Category Archives: color

Spring Color Palettes

The Art in Artichoke

There’s just something about April: Chaucer talked about the showers, T. S. Eliot said it was the cruelest month, and travel agents call it a “shoulder season.” Though to me April means doing a lot of weeding, I think it’s also a great time to develop a nature-oriented paint scheme for freshening up your interior.  My friend the architectural colorist Tina Beebe once told me to look no further than the artichoke for one of nature’s most elegant color palettes so, since artichokes are now in season, let’s start here. Cut one open, as this photo (courtesy The Delicious Life) shows and you’ll find a surprising range of spring hues to choose from. Now thanks to color matching websites you can develop a palette from

almost any image. Here’s the palette that deGraeve’s Color Palette Generator produced from the photo I uploaded. It’s appealing, with bright and dull versions, though it didn’t get the subtle violet at the center. Or how about this

image of a granite dock on the Maine coast. I like the greens and grays. Here’s how deGraves’s other color match website called Color Hunter isolated the hues.

You don’t get to see the original image alongside the isolated hues as you do with deGraeve, but Color Hunter’s black background makes the tones stand out. Though you should always allow for color variation on the computer as well as in print, this is a great way to develop a set of colors you like before confronting the dauntingly vast array of color chips at the hardware or paint store. Another way is just to print out an image of a space that appeals, like the living room of

Plan 496-1 by Australian architect Leon Meyer, then identify the color palette yourself. Here the white walls, black hearth, moss green fireplace front, and natural wood furniture work well together: it’s essentially a white background with major and minor accents. The living room in a Sea Ranch, California house designed by Tina Beebe and her husband architect Buzz Yudell offers

similar lessons. Here again, background colors, this time in wall plaster and concrete floor, are neutrals; accents are mostly primary with greens toned to echo the meadow grasses outside; the wood is unpainted. In short, paint palettes don’t need a lot of colors; simpler is usually better; materials like wood and concrete are part of a palette just like paint and fabric; and nature is often a very good place to start.

For a fine introduction to the subject see Design With Color, by Karen

Templer, who is the newest member of the Houseplans family. It includes a wide range of color schemes to help you articulate your own taste. And for an intriguing view of color history I recommend browsing Pantone: The 20th Century in Color, by Leatrice Eiseman and Keith Recker, which

cleverly shows color palettes derived from popular culture, decade-by-decade. The authors isolate key colors from each period — for example, the Arts & Crafts Movement is represented by various artifacts, like a chandelier designed by

Greene & Greene and is paired with eight Pantone swatches. It’s fun to see how the authors derive the dominant colors for each era. It all shows how color taste changes and makes me wonder what a representative palette for the 21st century — so far — would be.

Wild Architectural Rides

Working Vacations

Some architects are always looking, and adapting what they see for their designs. Take David Weingarten and Lucia Howard of Ace Architects, for example. Their “Rancho Diablo” is an extraordinary architectural travelogue or “ride” that incorporates references to the Wild West desert of Wile E. Coyote, Italy, and early Bay Region design history.  Here are some images of the house.

The marvelous ovoid openings that appear in all three images (photographs courtesy Ace Architects) are adaptations of a Gothicized window treatment developed by Berkeley, California architect Bernard Maybeck for some of his early 20th century houses like the one shown below.

You can see that David and Lucia enjoy their work! But there’s more. Rancho Diablo also houses one of the largest collections of miniature or souvenir buildings in the world (it may well be the largest), amassed by David Weingarten and Margaret Majua. These include coin banks, pencil sharpeners, lamps, thermometers, and salt and pepper shakers in the shapes of landmarks from across the planet — they are often in exhibitions at SFO, museums, and elsewhere.

At Rancho Diablo there is a special gallery that holds a selection of the miniatures. Here you can tour the Eiffel Tower and the Egyptian pyramids without leaving home.

As the architects themselves might say, their work, like their collecting, is “vigorously eclectic.”

Not to be outdone completely, has a growing collection of plans that exhibit a travel-history (travelicity?!) quality, which seems especially appropriate for summer.We have a version of the White House, for example, Plan 119-189.

Or if the burden of history is a bit heavy, why not lighten the load with Lighthouse Plan 64-168.


You can see more such designs in our Unusual and Unique House Plans Collection.

Another friend of mine, artist Keith Wilson, never stops working when he’s on a holiday trip. His eye is architectural and whimsical at the same time: color and shape recombine in almost childlike ways, recalling the work of Paul Klee. His drawn buildings are recognizable but novel, like the vibrant sketch of St. Peters in Rome, shown below.

Just a few elements – curves, columns, pediment, dome – capture an impression of the landmark, while the bright colors and grid change it into something new. I think this process of “capture/change” is what many people go through as they visit a new place. Vacations are the times to refresh your image banks! So use your camera or I-phone to record your surroundings — you may see ideas you can adapt for your new home. Bright colors for an accent wall? Or maybe you’ll see a Gothic window you can reinterpret. I think this is what summer is all about — looking for ideas wherever your travels may take you.

Modern Paint Color and Eichler Plans

Nature-Oriented Paint Palettes

We’ve just added four more Eichler mid-century modern house plans (by architect Claude Oakland — see them at the end of this post) to our Signature Plans Collection and this has made me think about interior paint colors that might be appropriate for contemporary homes. And it’s spring: spruce-up time! The Yolo Colorhouse palette of no VOC paints (volatile organic compounds) sprang to mind.

The colors are organized in nature-based categories, from Air to Petal. One advantage of Yolo Colorhouse is that you can order poster-size color swatches (instead of smaller paint chips) to see how the color will look (remember that online paint color is only an approximation and you should refer to a dry paint chip sample before purchasing paint).

Because the range of color possibilities is so wide, I asked architectural color consultant Jill Pilaroscia of Colour Studio, who has directed color projects for Herman Miller and a wide variety of community developers, for her advice.

She suggested taking cues from the design, the materials, and the lifestyle characteristics of the typical Eichler home: its open plan, use of wood and warm-toned laminates, casual organization and clean lines; its rooms oriented toward and connecting with the garden; and its abundant daylight through window walls and interior transoms.

She says: “All of these basic characteristics set the stage for a range of natural  and organic colors that will harmonize with the building’s given elements.  Warm reds, rusts, browns, taupes, olives, greens, buffs, greyed tones that mirror those found in shadowed natural settings look wonderful in these homes. Sometimes an owner will find the colors heavy and oppressive and determine they want to paint the ceiling beams, and paint out the woods.  Subjective color likes and dislikes are deeply ingrained with the emotional connotations. This in no way means this is the only way to deal with an Eichler.  Some clients will choose to work in strong colors that suit their personal subjective color needs and can make it work. “

Jill suggested twelve Benjamin Moore hues in several categories as a starting point (swatches shown below).

Warm Accents

035 Baked Clay

077 Fiery Opal

194 Hathaway Gold

Softer Organic Warm Yellows to suggest light:

177 Mushroom Cap

186 Harvest Time


492 Dune Grass

495 Hillside Green


513 Limestone

1522 Inner Balance

Metal color:

1547 Dragon’s Breath,  for deep metal accents

and Deep Browns:

HC-72 Branchport Brown

2114-20 Mississippi Mud

On the Benjamin Moore website you can use their Virtual Fan Deck and Personal Color Viewer to see the paint applied to walls in several sample room photos, like this:

which uses Dune Grass on the fireplace and trim and Hillside Grass on the walls.

Here’s the same room with Hathaway Gold on fireplace and trim and Mushroom Cap on the walls. Beware, the click-and-cover feature can definitely become addictive… For information about colors used in the original Eichlers see CA Modern, the magazine of the Eichler Network.

Our latest Eichler Plans

The most recent additions to our Signature Plans Collection are four more historic Eichler plans from the early 1960s.

The 4 bedroom, 3 bath, 2,733 sq. ft. layout of Plan 470-6 (original model HPO-15) — organized around an an open-air atrium — allows windows on two sides of every major room for cross-ventilation and balanced light.

The plan is both elegant and practical: a spacious loggia connects the kitchen/multipurpose room with the living room, and a laundry hall opens to the garage. The street front

centers a big welcoming gable porch over the entry beside the flat-roofed garage.

In Plan 470-8 (model NY-254), one of the very few Eichler homes also built outside California (in the Hudson River Valley outside New York City),

a long horizontal facade — part garage, part wall — preserves privacy for the  front courtyard.

The 4 bedroom, 2 bath 1,706 sq. ft., L-shaped house wraps around two sides of this open space. The living dining area and the master bedroom open directly to the rear yard.

Plan 470-7 (model MC-34) shows how the so-called “multipurpose room” is no longer part of the kitchen (where it appears in the previous two plans) but its own separate space,

that now really functions as a family room. The “Gallery” in this 2,364 sq. ft., 4 bedroom, 2 bath plan includes a variation on the atrium idea, only this time it has a roof and is part of the interior. The segmented gable

extends from front to rear, across the gallery. These Eichler designs celebrate easy indoor-outdoor living and remain seductive for people who want to live on one level. We are able to offer copies of the designs by special arrangement with the Environmental Design Archives at U. C. Berkeley; a percentage of the plan price supports the Archives.