Colors of the Pacific Northwest

Wyland Wall mural at the Edgewater Hotel in Seattle.

Choosing a color palette is an important step towards creating a cohesive interior design. Your palette will guide your choices in paint colors, textiles, accessories, and artwork. In fact, a good color palette is the bedrock of a strong design concept.

However, I find that a lot of people have difficulties with choosing colors. As a result, they can play it too safe and stick to whites and beiges, or they go too far with their color choices. Believe me, I have seen some very lurid color combinations!

When it comes to choosing a color palette, an understanding of color theory can be helpful, but is not necessary. After all, color theory is simply a model for color combinations, and is just one of a number of such models out there.

Instead, one of the easiest and most pain-free ways to choose a good color palette is to look to nature.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are spoiled with a munificence of nature right at our doorstep. Just step outside and take note of the colors you see and how they are combined!

Taken from Nature

Below, I have developed six color palettes based on landscapes I have seen in and around Seattle:

The colors of a rhododendron glen in the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle.
The pale pink blossoms of the Pacific rhododendron create a soft romance against deep forest greens.
Colors of the Columbia River Gorge.
The mighty Columbia River has carved its way through the landscape of eastern Washington creating a deep gorge. Wild sage grows abundantly across this arid land of pale colors.
Colors extracted from a rocky outcropping on Mount Rainier.
The geology of the Pacific Northwest is readily apparent in various mountain ranges. Here, a rocky outcropping asserts itself against a pale blue sky in Mount Rainier National Park.
The railway bridge in Ballard, Seattle.
A spring view of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound.
Vistas abound on every corner in the Pacifica Northwest, a result of the varied terrain. Blue mountains reach into the sky in the distance, while golden flowers frame the view.

Applying Nature’s Lessons

A Wyland mural in Seattle of Orcas at the Edgewater Hotel.
Whaling Wall 101 (2019) by Robert Wyland.

This mural above by artist Robert Wyland exemplifies the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Painted with the help of rock legend Eddie Vedder, the mural depicts a pod of the famous Southern Resident orcas swimming in the turquoise waters of Puget Sound. Located on the side of the Edgewater Hotel on the Seattle waterfront, the artwork is almost a natural extension of the real blue-green water below. A splash of red from the Edgewater sign is the manufactured cherry on top this synthesis of the natural and manmade.

Here, Wyland used the colors of the Salish Sea to create a naturalistic work of art. Yet one could do the same to create a cohesive, conceptual interior. As you can see below, I have created a Salish Sea interior concept using the color palette from above.

Interior design concept based on the colors of the Salish Sea - Maison Dumar Interiors Seattle.

Mother Knows Best

Clearly, Mother Nature is the best at choosing the right color pairings. Rarely, if ever, does she get her color combinations wrong!

If you find yourself in a rut trying to create a color story for your interior, or even to choose paint colors for an exterior, you can always turn to nature for a little inspiration!


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