Emily Kiker Morrow: an interview with Residence Magazine Shanghai, China on Color & Design Research

Here’s a direct link to the magazine article.

Residence Magazine Color Article May 2013

Check out Anderson’s website at: www.andersonfloors.com

A history rich in beautiful things is being rediscovered in China.
A history rich in beautiful things is being rediscovered in China.



Residence Magazine, Shanghai, China is a well-respected China-based shelter and design magazine. During my last trip to China, Residence Magazine and Anderson Floors of Asia co-hosted a design summit and following the event, we had a great interview. Hope you enjoy the results, in English and also in Chinese.

Q: You`ve said that you are an interior designer first and you are tuned in to what is necessary and what is special. So, Which point do you think is the most necessary or special in the design?

A: As an interior designer, my first responsibility is to my client and their primary needs. Generally someone hires a professional interior designer with the expectation that that they have expert knowledge of the best materials, the very latest design trends, ability to carefully combine cutting-edge color combinations without going beyond the limits of what is “tasteful”, and knowledge of the newest products available, possibly wanting the most exclusive products as well (ex. flooring, furniture, fabric, paint, appliances etc) to help them avoid making costly mistakes in their design project.

With that in mind, as a product designer, my mission, as an interior designer first, is to make certain our new products are designed with the latest and most stylish visuals, either through texture, patterns, colors and quality. In the event that the products are hardwood floors, then it’s my responsibility to already know what wood species are pairing best with the newest furnishings, what types of wood are responsibly sourced and most-desired by consumers, and of course understanding what type of homes or rooms these products will be installed in. To answer your question “which point is most necessary in the design?” I’d have to say “all of them” but if we get the basics right, then everything does tend to work much better and easily.

Q: When were you interested in color research?

A: As a “color expert” looking back in my professional years as an interior designer, I believe I became fascinated with “color theory” in college. I’d experienced firsthand what colors can do to me as a consumer, choosing not to buy a car solely because of its color.

Q: In your opinion, what is the relationship between color and interior design?

A. Once I began to study color theory and the psychology of color, I began to understand that color can be a very effective tool in my career as an interior designer. Color alone can cause a person’s blood pressure to become lower or can actually cause the heart rate to beat more slowly. If a home or a healthcare facility is to be an area where the people should feel calm and cared for, then knowledge of color would be essential.

Q: As we all know, color trends impact all consumer goods. But what creates a trend?

A: Before we talk about what causes a trend, I must emphasize that the reader understand the difference between a “trend” and what is “trendy”. Trendy is something that’s popular and doesn’t necessarily stay popular for a long time. Trends are something that can be observed in the stock market, in people’s preferences for designer brands, and colors as well. Color trends are caused by many things: economic and political unrest or stability, social causes can start and sustain a trend and a famous public figure can start a trend. The gray color trend began initially in 2007 when Christian Dior’s Fall Runway collection was entirely gray. The following spring, The Kips Bay Designer Showhouse in NY featured several very stylish interiors in all gray and silvered metallics. The trend was further augmented by the fact that gray interiors were being used in popular movies and television shows. Once a color such as gray is used in “commitment” products like hardwood floors, cabinets, or even gray-veined marble floor tiles, then the color expert knows this color will be around for many years.

Q: What do you think about the color trends this year? Why the bright color will be popular in the future?

A: The color trends for the next few years can be categorized in three ways, “brights”, “tinted off-whites” and “jewels”. The “back drop” for color trends is also very important. The walls, the floors and large case-good pieces or cabinetry are what I refer to as the “back drop”. Whites, off-whites and pastels are entering the interiors marketplace and can be found in tri-color combinations. An ideal example could be this: buttery off-white, robin’s egg blue, and pistachio green. These are very creamy colors and do not compete against one another in an interior. Jewel tone colors such as sapphire blue, emerald green and ruby red are the best-known jewel tones but there are others. Teal, although not directly associated with actual precious jewels, is a very important interior color in interiors all over the world. Teal works easily with several different colors such as gray, but also can bring “brightness” into a space without being too strong or overpowering.

We just discussed the fact that gray has made its way into new hardwood floor colors and paint colors for the walls, serving as the perfect “neutral” backdrop for a bright accent color such as a vivid yellow to be used in areas like rugs, throw pillows, wall art, and small accent pieces. The “bright colors” like chartreuse, hot pink, and neon yellow always look best in small increments against a large neutral back-drop.

Q: Are the trends the same or different between western and eastern? Do you like the color in traditional Chinese interior design works?

A: There are few similarities between Eastern and Western interiors. I have been invited into many homes during my travels to China. Many Eastern homes have white walls with very little color unless there’s some hard wood flooring. Typically Western homes use color, but it’s very specific. A lot of Western homes once had mostly “beige walls and beige carpet” especially during the time period in the 1990’s to early 2000’s. New homes were bought and sold quickly, “flipped”, for a nice profit and were generally not considered to be a personal statement. There’s been a recent shift in Western homes since the economy has enjoyed steady improvement. Westerners are feeling more optimistic about their futures and want to brighten their interiors. They do not want to “flip” their homes as so many did in the 90’s and today making a personal statement through the use of colors and design styles.

Q: Are there any rules about the use of color in the interior design?

A: I really hesitate to say there are “rules” about the use of color in interior design but it’s something very important question to ask. There’s that quote “rules are made to be broken”…so there are going to be rules about using color and also exceptions to consider. My advice on using colors effectively is to consider the human eye and remember that it automatically goes to the brightest colors first, bright yellows or reds. Color Theory teaches that colors are either “advancing or receding” colors. Yellows and Reds are advancing colors so a “little goes a long way”. Look at a color wheel and see what the primary, secondary and even the tertiary colors are. Colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel, analogous colors, can be very pleasing. Complementary colors are those directly across the wheel and are combinations like Blue and orange, red and green, yellow and purple. If these colors are adjusted in lightness, they also make beautiful color combinations, for example preppy pink and green.

Q: Which color do you like the best? What colors did you choose in your own house?

A: My personal favorite color is “green”, almost any value. Green is the color of nature and calms the senses as well as represents “sustainability” which is important in my line of work. My home has many colors, but they’re very subtle. My walls in the family room and kitchen areas are “pewter gray” and my furnishings are dark chocolate, pewter gray and a pair of “apple green ikat pillows.

Q: What kind of lifestyle do you like? Natural? Colorful? Casual? Or a special lifestyle that you create by yourself?

A: Today, most people enjoy a very casual and natural lifestyle. Most families are busy with both parents working away from the home so when they are home, they don’t want to be bothered with “high maintenance” floors. Colors are generally muted in the casual home with taupe, gray-greens, and various shades of blue. These taupe and gray-based colors are known for their ease in keeping clean and the blues are psychologically soothing and calming after a busy day at work.

Q: Please say something you want or something about your studies which lets readers know more about the colors and color trends. Thank you very much.

A: Interior design and color trends are integrally connected. You simply cannot have one without the other. Today’s best “designs” include so many things mixed together. What separates a design professional from the others is the pro’s ability to bring the different design styles together, traditional or contemporary, together while clearly reflecting the client’s taste and personal interests.

Thank you very much!

Emily Kiker Morrow, Interior Designer Allied Member ASID



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