Catalyst Community: Architecture-Colors

In the latest  article in  a Catalyst Community series on architecture, we’ll see what our “resident architect” has to say about the role colors play in design.  
Paul Haselhuhn is the president of WTA Architects.
Paul Haselhuhn is the President of WTA Architects. Haselhuhn has been with WTA since 1998. He’s been a project manager on a wide variety of projects and now specializes in higher education and commercial facilities. 

WTA (Wigen Tincknell Associates) Architects is a general practice firm founded in Saginaw in 1947. They specialize in architectural design including commercial, education, healthcare, governmental, and more. 


I thought I’d take some time and share my thoughts on the use of color in architectural design. Color is one of the most important aspects of the design, connecting us to many things. The past, for instance. The first bed frame I can remember having as a child was bright orange. To this day orange is my favorite color, and I’m not shy about using it in my life. It’s on the walls of my home and in the carpet of at least three different rooms. It makes me happy, brings me comfort, and for me, it makes my house feel like home. That’s what color is supposed to do, connect us to something. 

Youth Services on the lower level of the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library
However, color selection can be scary for some. It’s a commitment, and what if we’re wrong? Well, here’s my advice: embrace the risk! We are often afraid of using too much color in architecture and design when we shouldn’t be. Color inspires us, warms us, relaxes us, and can invoke confidence. Find ways to incorporate it.

Recently my wife and I were having dinner with another couple that we’ve become good friends with in the past three years. We were catching up on what’s been happening in our lives, and they were telling us of the renovations currently underway at their home. Come to find out, they hired a color consultant, something I didn’t even know existed, to help them select a color palette for around their home. Well, this triggered my interest. They told us how this consultant had provided them several different options and they weren’t really happy with anything being presented to them. As a matter of fact, the whole process was causing a lot of stress and confusion. Sound familiar?

Interview view of Delta College in downtown SaginawSo, I began to ask some questions, such as…What’s important to you? What’s the feeling you want around your home? What things or places make you happy? A variety of simple questions can help you discover a color palette that makes you feel happy in the space you live in. And take note here, it’s not the exact question you ask, but just that you ask and dig into those emotions that bring you joy. I find that we tend to associate some color with most memories and emotions. And when we find that joy and the associated colors, we can start to effectively build around that. By the time we were done with dinner, our friends were much more comfortable with their own feelings on color and direction for their home.

Maybe you’re not sure how to do this and you’re still timid. Well, the first thing to realize is that you will likely make some mistakes, but learn from them. You know that house we all drive by and look at and think, “Why did they paint it that color?” That purple one with teal trim. Yeah, you know the one I’m talking about. We often will roll our eyes and wonder what they were thinking. Those are the individuals I’m often most envious of because they took a chance, they found joy in color, put themselves out there and said, why not?

Nest at Saginaw Valley State University
Most of you will be content to stick with a neutral color pallete and add pops of color using some sort of decoration to add some bold color. This is fine if that’s how you get to your happy place. But think about this: paint manufacturers have convinced us that there is a “neutral” color palette of whites, grays, and browns. But that’s not exactly what I see when I look to nature. When I look out my window, it looks more to me that God used a base of green and blue, and then added other colors to it. White is actually an accent, dotting the sky with clouds. There are all kinds of exceptions to this natural palette. The rainforest is full of green, the desert is full of tan, the ocean is blue, and the Himalayas are covered in white. But that just proves my point that God didn’t just stick to a basic pallet while he designed. 
SVRC Marketplace in downtown Saginaw
So, here’s my request. Live life full of color! Don’t just buy that black car with black interior next time. When you choose a color for your house, stay away from gray and brown. And for goodness’ sake, no more solid taupe carpet! Inspire others with your boldness. Choose to live as you were created…with inspirational color.

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