Color theory, Leadership

Finding her true colors

This short story might ring some bells for you. Maybe there are experiences here you recognize. Not everybody’s colors are as bright and strong as the woman in this story, but everybody has their colors. The ones that work with them and allow them to be their best selves.


She was born with all the colors of the rainbow. A radiant shimmering spectrum of wonder. She reveled in it, swam in it, shone with it. Everybody who saw her was struck by the glow she emanated, wanted to be near it, felt it.

When she was two years old she started going to the local kindergarten. There was paint and easels and huge sheets of paper. She wanted to create wonderful images, but her stupid small fingers couldn’t hold the brush right and nothing came out the way she wanted it. She tried to mix paint in the jam jars – she knew red and white made pink but when she added white paint to the jar of red it looked almost the same, just a bit thicker. The blue and yellow made a horrible green. Why wasn’t it working? She wept bitter tears of disappointment as she looked at the mess she had created.

On another day they played with modeling clay. The teacher unwrapped the perfectly formed neat lines of color. The strange smell made her wrinkle her nose and the texture felt strange and silky. She pulled off small knobs of turquoise and crimson and buttercup yellow. She loved the colors. And couldn’t believe it when after 30 minutes of the children playing with the clay they had been muddied together into a nasty brown. How had that happened? Why had all the color been lost?

Over the years, she had various experiences. The strict teacher in 3rd grade who had told her off for underlining her titles in purple. “That just looks silly,” she admonished, “That’s not how we do things. You have to do it properly.” The trouble she got into for wearing a red cardigan in secondary school. The appalled reaction of the headwaiter at her Saturday job as a teenager when he discovered that her white shirt had a blue trim that she had hidden inside her waistband (it had slipped out). The raised eyebrows in the corporate office when she strayed out of the usual navy and white garb of her colleagues.

Bit by bit her colors were reduced. She felt her spectrum narrowing but couldn’t see what else to do. This seemed to be what the world required of her. Tasteful home furnishings so people felt relaxed in her house. A boring colored car so it didn’t have a lower resale value. She painted her fridge and everybody was shocked. “You can’t do that!” said one visitor after the other. “Nobody paints their fridge.” She tried to explain that it was the wrong color but they just laughed at her naiveté. At work she was reduced to wearing brightly colored knickers as a small token of her truth under the corporate mask. Even when she had babies she quickly experienced the pink / blue tyranny of baby clothes. She made her own to get around it but felt uncomfortable with all this going against the grain.

Society wanted to mush her into muddy brown, the same as the children had with the modeling clay. It didn’t shut her down directly but years of polite surprise, suppressed distaste and limited shopping options were taking their toll. Muddy brown fading to beige with age. Inoffensive, unnoticeable. Becoming an almost invisible woman.

She woke up. Just like that, one day she woke up. This is not me, she realized with a shock. These tiny rebellions and running back under cover when they are challenged. I want to live in my colors. My true colors. They don’t need to be the same as anybody else’s. They don’t need to be invisible.

From that moment she started changing things. If she wanted to wear colors that people thought were inappropriate, she did it with confidence. Let them think what they will, or maybe reconsider their point of view. She bought a car in her favorite color and painted the sitting room and her fingernails and the fridge exactly the colors she wanted. She stepped into her own color leadership and was slightly surprised when people started asking her opinion about color. Forget the muddy brown modeling clay, here she was, back in her true colors and loving it. Feeling more alive and more herself. Channeling her power and rediscovering her radiance.


So what next?

Maybe you are now interested in discovering your own true colors. The colors that will give you your power. That will allow you to shine and thrive in the way that is true to you.

How though?

Basically you have two options. Ask an expert or work it out for yourself. Which is your best choice will depend on how much time you have vs how much money. It will also depend on your personality type. I am curious and a life long learner, so I chose to study with Angela Wright (the number one color guru) to understand this myself. You might not need that. I don’t need it in other areas of my life – I haven’t studied dentistry or law for example, I let others do those things for me. It’s just that this tickled my interest.

If you go for the first option, all you need to do is find an adviser that you trust and book a consultation with them. If I do this I would spend half a day with the individual, understanding their personality and physical characteristics. Then half a day developing their color palette followed by half a day reviewing their wardrobe and home / workplace with them.

Children, Spaces

Caring Color

A case study about making conscious color choices in a pre-school daycare facility

The first thing that struck me about Kate and Cher when I talked to them about the pre-school they were planning to open, was how strongly they cared about the ethos of what they were doing. They are passionate about offering a creative environment for babies and pre-school children. One which not only keeps safe for the day but also stimulates them to thrive.

As soon as they talked to me about their plans I wanted to have a say in the colors. Luckily they were open to the idea and we started to talk about what they stood for, what atmosphere they wanted to encourage and the functions of the different spaces. We all agreed that the colors should be warm, progressive and hold the space. We decided to avoid the lighter pastels and bright primaries often associated with children’s facilities and instead take a more thoughtful approach.

With a good sense of what they wanted to achieve I set about building a palette. Although thereBe 1a (2) are several different spaces in the facility requiring differences in look and feel, a key base colour was identified to run throughout and keep the continuity of the space.  I chose a pale green, the color of healing and universal acceptance – making a lot of sense in a nursery that aims to be a good space for children from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures.


For the entrance to the nursery, where there is a reception area that will also serve the Adult Learning Centre, we wanted to create more vibrancy. A warm welcome, especially for children on dark winter mornings.

Be 1 entrance (2)I suggested adding burnt orange – to stimulate appetite (for life, for learning, for lunch) and a rich teal to encourage brain activity (learning, considering). The team were enthusiastic about this bold approach. When you are choosing colors for a space that will be passed through rather than one where a lot of time will be spent, you can afford to increase the intensity.

Baby area

Be 1 baby (2)Next was the baby zone. For the facing wall of the main room I selected a peachy pink to create a feeling of caring while staying true to the Group III color palette we were following. Pink involves a sense of being held, reminding us at a primal level of being in the womb. However once we are out in the world, too much pink can feel cloying rather than cosseting so it is best to restrict its use to a feature wall rather than a whole room. Be 2 babyFor the rest of the main room we used the green base color (calm, healing). One part of the room is a low, cave like space with LED lights. Just the kind of space my own children would have loved to crawl into when they were small. I suggested a forest green for here, and for the adjacent sleeping room, to create a sense of deep peace and cosy darkness.

Children’s Area

Be 1 toddler (2)The other main area is for 2-4 year olds and this will be much more active. Again the base green was used and we introduced a paler blue. Blue stimulates brain activity so is great for any learning or thinking environment. A light blue like this keeps the thinking at a more airy level – more blue sky thinking than accountancy procedures. Part of the space
is like a tree house so I introduced teal again – the same color as in the reception area – at a low level to give more depth and grounding strength. There is a lot of natural wood in the space which balances the palette with more yellow/orange tones, not to mention all the toys and activity materials – and the children themselves – ensuring it doesn’t feel too cool.

Rest of the space

Be 2 loo

For other rooms such as kitchen, staff room, cloakroom, toilets etc we drew from the same palette of colors to ensure harmony between spaces..

For example I added one orange feature wall in the kitchen to stimulate appetite and light blue in the bathrooms. For all the ‘white’ areas – ceilings, window frames, skirting boards, I selected a warm off-white. It was a subtle shift from white but Cher, who will run the facility, immediately understood how it helped. Lastly we identified flooring that would complement the walls and support the color scheme.

It was a bold palette and I wondered how they would react. But I needn’t have worried, they ‘felt’ why it was right as soon as they saw the sample chips and once the walls were painted they were even more enthusiastic.

Be 2 sleep

So many of our public spaces end up being white, or maybe magnolia. Yet we can do so much more to support the activities going on in the space and, in this case, the staff and children who will spend many hours there. Walls have to be painted anyway, so why not paint them a color that helps?

I was so happy to hear them explain to me how it had given them greater distinctiveness and gives a clear message to prospective parents coming to see if they want to register their children that this is a place that cares, that isn’t afraid to innovate, that is clear about what matters and that they will do everything they can to create a great environment for the children and staff who will be there.

Be 2 coats a