grounds this room. The space has the visual comfort of an old faded pair of blue jeans. This shot is by  by Petra Bindel from latest issue of Elle Decoration via Solid Frog

This painted not stained version of a concrete floor is by designer  Windsor Smith on the House of Turquoise blog

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Site Specific Color

Gabriel Dawe's Plexus via Colossal

At Colour Studio approximately 45% of our projects are for new construction.   The balance of our  our work is creating color schemes for spaces that have already been built. Our colors become site specific to each individual environment.   Each project is unique and the color has to be tailored to consider the architecture, tasks and functions that will happen in the space,  demographic of the users,  cultural color affinities and  the geographic location.

This week we found two artists who are also making architectural site-specific color interventions. While color designers generally use paints and other material finishes to bring color to a project these artists are using two interesting materials: thread and stickers.

Gabriel Dawe's Plexus via the artist

Gabriel Dawe, originally from Mexico City, made these textile installations to explore the interconnections between fashion and architecture as different kinds of human shelter. Dawe's installations are made using individual strands of colored thread. The arrangement of the threads creates three dimensional color gradients that hang in the air like a cloud.

The perimeter warm white of the spaces allows the color stand out visually, as though color from the walls sprung into the air. The volumetric color draws attention to the architectural spaces we usually don't see: ceilings, support poles and the empty space of stairways.

Gabriel Dawe's Plexus via the artist
The second project is by Yayoi Kusama,  a Japanese artist and writer.  Her project also starts with stark white spaces, but where Dawe's uses real world spaces Kusama makes these white rooms from scratch. She then invited the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art visitors, children especially, to plaster the walls, floor and all the furniture with thousands of multicolored stickers. The project transforms the childhood urge to draw on the walls in to a communal color celebration. 

Yayoi Kusama's Obliteration Room
Where Dawes color clouds revealed interstitial spaces in architecture Kusama's Obliteration Room, asks another interesting question about architectural spaces: where is the divide between the space itself and objects inside that space? With the color of the stickers bleeding over every surface indiscriminate of wall, floor, piano or couch the distinct outlines and division between foreground and background are well obliterated.
Yayoi Kusama's Obliteration Room

 Color  can be applied in a multitude of ways  to change the way we think about our spaces.

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio