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color-ama color basics for the home decorating newbie
by Yee-Fan Sun
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Fun fact: I grew up in a family full of the color-impaired. My dad, my two brothers, heck, even my mom, are all hopelessly color-blind. Reds and greens strike them as too similar to distinguish; muted shades of obvious color simply go muddy-gray-brown in their eyes. As the only member of our little household with normal color vision, I suppose I was the resident freak. Still, growing up, I derived endless amusement over quizzing my poor siblings about the colors of the objects we’d encounter. I’d giggle at their discomfort each time they’d answer a tentative “Red?” when I pointed to some bright crimson flower, snicker mercilessly whenever they’d mislabel a deep purple sweater brown. Secretly, though, I think I was always afraid – that one day I’d be the one who was wrong, that my perception might spontaneously go screwy, as if the family color-blindness was simply lying dormant, in lurk, waiting to mess up my secure knowledge of what was what.

So I wore blacks and whites and beiges, with the occasional red thrown in as a safe accent; I favored neutrals and wishy-washy pale hues in my surrounds, colors that were too bland to ever clash with anything. When I first became an art major in college, I gravitated towards charcoal and etchings and black-and-white photography. Shading and light and contrast were good -- easy to capture, natural to understand. Color was scary; it was hard. It offered too many options; it seemed way too complicated.

Fortunately for me, it’s hard to study art without eventually reconciling yourself with the great big world of color. I got into color photography; I started to paint; I discovered people would actually pay me for figuring out what colors went with what for their logos and letterheads, brochures and websites. It was a long slow journey, but like with so many aspects of growing up, I’ve discovered that having that wide-open freedom is a good thing. Sure, having an infinity of possibilities spread out in front of you gives you that much more opportunity to make a mistake. But mistakes, too, aren’t exactly the worst things in the world; you learn from them, grow from them, get better at avoiding them in the future with each oops you make. These days, choosing colors is one of my favorite parts of decking out a new space; my pad is replete with beautiful, brilliant color, awash in a rainbow of happy hues. (My wardrobe – now that’s still a little black-heavy. But I’m working on it, I swear.)

As a recovering color-phobe myself, I know how intimidating color can be. Deciding what color pillows will go with your sofa, figuring out whether this hue of paint will make the room look more inviting than that hue, trying to muster up the courage to plunk down a wad of cash on that way funky mod duvet cover that may, or may not, clash horribly with your existing color scheme … ack, what’s a decorating novice to do? Sure, you could stick with the safe neutrals, but where’s the fun in that? Don’t let fear make your decision for you. Color’s fun; color’s expressive; color’s one of the best ways to give your digs an instant dose of your own personality. And with a little guidance, it’s not even that difficult to understand…

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