Church.Design interview with Ashley Schlicht by Keith Loria

Image: Pantone

Image: Pantone

The Pantone Color Institute recently announced its 2019 Color of the Year, with Living Coral taking the honor.

“It is a guide that forecasts the popular colors in design,” says Amy Wax, an international color consultant. “The Color of the Year can also serve as inspiration to see what colors would be great to tie into décor and focal pieces of a church.”

Numerous factors are considered when selecting the Color of the Year. The goal is to capture “what’s in the year” and offer insights on how prevalent colors are shifting.

“We travel globally and research extensively as we pick up cues that emerge in seemingly disparate industries that can signal a direction for a given color family,” Pantone explains on its website. “As we cull through this information and find commonalities in color, we also give a lot of thought to how people select paint colors and which colors are most applicable for their needs while remaining mindful of the color trends of years past.”

Getting to know Living Coral

Living Coral was chosen for its “animating and life-affirming” hue which “energizes and enlivens with a softer edge,” according to Pantone’s official descriptions.

“Living Coral emits the desired, familiar and energizing aspects of color found in nature. In its glorious, yet unfortunately more elusive display beneath the sea, this vivifying and effervescent color mesmerizes the eye and mind,” the company's website reads. “Lying at the center of our naturally vivid and chromatic ecosystem, Pantone Living Coral is evocative of how coral reefs provide shelter to a diverse kaleidoscope of color.”

In reaction to the onslaught of digital technology and social media increasingly embedding into daily life, Pantone representatives assert that people are seeking authentic and immersive experiences that enable connection and intimacy. Living Coral is a nurturing color that appears in natural surroundings and, at the same time, displays a lively presence within social media.

“The vibrant, yet mellow hue embraces with warmth and nourishment to provide comfort and buoyancy in a continually shifting environment,” the company's website reads. “Sociable and spirited, the engaging nature of Living Coral welcomes and encourages lighthearted activity. Symbolizing our innate need for optimism and joyful pursuits, Living Coral embodies our desire for playful expression.”

Utilizing the Color of the Year in church design

The Color of the Year can be a valuable tool for helping designers when working on church projects.

Ashley Schlicht is an interior designer and project director who is very involved in interiors, colors and finishes for church projects done by Kansas City, Mo.-based architecture firm Mantel Teter, “After graduating from the University of Kansas in 2005 with a degree in architecture, I joined the team at Mantel Teter. In 2011, I started focusing exclusively on the color and material selections for our clients,” she says. “I have worked with dozens of churches since then … every one of them different in their personal approach to ministry and therefore different in their approach to design, as well.”

Her favorite part about what she does is seeing interior design, fashion and art all go hand in hand.

“When a trend is emerging in design, artists in all trades are quick to focus on ways to make it work in their expertise,” Schlicht says. “While the color is obviously vibrant, when it is paired with the right colors and materials, it can also feel very warm and inviting.”

Schlicht feels the Color Harmony palettes that Pantone uses on their website is an extremely helpful tool for designers, and she finds herself drawn to the Focal Point Harmony group for Living Coral.

“I think these colors coordinate well and would be a great way to stay mostly neutral while also having some dynamic areas of color,” she says. “I could see Living Coral being used in accent chairs or pillows in a foyer, for a small accent wall in an office or as vibrant art work in a youth space.”

Of course, color is such a personal choice and Schlicht has sat in countless meetings where church clients have felt incredibly passionate about the colors utilized.

“Study after study has been done concerning the mood and behaviors that certain colors can evoke from both children and adults,” she says. “I always try to be conscious about my color selections, especially in large gathering spaces and children’s areas. Most times a little bit of a vibrant hue like Living Coral can go a long way in making a fresh statement.”

While Living Coral is obviously being used by designers in current and relevant applications, this color still evokes a retro feel for her.

”So while it might not be trendy for a large, consecutive number of years, I find design trends tend to cycle back around,” Schlicht says. “What was popular in previous decades always has a way of coming back into style … for fashion, art and interior design, as well.”

Wax has worked on several spaces for churches and says it’s always an interesting place to design for, because it has its own vibe and set of requirements.

“More than anything else, the space has to feel personal, even when you’re with a crowd,” she says. “The color in a church shouldn’t interfere with your sense of being in a personal space.”

For that reason, most colors she uses in churches are understated.

“I find the Living Coral is a beautiful color because it’s warm and friendly, and in church settings, I would use it as an accent color, maybe on the seats,” Wax says. “It something that feels refreshing and uplifting.”

Because it’s a feel-good color, other places in a church the color would work well, in her opinion, are rooms designed for kids or community activities.

“It doesn’t feel like it’s stodgy or old-fashioned, it feels fresh, new and light-hearted,” Wax says. “Therefore, it’s perfect for places that are peripheral spaces and rooms where there are more conversations.”