A prime example of colorful flooring options can be found in Azrock Cortina Grande vinyl enhanced tile, pictured here in a school.

When I started my design career, the outlook on color was decidedly earth tones -- harvest gold, terra cotta, avocado green and, of course, brown, the color of earth itself. Countless interiors were drenched in these hues and they remained in vogue for years. With the staying power these colors had, it’s no wonder the earthtones were followed by a large dose of vanilla, also known as almond.

Over the years, we’ve traveled through various stages of mauve, gray, blue, and green, with almond and off-whites holding their place at the top of the popularity polls. It took us a long time to graduate from almond and off-white interiors, but we are now experiencing a true explosion in the use of color. Today, the most popular colors remain nature colors -- such as orange, green and brown.

It’s true that colors are cyclical in popularity, and there are other colors in the current palette. But think about it: where would we be without color? It’s frequently the most important consideration when we’re choosing building materials and decorative items for our homes. It has the potential to affect our moods and transform our surroundings.

Today’s trends can be described as cool, calm, collected colors, or happy, vibrant, playful hues. We’re seeing traditional colors steeped in American heritage, as well as ethnic and culturally diverse palettes. Colors today are also clean, crisp and uncomplicated! These are just a few ways to describe the color directions for 2003.

As always, varying consumer tastes ensure a veritable smorgasbord of color choices. What is different is that people are looking for comfort and reality when they think about feathering their nests. Because the global political and economic climate remains rocky, people are turning to the home as their sanctuary. That means that today’s color schemes show a decided movement toward home as a haven and a calming of color, which results in many more light, mid-toned and deepened shades.

Color is being led in two different directions: traditional colors (based in core and natural colors) and a fresher, more contemporary style that uses brighter colors.

With the advent of more sophisticated technology, the world of science and nature are one. At one time, color was developed apart from the manufacture of surface finish and base material. It was thought of as a coating. Today, most companies develop the surface finish, base material and color at the same time. Therefore, these technologies can produce and simulate effects of nature, such as the look of glass that has been tossed by the ocean.

Technology enables retro colors to move forward with more complexity and sophistication. If you compare yesterday’s avocado with today’s version, you will see a remarkable difference. Various technologies have brought about a more sophisticated look and acceptability to the color everyone was once willing to hate. Technology has enabled this color, as well as many others, to permeate all categories of building and furnishing materials, as well as fashion.

Many trade shows are exhibiting shades of red, purple, orange, and pink in values from primary to very washed and faded tones. You’ll also come across blues, from pale grayed to turquoise, to watery hues cast with green overtones and new neutrals tinted with whitened pastels. Manufacturers collaborated to make any designer’s New Year’s color wish come true!

This installation of Tarkett Expressions vinyl composition tile in a daycare facility uses color to great advantage.
Much of the return-to-color trend started in the kitchen with small appliances, whose range has extended in 2003 to include an attention-grabbing array of colors. Tangerine is the hottest color of the moment. And while many consider this color an accent at best, others are embracing orange for other categories. Here’s a rundown on the newest colors on the market;

Orange -- Considered by some to be the hot accent color, it will return to its retro roots by the end of the year as burnt orange or rust.

Blue -- With any downturn in the economy, blue always returns to the forefront. Continue to look for watery blues and ocean blue-greens.

Red -- As delicious as a ripe apple, red will lean towards the blue side of the family.

Pink -- Once considered a shade of red, pink holds it’s own in the color market today. Not as gender specific as it once was, look for pink to become peach.

Green -- After a long, long run in popularity, green is becoming the new neutral.

Brown -- If you can envision coffee, walnut and chocolate, you have the appropriate shade of brown.

Purple -- A color that represents more than Barney the Dinosaur! Purple can be influenced by blue or red, and range in saturation from deep to pale.

Neutrals -- Bisque and white are back in the spotlight. But really, almost any color can be a neutral if it wants to be.

Black & White -- An old standard, but climbing in popularity and importance.

We can only hope that flooring retailers react to the opportunity to enliven their selections and give the consumer a chance to opt for something other than beige. Manufacturers have taken the initiative and washed every category in color, from the very moderate to luxury price points.

Color is an integral element in the new textures and embellishments now available in the marketplace. Metal elements have made their way into soft goods as well as the more durable, permanent-type materials. Manufacturers have also done a great job in devoting merchandising and marketing materials to educate and illustrate the use of their products. You get the total package!

I consider this to be a positive trend toward continued success in our business. There is life in the industry. We just have to make the most of it. Let color be your guiding influence.