Color Works

The experts weigh in on the business of color

We spoke with Kartell’s chairman and owner, Claudio Luti, about how the 60-year-old company keeps its products—from chairs, lighting and sofas to a new line of plastic shoes and rain boots—fresh and inspiring.

Q: How were you able to elevate the status of polycarbonate from being thought inexpensive to innovative? Kartell products are a mix of creativity and technology, glamour and functionality, quality and innovation. Ongoing evolution in the use of materials and experimentation with new technologies are essential for the development of Kartell goods. Thanks to this ongoing research, it has been possible to elevate the status of polycarbonate and similar 
plastic materials by introducing satin finish, clarity, flexibility, resistance to atmospheric agents, 
softness and a pleasing feel.

Q: How can a traditional interior incorporate a piece from the Kartell line? Kartell goods are easy to use, and they can be matched with any style and interior—traditional or contemporary—thanks to their great multifunctionality and versatility. Our products express the language and 
atmosphere of the period in which they were created, but at the same time are contemporary objects. All this has made them integral parts of the domestic scene.

Q: What do you think attracts the American consumer to your products: the design or the color? Our consumers, Americans as well as Europeans or Asians, are attracted by the magical combination of design, color and shape of Kartell products. But I’d also add quality, durability and multifunctional use.

Q: What role does fashion play in the color selection for a line? Kartell collections are not influenced by fashion or fashion trends. We select and choose colors that are best suited to each type of product or plastic material.

Q: What is the process for choosing colors for a line? How involved are the collaborating designers, such as Philippe Starck or Antonio Citterio, in color choices of their designs? Usually, designers propose a range of colors that are also discussed and chosen according to business needs. Each designer, of course, has his or her own taste and preference about colors. For example, Patricia Urquiola loves bright, shiny nuances; Bouroullec is fond of soft, old-style colors; Meda always selects pastel colors.

Q: What is your favorite color and what is your least favorite color and why? I love all colors. There is not a favorite one, nor a least favorite. It depends on how a color is matched with a specific product.

Q: What colors do your surround yourself with in your home? I live in a historical building, where antiques and plastic pieces are mixed and matched. I love colors, so they are very present in any room of my house. Most of all, I prefer to surround myself with warm colors.



Susan Klope, lead designer of the Per Se collection, available through Carlisle showrooms, gives us the inside scoop on what inspires her designs, how to incorporate color into your wardrobe, and what she’ll be wearing this spring.

Q: Where does fashion get its color inspiration? For me, color is an emotional trigger and my design is driven by emotion. Inspiration comes from everywhere. For example, I just returned from Barcelona and Gaudi’s architecture will be impossible to block out as I design. While it won’t be a literal translation, the inspiring colors and organic shapes will certainly be an inspiration for spring and summer.

Q: How much influence does the “color of the year” (honeysuckle) have on what you design? I go by instinct and if a trend color plays into that, then so be it, but it’s not where I start in the thinking process. At Carlisle and Per Se, we are a large collection with a broad and diverse clientele, so to focus on one color would limit us.

Q: What are your most favorite and least favorite colors? My favorite color would be the diverse spectrum of blues, from the moody colors of the sky to the Gauguin-like blues of the seas and tropics, and I don’t have a least favorite color.

Q: What’s the one piece you can’t wait to buy for spring? The dress I have designed and will be a must in my wardrobe this spring is the DITTO dress. I love it because it speaks a new language with stripes–broad maxi stripes to micro stripes in all the right places.

Q: How can shoppers incorporate honeysuckle into their wardrobe? Honeysuckle can be played with on many levels this season and with different variations on the hue. Our Brazil dress is a shade that recalls tulips and emerging spring buds. Women can also throw a pop of pink into their wardrobe with our Rio cashmere tie-front cardigan. For those looking to embrace all the colors of spring, the Per Se Kaleidoscope watercolor-print sleeveless blouse is ideal. For a yellow version of honeysuckle, we have created a little jacket called Citron in a washed silk.

Q: What’s one color every woman will look great in this spring? Start with a base line– French vanilla, toffee, coconut, or linen—and then add the right dose of color for you. Color for the individual isn’t about what is trendy, but about what truly looks wonderful on each woman. This season you’ll see an amazing assortment of blues that work on many women.



The owner of London’s Paint & Paper Library and designer of the Stark Paint color palette, David Oliver talks about his favorite color combinations, what he’s using in his home, and how to choose the right colors for yours.

Q: What are the global color trends we’re going to see in the next few years? Bespoke color matching, which creates custom colors, and user-friendly systems for painting architectural elements of a room.

Q: You’re the owner and design director of Paint & Paper Library in London. What differences do you see between Americans and the English in terms of their color selection? Like the South of France or Italy, Americans are not afraid to buy stronger colors than in the UK, where decorators tend to stick to diffused muted palettes that mirror the light and respective climates.

Q: What is it about color selection for the home that sends people into a fearful frenzy? Color is one of the most difficult aspects of decoration to get right, as it has as much to do with light as with pigment, and neither are constant. Colors change according to the light that they are in, the surfaces they are laid upon and the method of application. But there are some easy tools and techniques to help predict the way colors behave that make the process of choosing color less stressful.

Q: What kinds of colors do you surround yourself with in your own home? This year I’m moving to a regency town house in central London, which will have a chocolate brown lacquered hall; tobacco slate gray paneled dining room; moss green silk velvet, gilt and turquoise drawing room; white and deep mustard cashmere bedroom; and a gessoed hessian and indigo guest room.

Q: I’ve read that you paint the inside of a shoebox with clients’ paint choices. How does this help in their color selection? A common mistake is to choose a color from a small 2D swatch for a 3D room. The shoebox or storage box or any container that can easily be prepared for painting is more realistic, and can help us visualize and re-create the light conditions in a full-scale room. I collect potential fabrics, wallpapers and carpet samples and place them inside to see how they might behave in a room together.

Q: What can homeowners do to ensure they choose the right colors for their home? We all make decorating decisions each day, so I like to begin with trying colors and textures you like wearing. By all means, seek second opinions, but what you like and feel comfortable with will be the most satisfying and successful. No color operates in isolation—it is impossible to pick a wrong one, for all colors can be corrected in combination.

Q: What is your favorite and least favorite color for the home? My favorite color combination is yellow/green and gilver (50 percent silver, 50 percent gold) with greige, and my least favorite is scrambled egg solar yellow and navy blue.