Using Color to Create Mood & Make a Statement Your Palette Makes a Difference

Design is what makes the difference between a space looking like a seductive boudoir… or the interior of a cardboard box. Neither may be appropriate for a co-op or condo lobby, but somewhere in between lies the comforting, welcoming common space we hope to encounter when we arrive home. The key to creating that welcome lies largely in the use of basic elements of color, texture, and light.  While all three interlock to create a unified, coherent aesthetic, color is at the heart of the puzzle.

Defining Color & Palette

“Words are always a challenge for designers to describe when seeking to create a specific mood,” says Marilyn Sygrove, principal of Sygrove Associates Design Group, based in New York City. “One person’s ‘dark’ is another person’s ‘rich.’ One person’s ‘light and bright’ is another person’s perceived maintenance nightmare. So we have to be sensitive to the perceptions of our clients. It is all about balance, and selectively choosing what can be used effectively, and where. Accent walls, floors, a piece of furniture, a desk are also to be weighed against wear and visual impact.”

 A community’s population can heavily influence its color preferences; so can its location. “Beachfront condominiums in Brooklyn and Long Island like to reference watercolors and sunsets,” says Sygrove. “Urban communities generally like more edgy combinations, or subtle neutrals with deep, rich contrasts. We are definitely seeing colors that reflect a ‘sense of place’ reflecting the geography surrounding the property, whether parks or riverfronts, especially in special setbacks with respect to their landscaping.” 

Ethelind Coblin, architect and principal of Ethelind Coblin Architect, a New York City-based design and architecture firm with clients throughout the Northeast, says, “To ‘lift’ the space, we incorporate light metallic finishes in the upper tray.  Generally, our use of color is spare and restrained, minimally incorporating it in artwork and accents, such as pillows, etc. Our goal is creating timeless public spaces such as lobbies, halls, community spaces, instilling a sense of restraint and serenity.”

Influencing Factors

In addition to location and population, the very type of construction and the age of a building can have outsized effects on design considerations. Some color combinations and textures work well in prewar buildings, while others are preferable for postwar structures, and the newest, most modern buildings may require a whole different approach.


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