Article 22: Color Translation


In the Caribbean, designs are colorful and can range from whimsical to sophisticated.  Outsiders may find it charming and relaxing but sometimes do not realize how functional this design actually is and how it helps create bliss.

One might wonder how the use of so many bright colors and color combinations work in a tropical environment, but if you bring them back to the northern United States, Europe, or Canada it seems out of place and can be even obnoxious. This has to do with the intensity of the sunlight and the surrounding environment. Bright, intense light and highly saturated colors work well in tropical environments, and the colors need to be brighter or they appear washed out. The environment around the architecture and interiors blend well with these color combinations due to also brightly colored birds, flora, and turquoise sea. Living on a glacier formed lake in the Northern part of United States we have beautiful shades of blue and green, but these colors are of low saturation, such as the great grey heron and the slate blues and deep emeralds of the lake. These colors work well in a four season environment, but would be washed out in the desert or tropics and might appear even depressing elsewhere.

The use of white walls and can be fresh and clean on hot and sunny intense days and the use of bright colors connects the outside with the inside. In the shadows created by intense sunlight creates grays with great depth. Many times white walls may seem sterile in the northern parts of the world since they create grays and whites in the same tones and do not have great contrast.

So if you like the tropical colors and live in a northern place, do not despair, here is my advice to create a cheerful design. Study and take photographs of the Caribbean colors and design. After you have come to understand which colors and combination you enjoy, break it down to the basics, such as “I love the orange and yellow color combinations and use of woods in the interiors”. You than can start translating it into the right colors for your location. For example, bright orange and yellow paint chips saturation needs to be cut in accordance to the level of intensity of sunlight. Let us just say the sun is 30% less intense, so a color that is orange but is 30% less saturated would look similar in orange in northern location as one 30% more saturated on the southern one. Good news is you can use the orange and yellow combo in northern states but maybe not as bright as the original color because it is not necessary, since it will appear the same color with less saturation.

You can also start looking at bright colored flora in that location. Asters are bright yellow, but if you compare them to yellow tropical plants they might not seem pure bright yellow, even though when you see them in a field of grass they appear pure bright yellow. The same with oranges, a great tiger lily of the northern states will not be as bright and strong as a tropical orange fruit. Refer back to nature and you will be surprised on how nature has created perfect color combinations for each particular area of the world. As you become more aware and learn more about translating colors, then even a tropical turquoise and desert earth tones can be used elsewhere, and create a feeling of being elsewhere, but not overpowering and clashing with the local environment.

Have fun and good luck on this color adventure and challenge!


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