STIR article - Styles & Techniques: Colors Matter header image
Originally published in STIR®

BY BETH RUTLEDGE

 

Trish Buscemi uses color to help children with cognitive learning challenges and their families create calming, kid-friendly interiors.

During the years that Trish Buscemi’s corporate career was flourishing, her creativity languished like an understudy waiting for the play’s star to call in sick.

“I’ve used color my whole life,” says Buscemi, the owner of Colors Matter, a painting and color consultation company specializing in custom interiors for those with cognitive learning challenges such as ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s, Autism and Down Syndrome. “Now with Colors Matter, we’re using color to help — it’s almost always a creative process.”

Buscemi, mother to an adult child with ADD and Tourette’s, lives in Conroe, Texas, north of Houston. When her sister moved there, too, the pair launched the residential and commercial painting business Two Sisters Painting, which became the springboard for Colors Matter.

Raising a child with special needs has given Buscemi personal insight that enriches her status as a certified color consultant. Beyond understanding light’s impact on a space and the way pigments alter hue, she has first-hand knowledge of how room colors can affect behavior.

“Colors matter. They affect us in every way, every day. They sway moods, provoke thought, stimulate conversation and appetite. They calm us, cheer us, rev us up and even depress us. Color is emotional, cultural, sensory and cognitive,” says Buscemi.

Color beyond aesthetics

“Parents of children with special needs really struggle with color choices,” says Buscemi. During conversations with these clients, she’s often asked to deliver “feelings” along with color recommendations and a finished product. Which colors inspire peace and calm? Which are invigorating and energizing and help stimulate learning? Buscemi believes color affects neuropathways in the brain, creating a biochemical response. Triggering the desired response in the particular individual is key. For example, Buscemi has found that blues, greens and muted brown tones tend to be great choices for both adults and children with ADD and ADHD.

In the four years she’s been helping transform spaces for people with cognitive learning challenges, she’s come to realize that special-needs clients are her passion. “The whole family feels it when rooms aren’t working,” says Buscemi. “So when rooms are working, it’s so rewarding and transformational.”

Long before colors are selected, Trish asks dozens of questions, ranging from how often spaces are used to when lights are turned on to whether a child is artistic, athletic, a gamer or maybe a musician. In a consultation with a boy with Asperger’s, Trish learned that red was a favorite color and one he wanted in his bedroom. But Trish knew that using it on the walls could cause undue agitation. Instead, she suggested a “soothing blue with a yellow stripe. Red was used just in accents.” Trish ensured lighting was well-placed and gentle, and the result was a space where the boy felt comfortable playing, reading and sleeping.

In creating calming, kid-friendly interiors, Buscemi makes a point of talking with parents about the importance of active rooms where it’s okay to be loud or messy. “Rooms where real living can take place are essential,” says Buscemi.

The color of change

The team at Colors Matter has lent their expertise to projects for Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Montgomery County Habitat for Humanity All-Women Build, and Trish is proud to do pro bono work every year for families with kids with cognitive struggles. As research and information about cognitive disorders grows, so does the support community. Colors Matter is tickled pink to be part of it.

After she’s changed the lives of so many through color, you might expect Trish to have a favorite color of her own. She doesn’t, although she has an affinity for Sherwin-Williams Rainwashed (SW 6211), a gray-green hue that’s “versatile and great in a bathroom or on an accent wall.”