A Monochromatic Color Scheme Can Be Many Things — Except Boring!


a monochromatic color scheme is livable, stands the test of time

People may think that a monochromatic color scheme is boring. After all, it’s only one color. Yes, it’s one color, but it includes the darkest shade to the lightest tint of the same hue. For a monochromatic color scheme to be effective, there should also be contrast in texture, smooth to very rough. Every color in the world can be the basis for a monochromatic color scheme. Color psychology has been studied for hundreds of years.

Have you ever wondered how paint manufacturers come up with the color names? It’s amazing! Most of the major manufacturers have in excess of 2,000 color options. There are very few colors that have the same names from one company to another. It’s nothing more than a marketing ploy. The names are supposed to make us feel positive about the color, and the manufacturer. No one in their right mind would select a color if its name was “Baby Poop”! Here’s a very short explanation about how professionals describe colors:

Munsell Color System

The Munsell Color System has been used for over 100 years to describe colors in a universally-acceptable way.

First, there’s the color name, the hue, taken from the color wheel that’s been used for centuries since Sir Isaac Newton first developed it in 1666.. Next is the brightness of the color, that’s called the value, followed by tints and shades which are the lightest and darkest of any color. Last is saturation (aka “chroma”), which determines how strong a particular color is. I was introduced to the Munsell Color System by an art teacher, and have used it ever since. It was developed by Albert H. Munsell and adopted in the early 20th century because it describes color in a universally-acceptable way, without the psycho-babble used by paint companies.  At the left is a chart that shows how it works.

The bathroom project featured in today’s tip  is as close to monochromatic  as possible, including the natural cherry cabinets. The color on the Munsell Chart is 5.5 Yellow-Red. The value is between a 3 and a 4, and there’s a full range of values. The countertop is the darkest and shiniest. The cabinet pulls, sconce trim, mirror frames and accessories are bronze, a darker shade of the hue. The cabinets are about midway in color. Natural cherry has a higher saturation and the wood grain can vary a lot. Below is an example of the color.

Monochromatic color example

Example of a monochromatic color scheme: Same color, same saturation, different values (light to dark).

Years ago, a client wanted her bathroom walls to be painted to look like “pongee” (a type of silk fabric). Of course, without a sample to match, it would be impossible to achieve what she wanted. One of the paint manufacturers did have a color called “pongee,” but she didn’t like it. So I collected several pongee fabric samples that allowed her to make a decision.

See pictures and descriptions of the featured project.

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