Bright colors are popping up in the workplace as more homeowners expand the use of paint and color in their homes. Interior designer Vicki Wren, who has been with Johnston Paint & Decorating since 1989, said people are more open to color in the office now. In addition, more work environments are striving for a comfortable, residential feel, getting away from that institutional feeling and “cafeteria green.” As an example, Wren pointed to Boone Hospital with its wood flooring and softer colors.

Wren said soft soothing colors, like blues and greens, are always acceptable to male and females. However, the trend coming into the Midwest is to use brighter and livelier colors, she said.

“People need to be careful about getting too trendy with their colors, picking the proper amount of color for their space,” Wren said.

Black for an office works-but for the right person. Wren designed an office for Caleb Rowden, worship and creative arts director at Christian Chapel. She said although it’s the size of a cubicle, the office looks great.

“The creativity that drives the choice is what is more important,” Wren said. For Rowden, the color meshed with his personality.

Orange, Wren said, is a strong and beautiful color. “It takes someone daring to use it.” She added that orange is a wild card color, and she’ll occasional throw it out to see how a client reacts. It’s not the first color someone might think of.

Wren said color is difficult for everyone, “You have to learn how colors play off one another. And, how they play off another has to do with how you feel.” She said a wrong color could make the space feel out of symmetry.

A black-and-white checkerboard pattern might be interesting on an office wall. But don’t try using it directly in your workspace. Jessica Brinkmann, an interior designer with Marathon Office Interiors, said that high-contrast patterns could lower productivity. A worker who has no option but to stare at the pattern may suffer eye fatigue, necessitating additional breaks away from work to rest the eyes. Brinkmann explained that the whole idea behind color theory is that there are actual physical results that happen as people use those colors.

“Your eye has to focus in on the color, the way the light is reflected,” she said. “The idea is to use color strategically.”

Brinkmann said color use also depends on profession and corporate identity. For conservative companies, the standard gray carpet and blue walls combination has been used for a long time, perhaps because gray is a stock color and items are less expensive and readily available. However, both Brinkmann and Wren like clients to try variations in the gray and blue. In the conference room at Johnston Paint, the blue is a striking “Caribbean Teal,” a color Wren said is “handsome and pretty without being too much.”

Brinkmann said that for a nature-loving company, she would suggest an earthtones palette and environmentally-friendly furnishings.

“I work with a client and show them that by choosing another color, they can show customers who they are,” Brinkmann said. “It’s a way of marketing, too, especially if the space is also for customers. Maybe it (the colors) could increase productivity in their workers because they’re not so bored in their workspace.”

One of Brinkmann’s current clients is moving to a new space.  In order to project a fresh image for the new space, they’re using a bright Kelly green in punches.

“Their business is really focused on being fresh and new,” Brinkmann said. “I think they want it to be a fun place for the people who work there as well, and for the clients.”

At Boone-Central Title, in downtown Columbia, Wren cautioned them from using too much yellow. She said the color could be felt as aggressive, yet also is considered frivolous and fun. It works in the main area, but not in the conference room, where people spend money and are likely to be nervous.

“You want the feeling of calm,” Wren explained. Green was the final choice for their conference room.

Wren said a person could read 12 books on color theory and get 12 ideas. Colors to enhance creativity include yellow. Red is a power color, making it good for a person making a presentation. Purple tends to be a very creative color and also a trend color too, because people are afraid of it, Wren said. Blues, greens and yellows never go out of style.

“They’re always there, just different,” Wren said.

Wren likes to go beyond the preconceived notion of color. For an orthodontic office, she used purple and gold. And for an attorney, who is a little-out-of-the-ordinary, Wren created an office with cork flooring and orange and purple walls to reflect her personality.

“You’re coming to me because you’re not comfortable doing the colors on your own. My job is to encourage you to do something you may not have thought of before,” Wren said.

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