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Every year, Pantone, the authority on color and color systems, names a color of the year. This year, the color of the year is “Marsala18-1438,” which it describes as “a naturally robust and earthy wine red. Marsala enriches our minds, bodies and souls… The impactful, full-bodied qualities of Marsala make for an elegant, grounded statement color when used on its own or as a strong accent to many other colors.” A perfect color for decorating in the Napa Valley.

Marsala goes well with gray, aqua and blue.

Many people find the use of color baffling and fraught with difficulty. Let’s shed some light on the use of color in your home.

In Western societies, color conveys certain symbolic associations. For example, red can symbolize danger, passion or love, but in certain tints, can also convey romance, femininity, and innocence. In other tones, it conveys earthiness and elegance. Green is known for its reference to nature, serenity, and soothing qualities and can also signify springtime, renewal or even army drab. Blue is considered traditional and stable, refreshing, cool and contemplative.

There are many color systems used by designers and artists to organize and create harmony. Light and texture interact with and affect color too, both as enhancers and partners. While there are universally accepted ideas for what is aesthetically pleasing, in practice your use of color will depend on your temperament and comfort level.

At home, take a paint chart from any hardware or paint store and hold it up to walls, furniture, and stone to match colors. Monochromatic schemes can be made up of the same colors in different hues; these are considered more calming. Yellow and green are analogous colors, ones that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel and are harmonious; while green and purple are complementary colors (opposite each other on the color wheel) and can create drama.

On the other hand, contrasting schemes are more dynamic and active. Orange and blue have contrasting qualities but can be used together.

The trick for harmonious color is to stay in the same range of hues, whether “warm” or “cool” to create an analogous scheme. Contrasting schemes will be both warm and cool and can be used to highlight or offset an item or wall.

Use the color wheel to find related and contrasting colors. You can find a color wheel at http://www.colormatters.com.

Do bring fabric swatches to your paint store and bring several paint swatches home and test again at home. Test several shades of your preferred color on your walls before you start painting them. While paint swatches are accurate, a room’s natural lighting at various stages of the day does change, and this will affect the color of your walls. Leave your paint swatches on for at least 24 hours before selecting your final color.

And here is another trick that designers use: I often start with one item in the room as a jumping off point. Let’s say you have a rug with a variety of colors, but one dominant theme, say brown. You wouldn’t want to make everything else in your room brown — that would be boring. Look closely at the rug. What other colors are present? There might be an aqua flower or edge to a geometric pattern. Pull that color out and use it in accents, draperies, or in wall color. Use the entire rug to guide you as to what other colors can be used to complement it.

How else can you use color in your home? Make it warm and inviting by experimenting with color. Using a colorful painting to enliven a neutral interior is one way to do this. Create an interior that is the visual equivalent of a meditative mantra by using colors that evoke earthiness, like the color of the year, marsala.

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Deborah Macdonald is the Napa-based owner of Napa At Home, an interior decorating and fabric enterprise. For more information about her interior decorating services, visit her website at napaathome.com, call (707) 255-0246; or email Deborah@napaathome.com

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