Minimal contrast makes thinking easier for those who are easily distracted. Use medium-range colors instead of light and dark.
By my third meeting with John, we were both frustrated. He was a young professional man who called me because his mother and girlfriend had thrown up their hands—they couldn’t get him to make decisions either. He was unfocused and seemed to find fault with everything I showed him, even when he’d said it was what he wanted. I sighed, and looked around . . . and had an “ah-ha!” moment. I scheduled a meeting for the next day—for which I printed black-and-white photos of his interiors, did sample boards of paint and fabrics—and we sat in the corner of a coffee shop where he had no visual distractions. In under an hour he signed off on the plan and the project began.
He had ADHD—a successful idea man who left the details to others. His home was a 1950s ranch with light walls, dark floors and stained wood trim. The contrast of all those dark window and doorframes against white was so distracting that he could not think! Dark colors with white trim are opposite yet produce the same result—lots of contrasting lines running both directions and looking jumbled.
Have you ever noticed the letters “LRV” followed by a number on a paint chip? It stands for “light reflectance value” and indicates how much light the paint color reflects—or not—back into the room.
White and very light tints have a high number—an LRV of 93 will reflect 93% of the available light. A deep, dark color may be in the teens or lower—an LRV of 17 will reflect 17%, and absorb 83%, of the light.
Some people are energized by high contrast and drama, taking grand pleasure in bold colors. Others enjoy color as long as the contrast is minimal. In John’s case, the high contrast created what I call “visual static,” and it was simply too much for him.
We chose khaki walls, creamy painted woodwork, and light oak floors. I lightened the dark elements, and darkened the light elements. Instead of having color values at 90 and 15, his are now 26, 41, and 54. He loves his home, finding it easy to relax, to pay attention when he must, and let his mind roam when he can.