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in living color
finding color inspiration
by Yee-Fan Sun
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My mother's never liked red flowers because she claims they blend into the green foliage. One brother does a little leap of faith each time he meets a blinking traffic light, unable to say for certain whether he's seeing yellow or red or green. Another often mistakes beige for pink, purple for brown -- and insists it's just because he learned his colors wrong way back in nursery school. My father's long since chosen to avoid making color proclamations altogether, as it only makes the non-color-blind folks laugh at this inability to see what's so plainly obvious to the rest of the world.

But me? I'm the sole member of my family to be able to process colors normally, a sort of freak amongst freaks.

So it's no wonder I spent so much of my life in fear of color. In college my wardrobe was 90% black or gray, with the remaining 10% divided between red and white items. It was an entirely mix-and-matchable palette that ensured that I never had to think about whether this color shirt went with that color pair of pants. As an art major, I favored black-and-white photography as my medium of choice, and stayed away from painting's impossibly diverse rainbow of brilliant hues. Secretly, though, I envied those folks who proudly paired turquoise with red, orange with fuchsia, without the least little worry that these colors might not go.

Some folks just seem blessed with the inborn ability to use color with confidence. For the rest of us, a little external inspiration is sometimes necessary. If you're tired of your boring old white walls and navy blue sofas and beige carpeting, you're probably ready to inject a good dose of color into your décor. Sure, you could get your ideas by poring through back issues of Metropolitan Home or Dwell, Budget Living or Ready Made. You could go with the color trend du jour by picking up the latest Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel catalog. But if you're willing to think outside of the box just a bit, here are five better ways to get yourself thinking about color. Don't just copy someone else's color style; take the time to discover your own …

1 the great outdoors It's a phrase that's never made much sense to me: "Like no color found in nature." Anyone who's ever taken the time to look knows that just about any color you can conjure up in your mind can and does exist in the natural world. Flowers and leaves, birds, butterflies, and beetles, sky and sand and sea… Mother Nature offers colors and color combos to suit just about any taste. Seriously, there's a lot more to the natural world's palette than just plain green. Despite the fact that no one who knows me would ever describe me as an outdoorsy girl at heart, it always makes me happy to notice how different nature can look from place to place, hour to hour, season to season.

So take a walk around a flower garden in bloom. Go for a walk by the beach, in the mountains, around a lake. There's a mind-bogglingly diverse array of color to be found in nature. Heck, if you're an adamant city-slicker, you can even get your dose of nature's goodness by moseying to your favorite farmer's market. Just open your eyes, and make sure to take good notice.

keep on skedaddling

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