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Friday, January 7, 2011

An Architectural Color Quandry in Carmel-by-the-Sea

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I'm sure I'm not the only one who uses the week between Christmas and New Years to totally check out, am I? I simply stop reading e-mail, doing blog posts, exercising, etc. The one thing I've always done since childhood is to visit Carmel by the Sea sometime during the holidays. The last few years it's been after Christmas. We'll rent a house near the ocean and play around on the beach as well as sight see for a few days. (See my post last year on Storybook architecture and Carmel here).

My husband is very patient about going to Carmel each year even though there are no “guy stuff or stores” there. He patiently drives me up and down each street to ogle the homes and see which remodels got finished from last year, what colors we like and don't like, guessing about the price tags of such homes. Even my two sons have gotten into offering an on the spot critique!

Although the rest of me is on vacation, my eye for looking at colors seems entirely unable to rest. Picking up the local paper, The Pinecone, I noticed an interesting story involving architectural color. It was about a color quandary the city planning commission was having with famed Tiffany's Jewelry. Tiffany's is a newer business to Carmel and is anchored at the street end of their outdoor mall called Carmel Plaza.


Called into question was the desire by Tiffany's to put up awnings on some of their windows in their trademark and iconic blue.

This clashed with the strict color code for Carmel. The code states: Color must be....

"Muted paint colors which blend with the natural surroundings. Bright and primary colors should be avoided. Contrasting colors should be saturated and earthen."

Very specific design/color codes are not unusual for historically unique tourist areas such as Carmel. They also have detailed guidelines for windows, landscape, doors, roofing materials and so on.

Tiffany trademark blue was custom created by Pantone and given the number 1837, which is the year Tiffany was founded.

Not all storefronts possess the decorative awnings as seen here.



Madrid, Spain

Beverley Hills

Notice the beige awnings instead of blue here?

Union Square San Fransisco

Newer designed stores like this one in Seattle, below, are departing from their well known storefront design and doing away with the blue altogether on the exterior. This is said to be in an effort to feel more accessible and less intimidating to shoppers.

Here is a picture of the storefront in Carmel. Sorry for the poor quality. As you can see, they have a decidedly low key profile with just a smallish sign out front. .... All of which are dictated by Carmel design codes. Outside the Plaza, there are very few chain stores with one of the exceptions being Coach. Obviously not all of the windows would have awnings as some of the windows are too tall for them.

Here is some of the feedback from the commission on the matter:

Plaza operations manger Jim Griffith said his company was OK with the departure from the center’s design rules.

We support the color, even though it’s a bit of an exception,”he said. “It is their marquis color, so it’s hard to consider any other options.”

But Carmel planning and building services manager Sean Conroy disagreed, reminding commissioners that the town often contends with businesses that have signature looks they want to include on their storefronts.The city has tried to avoid these kinds of notice-attracting features,” he said.

Commissioner Steve Hillyard agreed the teal would be too eye-catching, and commissioner Steve Dallas, who said he appreciated the store’s presence in town, suggested OKing just a couple of the awnings.

Chair Janet Reimers liked the color.I think the color is fine,” she said. “I like looking at it, especially on little boxes. I don’t see them very often.”

The commission ultimately voted 4-1 in favor of the blue awnings, with Hillyard dissenting.

By the way, did you have any idea there were so many types of awnings?!

I think a great alternative solution would have been a silver or grayish awning with Tiffany's blue just in a stripe around the base. Not quite as noticeable but still in line with Tiffany's corporate branding. Thinking along the lines of the "Bullnose" stripe style above but in Silver/Blue.

If your city council has a color dilemma, if you own a company that requires some color branding or architectural color solutions, I'd like to help! Please contact me: Marie@ColorMarie.com


Unknown said...

Well who knew there could be so much controversy surrounding the diamond king! haha Wow, your little vacation seems exquisite. I would love to check out during that week but it is always a time of great "catch-up" for me! :(

Unknown said...

i always look forward to your history lessons and city tours- thanks!

Elizabeth Brown said...

I always appreciate a design review committee in any town, let alone one as special as Carmel. But I gotta tell ya, those turquoise awnings look great!

Marie Brady said...

So do I, Elizabeth! I'm rather partial to Tiffany's and their blue! Have you seen this new store design up in your neck of the woods? It just doesn't say Tiffany's to me.

Donna said...

There ARE so many types of awnings! Sounds like a colorful blog post to me. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Your comments are appreciated :-)