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Colors can lift the spirit

The cheapest and easiest method of refreshing a home's interior is to change the color scheme with new paint.

But how to pick new colors for your home?

For many years, various companies that specialize in color, such as Benjamin Moore Paints and Pantone, have issued predictions on the "in" colors for the coming year. These colors then are used by interior and industrial designers to steer consumers toward select colors for their projects.

Today, though the predictions are still made, consumers are inundated with examples of colors not only by the traditional magazine articles and store displays, but also by home-decorating television shows and even new apps for phones and computers. So the impact of traditional pronouncements have been diluted.

The color of the year for 2011, according to Pantone, is "honeysuckle," a deep pink shade. Benjamin Moore, on the other hand, has declared "vintage wine" the color for 2011.

For 2012, Benjamin Moore predicts grays and browns will be the new neutrals, paired with brighter colors from the full spectrum, including bright pinks, reds and oranges, sunny yellows, buttercreams, greens that range from teal to pear to sage and shades of blue reflective of the sky and ocean.

"I don't see a real trend in color choices," says interior designer Pamela Wilmoth of Medford. "In a down economy, people want brighter, more uplifting colors. Not necessarily any specific colors, but brighter colors are more attractive these days. People are doing fewer white walls with more bright colors and bright accents."

"People are using neutrals and spicing it up," she adds. "Gray and yellow, for instance, or charcoal and yellow. Purple is being used quite a bit. People are looking for the more unusual. Periwinkle blue, granny-apple green and mustard were selected for recent (remodels)."

The consensus seems to be that consumers are looking for something to make them feel better in this dreary economy, something that minimizes the stress they feel in the world outside. The use of bright, flower and fruit tones, as well as the addition of metallics for accent, seems to engender a feeling of richness and cheerfulness.

Pairing two of the "new" neutrals — charcoal-gray, brown or an off-white linen shade — with citrus-yellow, apple-green or lilac presents a more crisp, modern feel to a room. Charcoal, red and turquoise can add drama. Gray, purple and silver can be the setting for elegant furnishings. Eggplant and cabbage-green can make a bold statement.

Carolyn Allman, an interior designer and owner of Allman Design Group in Medford, sees this as a period when more people are hunkering down with what they have.

"In this economy, we're not finding a lot of people who want color consultations or call that they want to brighten up their homes," she says.

Allman says she always pays attention to the Benjamin Moore predictions, though she sees fewer clients who care about the "in" color predictions for the year and more who are taking their inspiration from multiple sources.

The most important choice is to pick colors you can live with and make you feel happy and comfortable. Individuality is more important than what is fashionable now, especially with people spending more time in their homes rather than going out.

People are seeing this as an opportunity to find new appreciation for what they have and are tweaking their rooms to best showcase the items they love.

Colors can lift the spirit