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Using Art to Create Sense of Place: 4 Color Palettes Inspired by Famous Paintings

As summer approaches and schools let out for the year, it’s time to start thinking about vacation. And while many will take the opportunity to enjoy beaches, theme parks, and camping sites, there’s another vacation attraction that will not only give you a break from the everyday but can also help inspire your next design. Whether you’re a regular at your local gallery or haven’t stepped foot inside an art museum since elementary school field trips, you should consider squeezing in some art appreciation to your upcoming vacation.

We’ve gathered four of the most famous paintings in the world to show you exactly why. The colors, texture, and movement of these masterpieces provide the perfect jumping off point for thinking about your next design. And each of these pieces beautifully lends itself to a different type of space or style.

Coffeehouse Chic: The Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci

Even if you’ve never set foot in the Louvre, you’ve probably admired the lit-from-within glow and enigmatic smile of Da Vinci’s master work. From the exquisite brushwork to the mystery surrounding its subject, The Mona Lisa has captivated art lovers for over 500 years. And the painting’s warm, earthy tones are the perfect inspiration for a cozy gathering space like a hotel coffee shop. Just looking at that color palette, we can almost smell the beans roasting already.

Flights of Fancy: Starry Night by Van Gogh

It’s easy to get lost in the swirling lights of Van Gogh’s most famous painting, and the surreal rendering of trees, hills, and churches invites viewers to imagine fantastical landscapes. Which is why it’s the perfect inspiration to draw on when designing for an airport or other transportation hub. The dreamy, dynamic quality of the strokes renders a vision in motion that echoes the racing clouds outside an airplane window or streaking landscape as a train races across the country.

Health and Harmony: Monet’s Water Lilies

Monet created over 200 paintings in his Water Lilies series and the massive canvases depicting the garden in his backyard decorate the walls of museums the world over. For decades, the artist returned to his garden, daubing meditative strokes onto canvas to create works that seem to move with the lazy flow of a pond. Water Lilies is wonderful inspiration for a healthcare design where its soothing colors and natural subject can help stressed staff and patients relax, leading to more positive outcomes.

Romantic Rendezvous: The Kiss by Gustav Klimt

There’s nothing quite as dynamic and electrifying as love and Klimt’s gold-toned rendering of a couple’s embrace perfectly captures the feeling. The discordant patterns of the man and woman meld with an almost glowing background until they become almost a single being. What could be better for inspiring the design of a luxurious honeymoon suite or romantic getaway spot? Vibrant greens and reds excite passion while warm golds and yellows will give guest all the warm and fuzzy feelings of a loving embrace.

Surprise, Delight, and Inspire: Edvard Munch’s The Scream

Edvard Munch’s disturbing work, commonly known as The Scream, may seem like an unlikely inspiration for a design but if you’ve ever felt the nearly electric shock of a great idea hitting you, then you know that inspiration isn’t always comfortable. And when we focus in on Munch’s palette for this work, we can easily see the seeds of an inspiring design. The shades of brown and black literally ground the viewer at the forefront of the piece as bright orange and dark blue create swirling movements like the machinations of a wild imagination. The orange becomes a focal point that draws our thoughts to less concrete and more innovative ideas, perfect for a corporate environment searching for the next game-changing strategy or product.

Have any of your designs been inspired by famous works of art? What’s your favorite painting? Let us know in the comments!

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