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The Power of Color in Self-Storage Facilty Design

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Use of color on building-massing components. Building articulation can often be achieved by the use of large tower elements that house the office component. Contrasting accent colors can be used on these tower elements to differentiate themselves from the colors of surrounding wall planes.

Use of accent colors on building-trim components. Brighter accent colors can often be used on building-trim components, such as fascias and barges at roof edges, storefront glazing systems at the office, and canopies that project over entry doors.

Use of color on roll-up doors. Roll-up doors are everywhere in storage projects. The use of color on these doors is a great opportunity to provide interest in a project. Although most municipalities will not allow doors to be visible from the street, opportunities exist to use colorful, faux “image doors” along the streetscape as a decorative element. Also, window placements on the upper floors of multi-story projects provide the opportunity to show the colorful interior doors in the interior hallways, often with bright accent lighting.

Use of color on roofs. While most storage projects have flat roofs due to their large size, tower elements are often used to articulate the office area, as mentioned above. These tower elements are smaller in mass than the self-storage buildings themselves, providing an opportunity to introduce roofs that can be made of a variety of materials. Metal roofs in particular can use bold colors to create visual interest.

Bressi Ranch Self Storage in Carlsbad, Calif., capitalizes on accent colors to draw attention to its unique design.

Color in Landscaping

The final use of color is often in the hands of the landscape architect. Over the years, landscaping has become an increasingly important part of the design, review and approval process that all projects must go through. It’s now common to have landscape buffers of 20 feet to 30 feet between the street and the buildings.

This area provides a great opportunity to install trees, shrubs, groundcovers and accent flowers that provide an interesting mix of sizes, shapes and colors. A good example of complementary design/landscaping interface is the use of brightly colored red and purple bougainvillea shrubs on tradition Mediterranean-themed projects in California and Florida. In just about any type of project design, the green color of trees in spring and summer, as well as the reds, yellows and golds of tree leaves in the fall, can be a welcome sight along any streetscape.

Restrictions to Using Color

As a result of the increasing restrictions of design options in many communities, developers and architects are often limited to “safe” design options that blend into the surrounding neighborhood. While staying within the reasonable boundaries of the community context can be a good thing, bold yet attractive architecture is discouraged—and downright difficult to get approved.

As the principal designers of self-storage projects, architects are often directed to take the easy path of earth tones, earth tones and more earth tones. The direction may come from the developer, who wants the review process to be smoother, or it may come by mandate from the reviewing and approving jurisdictional entity. The result is the same in that opportunities for attractive colorful projects are ultimately limited.

The opportunities to push the envelope and strive for more meaningful and interesting self-storage projects are always there, even if somewhat limited by developer design direction or the politics of the design-review process. The imaginative use of color should be an important design consideration at the very start of the design process. The ability to successfully integrate color into the finished product will always result in the better curb appeal that all self-storage owners and operators prefer.

Ariel L. Valli is president and principal architect of Valli Architectural Group, which was founded in 1997 to provide specialized design services to the self-storage industry. Over the course of a 30-year career, Mr. Valli has been involved in 480 completed self-storage projects, primarily in the southwestern United States. Completed projects include numerous award-winners. For more information, call 949.349.1777; visit .

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