Use Nature as Your Color Palette

Choosing a color scheme is one of the most important decorating decisions we make. Letting our love of nature create palettes can make color selection fun and nourishing.

| January/February 2002

  • Ecotones, in which two different types of landscape meet, offer tangible examples of how to use contrasting colors. At the seashore, the cool grays and blues of the ocean combine with the warm browns of the sand. This color scheme inspired the decor below.
  • Ecotones, in which two different types of landscape meet, offer tangible examples of how to use contrasting colors. At the seashore, the cool grays and blues of the ocean combine with the warm browns of the sand. This color scheme inspired the decor below.
  • Ecotones, in which two different types of landscape meet, offer tangible examples of how to use contrasting colors. At the seashore, the cool grays and blues of the ocean combine with the warm browns of the sand. This color scheme inspired the decor below.
  • Ecotones, in which two different types of landscape meet, offer tangible examples of how to use contrasting colors. At the seashore, the cool grays and blues of the ocean combine with the warm browns of the sand. This color scheme inspired the decor below.
  • Ecotones, in which two different types of landscape meet, offer tangible examples of how to use contrasting colors. At the seashore, the cool grays and blues of the ocean combine with the warm browns of the sand. This color scheme inspired the decor below.
    Photo by Ernie Braun
  • Ecotones, in which two different types of landscape meet, offer tangible examples of how to use contrasting colors. At the seashore, the cool grays and blues of the ocean combine with the warm browns of the sand. This color scheme inspired the decor below.
    Photo by Ernie Braun
  • Ecotones, in which two different types of landscape meet, offer tangible examples of how to use contrasting colors. At the seashore, the cool grays and blues of the ocean combine with the warm browns of the sand. This color scheme inspired the decor below.
    Photo by Ernie Braun
  • Ecotones, in which two different types of landscape meet, offer tangible examples of how to use contrasting colors. At the seashore, the cool grays and blues of the ocean combine with the warm browns of the sand. This color scheme inspired the decor below.
    Photo by Ernie Braun
  • Decorative paint effects can mimic natural nuances such as a forest’s dappled light (left). The warm tones of wood and stone can be found in a field of waving wheat (this page).
    Photo by Ernie Braun
  • Keeping the doses of bright oranges, reds, and greens low can help tone them down and allow them to work their magic.
    Photo by Ernie Braun
  • River bottom rocks provide a palette that can be replicated using color swatches (right). Those colors are carried throughout the entire riparian landscape.
    Photo by Joe Coca
  • Ecotones, in which two different types of landscape meet, offer tangible examples of how to use contrasting colors. At the seashore, the cool grays and blues of the ocean combine with the warm browns of the sand. This color scheme inspired the decor below.
    Photo by Paul Bardagjy
  • Ecotones, in which two different types of landscape meet, offer tangible examples of how to use contrasting colors. At the seashore, the cool grays and blues of the ocean combine with the warm browns of the sand. This color scheme inspired the decor below.
    Photo by Philip Beaurline
  • The subtle color variations of the mountain desert prove to be amazingly varied, as these soil samples from the Grand Canyon (above) prove. Adobe buildings naturally reflect that vibrance.
    Photo by Joe Coca
  • Ecotones, in which two different types of landscape meet, offer tangible examples of how to use contrasting colors. At the seashore, the cool grays and blues of the ocean combine with the warm browns of the sand. This color scheme inspired the decor below.
  • Autumn’s glory is captured in the colors chosen for a building’s exterior.

The Old Man said “Ah” and smiled as he looked at the earth, for she was very beautiful—truly the most beautiful thing he had made so far.
—NATIVE AMERICAN CREATION MYTH

The perception of nature as beautiful is universal and constant. Through the ages, poetry and paintings have glorified the phenomena of the natural world. Love of nature is in our bones and in our collective memories. The majesty of mountains, the pleasures of a pond, the fecundity of a forest—all evoke sensations of well being.

As a colorist, nature is my inspiration and teacher. Nature is the master colorist, combining colors, textures, and light into breathtakingly perfect palettes. Go for a walk through a meadow at noon in springtime and experience how, magically, all of nature’s colors are in the right proportion, value, and intensity. Although many are bright, these colors always enhance each other, never overpower. Wander along a lake on a misty winter morning. Although muted, these quieter colors are interesting and balanced.

How can we become nature’s students and use her wisdom to colorize our homes?



Consider the Light in the Room

Nature’s colors are changed by light. Morning light is soft and warm, contrasts of color gentle. By midday, natural light is full-spectrum, and contrasts become intense and strong. In the late afternoon, the light has softened to a golden glow, which deepens in the twilight toward warm reds with violet overtones.



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