A Rainbow of Advice 

Sally Fretwell shares her philosophy of getting the most from color.

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Design consultant Sally Fretwell, who owns the Blackstone-based Sally Fretwell Paint Company, has never seen the world in black and white. Her thing is color, and she appreciates every hue, shade and tone of it.

She's put her feelings into a book, "The Power of Color" (www.sallyfretwell.com, $14.95). In it are reams of examples, with color combinations and paint chips, meant to inspire you to make changes in your daily palette.

Fretwell may soon be opening a paint store in Richmond full of eco-friendly paints featured in the book. But we wanted to talk with her first about color.

Home Style: How did you become inspired to help others through the power of color?

Fretwell: I would say I've been in this subject and field for 30 years, and I found that how people felt was directly related to the environment they were in. So if they were in an office with horrible lighting and in a cubicle, how they feel would be different than in a room with natural lighting.

My journey to color came from helping hospitals and restaurants and people to make environments warm and inviting. I came at it from the health profession — to make people feel comfortable in the environment, to make people relax more. It's a big deal in a hospital environment.

There is a direct relationship between warm colors and having people feel comfortable in their favorite restaurant. It helps them relax after a long day; it relaxes the weight on you. It's a rippling effect when there are warm colors surrounding someone. It's been a long process of gauging the relationship, by putting colors up on the wall in a nursing home and then getting feedback. It's been a huge thing for me.

You mention you enjoy when colors "play well together." What determines that?

I think for me it's relative on one level. I choose pictures to depict how colors play well together. They're feelings generated from that. That's why I put pictures in the book. My feeling is that each color, when it is put with another color, reacts differently. A bright yellow next to a blue will change in that relationship. When you choose colors, you really have to be looking at everything else surrounding that color. The chairs you put in a space, what's going on with the lighting. That affects that color. When they play well together, they are generating a feeling, or give that "wow" effect. ... Relationships of color are why I wrote this book.

What are the different moods that can be created with the use of colors?

It's not even moods. You know, when [it's] spring and all the birds are coming out, and you've been through the winter and everything is dormant and gray, and then all the colors come out — it's then a "boom." The colors can settle the nervous system. The Venetian, the reds and the faded stucco, it allows an expansive feeling and relaxes as well. When you [use] fiery colors, red-orange, [it's] festive. The yellows and golds are very gathering colors. They are great colors, if you get the right tones, for a doctor's office [to help patients be] more relaxed. Different colors can create moods, but they also have a different effect. I wanted to pull the tones out so people get the different feelings.

You say that people may be a bit cautious when taking the first step of changing colors. What advice would you give those people to encourage them to make the change?

Don't give up! Look for the warm tones in the color. Look for the grays and blues to pull the gold or yellow, to pull the tones. Colors usually have a warmth. Experiment a little, try, and don't give up. Get a few quarts of color and then sheets of white paper, and put it up on the wall to look at during different times of day.

White sends light back out, it's reflective. It's a cautious color and has blues in it, so it's a kind of depressing color. Try several colors and look for the warmer tones and look around at what other colors are in the space. Try a few different colors and don't be afraid. Bold colors will not look bold if you get the right tone — they will just look va-voom when you get it right.

You seem to find that color is an important part of everyday life. Outside of the home, how does color influence you?

It's always made a difference in my life. A big example for me was living in New England for a very long time. It was dark and dreary. Spring wasn't until June, and then it was winter again in November. Colors indoors and outdoors really have affected how I felt. It makes such a huge difference in many ways. Most of the time it's health-related. It's funny to see the different colors people pick for the cars they drive; it can really affect their mood. ... I do a lot of knitting; I will knit different colors for different people. It's funny, the types of yarn and the value of the textures. It really helps with what people really like; it's all related to color and their personalities.



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