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Leatrice Eiseman: It's a Colorful Life!

Design Trends

As guest blogger of specs+spaces® for June, Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Institute, has become an icon of color throughout the world. With her new book Pantone: The 20th Century in Color, recently published, we interviewed Leatrice (also known as Lee) to find out more about her life in color. Here is her story.
Color Sense
The passion for color began early in Lee’s life as she felt inspired by her mother’s sense and use of color. She explains, “My mother was a demon with the paint brush. I would come home from school one day every spring when other mothers were doing spring cleaning, and my mother would have transformed the major living spaces of the house. That was her form of spring cleaning—a new coat of paint on everything that didn’t move, including the upright piano.”
Lee found she had a proclivity for color, combining and choosing combinations, so she pursued both design and psychology in college. “I felt that they were two important paths to understanding how color works and affects us,” she disclosed.
The Business of Color
Color consulting became the hallmark of Lee’s business, consulting clientele with personal image color choices, as well as assisting home buyers with interior and exterior colors. Founding the Eiseman Center for Color Information and Training in 1991 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, Lee has been a color consultant for 30 years, with numerous publications touting her as the “color guru”. She actively consults for all industries, provides training for color and design specialties, and gives color presentations worldwide, showcasing insights into the latest color trends.
Curious about her methods for helping to define color and design trends, hoping to gain more kernels of knowledge I could use in my own color trend analysis, Lee reveals, “It’s a multitude of factors, including gauging the human ‘zeitgeist ‘ at any given time, looking at leading influences such as upcoming films, tracking art collections, pop culture, fashion, global events, travel, cyclical influences, socio-economic influences, lifestyles, new technologies, the food and wellness industry, observation and research and so on. The challenge is putting it all together so that it forms a logical direction.”
Color Gets Personal
As a color expert, Lee works in a vast realm of color throughout the world, creating a wealth of color knowledge at her disposal. With that in mind, I was curious if she had a go-to palette or any favorites among the rainbow. Lee exclaims, “Oh no. I was as experimental as my mother. I loved creating new combinations and it was always fun to create something new and different. So it’s difficult to choose just one color that I can’t live without. It would be difficult for me to function in my color world without a representation of every color family.”
When asked if she has a color that describes her best, she doesn’t hesitate, “Purple. Especially the red purples. I have to keep my energy up—that’s the red side, as well as staying cool and composed—the blue side. Together they make purple—a good balance of warm and cool, some complexity because of the marriage of cool and warm opposites, striving for creativity and some uniqueness.”
What’s Next?
Lee, always on the run, explains what her calendar looks like for the foreseeable future, “I am a multi-tasker (not always a good thing) so I have another book I am working on (maybe two), working on the trends for 2014, travel to London, Paris and South Africa and preparing for a summer color/design class that I teach on Bainbridge island.” What a colorful life!
Lightning Round
- quick insights into the daily life of a color guru
What's your ideal of the perfect day?
Taking a walk with my husband and my Labradoodle, eating the perfect meal (pescatarian—no meat please), completing a task, reading a book or watching a great film—as I said, I am a multi-tasker!!
What's your favorite kitchen gadget?
A vegetable peeler. Simple technology, gets the job done.
What's your favorite design accessory?
In interiors, it would be a piece of art , especially glass. In clothing—shoes, scarves and/or unique jewelry.
Do you have a uniform or "lucky" outfit/something you wear that makes you feel like it'll be a great day?
I love simplicity in design and quality in texture. A cashmere turtleneck and soft wool flannel plants in a favorite color (like aubergine) with an exciting scarf or interesting piece of jewelry is a satisfying outfit that I know I can rely on.
Are you a books or Kindle person?
Books—I still like the “feel’ of a book.
What's your signature fragrance?
I love L’Occitane fragrances. They are fresh and never heavy, especially if a bit citrusy. In flowers, it is the scent of the lilac or jasmine.
What's your favorite meal?
As my diet consists mainly of vegetables, grains, olive oil, nuts, seeds and fruits I especially enjoy the clever use of spices and flavorings and sometimes those that might have a bit of exotic flair, such as Indian curries. But I also enjoy or the artful simplicity of Japanese cuisine. Presentation is key—especially in the use of color on the plate.
What's your favorite season?
Spring. The sense of renewal and all of the wonderful colorful surprises that pop off the foliage. I live in the northwest where gardens are magnificent with color, especially in springtime and this is the beginning season of visual treats everywhere.
What's your most prized possession?
Scrapbooks of family pictures.
What's your last splurge?
We rented a fabulous home on the river and taking our entire family to Lake Tahoe for a fun vacation. We all pitched in making the dinners and lunches, played silly games, hiked, went boating, swimming and even spotted a big brown bear. Fortunately, he didn’t see us.
What's your favorite vacation spot and why?
Italy is my favorite place to visit. Although we go there annually for the Salone del Moblier in Milan, we always manage to take a few days on Lake Como. We love the area, the cuisine, the styling, the charm and architecture. Bellisimo!!

Photography courtesy and permission of Leatrice Eiseman