Touchy Topic Tuesday: A Jaundiced View

I’ve been spreading a lot of yellow around these days.

The latest Practical Bodywork space design project is a north-facing nursery, designed to evoke the Hundred Acre Wood. When mama and I sat down in the room with roughly 200 color swatches, it became clear that the background had to be ‘Peach Tickle,’ which leaped out at both of us. When held against each wall, this particular yellow seemed to create light rather than pulling it in, as all the others did.

Another recent project, Maria’s physical therapy gym, also required a lot of yellow–in an entirely different shade (Apricot Mousse). Ditto with my daughter’s bedroom (Resort Sunwash), my bodywork studio (Summer Wheat, hand-sponged), and my kitchen in Brooklyn (Butternut and Goldfish). Each of these yellows were radically different from one another when placed side-by-side, and each room has a totally different affect. But every one of the walls declared, upon first encounter, “I must be yellow.”

Which is strange, because yellow doesn’t even make my top ten favorite colors. Goethe has some choice words on the subject.

As I discovered during two decades of painting light, however, when you under-paint a canvas with a member of the yellow family, the finished painting appears to glow. And when you have a room for playing, or cooking, or working out, yellow is warm and lively without being too aggressive.

"Piano Bench," oil on wood, 1997, private collection
“Piano Bench,” oil on wood, 1997, private collection

And my therapy room?

Well, the other major factor is Compact Fluorescent Bulbs. Many of the artists in my network are hoarding incandescent bulbs, against the day when they’re no longer on the market. The technology of energy-efficient bulbs has come a long way from institutional tube lighting that flickers, badly enough to cause seizures in the susceptible and headaches in the rest of us.

But most compact fluorescents are still visually chilly. They’re much farther toward the blue end of the spectrum than incandescent bulbs. The human nervous system, when it comes home, wants to snuggle around a virtual campfire, not wander around the energetic equivalent of a convenience store or a hospital corridor. So the yellow on the walls is compensating for the blue in the fixtures.

What are your thoughts on fluorescent bulbs? Do they bother you? What do you do about it?