Choice of the Dominant Hue
Choice of the dominant hue is often conditioned, or the interesting fact that a jury of six men, called upon to estimate the size of identical rooms, one colored throughout in spectral red and the other in light clear blue, judged the latter to be more than thirty per cent larger than the former. Even where mixed and relatively neutral walls are used, a room will vary perceptibly in apparent size with warm or cool color. This fact presents no difficulty to the decorator except in the case of small north rooms, which must be made warmer without being made smaller. Here he may resort to ivory walls and trim and a rose-red or yellow carpet, plain or self-toned, and covering the entire floor, since a rug would make the room look smaller by reason of the disposition of the eye to see the inner rather than the outer lines of the space; to light yellowish-gray walls with orange, and so on. Any north or coldly-lighted room may be made to appear warmer by the presence of growing plants and flowers, as the mind always associates the idea of warmth with growing things.
Inasmuch as color is used in the house chiefly to give pleasure to its occupants, it is clear that, when other factors permit, personal taste or preference should determine the choice of the dominant hue. It is of course to be remembered that here, as elsewhere in decorative practice, personal fancy may be given a freer flight in the bedroom, boudoir, sewing room or study than in rooms shared in common, where compromises are often necessary.
A favorite color may be used on the walls in a degree of intensity ranging up to the maximum of one-half in cases where one is satisfied with the comparatively weak emotional reactions which relatively neutral color is capable of producing. Where the full emotional effect of a favorite color is desired, the purer color must be spotted in against almost neutral walls. The peculiar qualities of any hue tend to disappear, as we have seen, as the hue loses purity. No one who craves a rich, vibrant red will be satisfied with a reddish gray or a washed-out rose or pink, nor will he accept azure as a substitute for blue, or pale heliotrope in lieu of purple. The strong colors must, however, be kept off the walls. They may be used, if not too pure, on the floor, and even in the hangings and upholstery; but when they are used at all it will ordinarily be best to do the walls in some neutral, like cream, tan, putty, light taupe, or greenish-gray. It is a common mistake to assume that the stimulating or satisfying power of a favorite color depends upon the area of the surfaces over which it is distributed. In fact, it rather varies inversely with the area, and depends far more upon the intensity and quality of the color, and the texture in which it appears, than upon extension in space. A single ruby-red porcelain bowl against a cream or gray-green wall will have more power to satisfy a real craving for red than will a room done in crimson rugs, walls, and hangings.
Always in choosing the dominant hue care must be taken to select one that is becoming. Few women have an adequate conception of the degree in which their looks are affected by the colors of their rooms. We have already noted that the effect of ground color upon local color is often extraordinary, and it must always be remembered that the colors of floor, hangings and furniture coverings, and especially of the walls, are certain to affect for good or ill the colors of complexion, hair and costume. A woman who is too dark, for example, ought to do her room in low tones, since the effect of white woodwork and pale walls will inevitably be to make her appear still darker. Similarly, a sallow complexion will appear more yellowish in a lavender room, because the violet will tinge the face with its complementary; while the woman who has too much color will find the red in her cheeks intensified and given a purplish cast in a room done in yellowish-green.