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Forget the Beige Walls

Color in the workplace - lots of it - is the latest way to stay cool and creative.

Lizard-lime green. Pink bubblegum. The new shades of the latest iMac or the Volkswagen Beetle? Would you believe the color of your office cubicle?

"I think that, like fashion, color is a trend in design," says designer Alena D.R. Stone, of Honolulu-based AM Partners. "Just recently, within the past 10 to 15 years, bolder colors have been introduced into the work environment."

Trend or not, there is some method to this color palette madness. "I think brighter hues inspire and motivate individuals. Many innovative offices, especially on the mainland, experiment with bolder and brighter colors in their workspaces," says Stone. "Many advertising, graphic, and computer graphic offices use those types of color in their office design."

Details, details, details: Splashes of color from Communications-Pacific vibrant office.

What’s the most effective way to add color into the workspace? According to Stone, color can be used to accent walls, in office furniture, in the flooring, and also in the finished materials used in the space. But it doesn’t stop there. Color is sneaking its way into the office by way of staplers, file cabinets and cubicle dividers. Open up any office product catalog, and chances are you’ll be able to order a new pair of scissors in your choice of candy apple red, blueberry, or grape.

And while it used to be that desktops and screensavers were the only thing even remotely colorful about a computer, Apple, a couple years ago, introduced the world to the iMac. With your choice of six different colors, technological gadgets, such as the iMac and the handheld marvel Palm Pilot, seem to take on a personality of their own.

Mark Wilson, who sells Apple computers at CompUSA’s Ala Moana Boulevard store, says it isn’t just the computers that have gone color crazy. "Nowadays, practically all the peripherals come in a variety of colors. Mice, scanners, printers, zip drives, you name it," he says. Colorful Palm Pilots, especially, have been hot.

It used to be that bold and bright tones were reserved for louder, more congested spaces, such as shopping centers and restaurants.

However, Kitty Lagareta, CEO of Communications-Pacific, has an alternate theory.

"Personally I think color enlivens an environment. I really think it has a big impact on how you work," says Lagareta. "A lot of my staff are creative, they’re constantly thinking, strategizing, developing, and so on ... so I wanted to create an energizing place."

In what may be the most creative office space in the state, Communications-Pacific’s penthouse suite tears down all conventional boundaries, featuring life-sized murals, green rubber frogs, and oversized holographic fishing-lure streamers as contemporary office décor. "I wanted to steer away from the traditional corporate environment," says Lagareta. "We did some feng shui, and experimented with color. People in Hawaii are invigorated by the ocean, so we did an ocean theme with blues and greens that create a calming, soothing effect."

But what works in a public relations and marketing firm may not be appropriate for, say, an investment banker. Would you really want someone who is managing your $100,000 portfolio surrounded by lime green walls and baby blue file cabinets?

"Color will play a large part in an effective and pleasant environment," says Allison A. Holland, owner of Creative Decorating. "Color schemes, for example, in a lawyer’s office should be sophisticated, timeless, trusting. Inspiring and contemporary tones might be used in an advertising corporation. For a hospital room, shades of pastels that create a calming, quieting, reassuring mood is appropriate."

But color alone isn’t enough. Says Alena Stone: "The use of color is endless when paired off with a great imagination!"

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Hawaii Business,September