Ashcraft's book is designed to give readers the confidence to make their own decisions about color. She starts out by suggesting ways to come up with your ideal palette for a given room: ways to use inspiration like a souvenir or a favorite color, things to consider about the architecture and materials of the space, and general rules of thumb, like how to think about natural and artificial light in a room. Ashcraft explains things that decorators have learned over time, like what a northern exposure does to color over the course of a day, and how inspiration doesn't mean copying, but conjuring an effect. I loved her thoughtful segments on things like when to paint ceilings, when to paint your window frames black instead of white, and how you can use color to define a space.
My favorite section was called "Breaking the Color Rules," and Ashcraft encourages us to do just that: pink is NOT just for girls, she says, bathrooms DON'T have to be all white, and art doesn't need a white backdrop — sometimes even a vivid color can enliven the work. (I've included some images from that "rule-breaking" section in the gallery above).
Ashcraft's book also includes inspiration rooms with a breakdown of each one's color palette, and some her own work, like, fascinatingly, her own colorful Manhattan apartment. In the back of the book, she answers common questions about paint, and provides a list of recommended materials for your own painting projects. Finally, she presents each of the 28 paint colors she designed for Fine Paints of Europe, showing a swatch with the color's inspiration, a description, a list of the subtle undertones (it was particularly interesting for me, as a non-color expert, to see that 'chalk,' for instance, contains white, black, green and yellow), and suggestions for how to use it both indoors and out. She puts her colors next to each other to show how they might look together.
For me, this final section was the most compelling, and I found myself wishing it were even more fleshed out — I was less interested in her analysis of different existing rooms and more interested in how she would play with colors and how they change when paired with different hues. In all, though, the book is filled with luscious, colorful inspiration, and surprisingly chock-full of genuinely helpful color advice.
Before I take paintbrush to wall again, I'll consult Ashcraft's book. It would also make a great gift for someone who is moving or redecorating. Lower-profile than most coffee table books, it would be a lovely addition to a design library.
Purchase The Right Color is available now at Amazon — $18.59.
Images: Excerpted from The Right Color: Finding the Perfect Palette for Every Room in Your Home, by Eve Ashcraft (Artisan Books). Copyright 2011. Photographers William Abranowicz (images 2 & 5); Ken Hayden (image 3); and Simon Upton (image 4).