Sunday, August 14, 2011

Color Full

I love this large pink wallpaper pattern used against the tiny iridescent tile.

I was criticized recently for implying that "color offends me to the core!" Nothing could be further from the truth, but I can see how a reader might get that idea. I have never explained my love of an all-white palette because it has not always been that way.

Maybe wallpaper, maybe tile but the mix of blue patterns works against bright white.

The navy blue chaise compliments the turquoise pots.

I have been interested in design all my life. As a teen, I redecorated my bedroom every year much to the horror of my mother. I recall a rock-n-roll period with red walls and black trim. A year later I was into my Manhattan Transfer period with green and silver deco wallpaper. My first apartment was a full-on 50's theme using turquoise and pink with zebra trim! Then my Wanda Jackson/Dwight Yoakum phase turned my loft into a full-on vintage cowboy collection. A quick romance changed that decor into mid-century modern (because that was what he liked) with shades of pumpkin and okra accented with retro black furniture... and then I became a retailer.

The large map was obviously the inspiration for this color scheme.

Yellow is one of the hardest colors to get right.
This is used well by keeping it as an accent color.


In 1998 a friend of mine opened a large antique store in the country and she asked me to rent a large space from her and sell some of my stuff. Because she was a full-on interior designer, I knew her store would be a serious mix of lovely things and selling my junk was just not going to stand up to the rest of the store. I decided to jump head first into serious selling and invest into the line of Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic slipcovered furniture. This was purely a business move on my part. Yes, I liked some of the shabby chic look; mostly the faded floral sofas and rusty accessories but at that time the all-white thing was just not my style. But I thought if I was going to carry this line, I needed to be true to what Rachel had intended and carry her style all through my space to help sell the furniture. Rachel's first book had just come out and I devoured it from front to back a dozen times. Those of you who know me know I am not a reader. Turning page after page and reading line after line bores me to tears- I need pictures!! This is one reason I do not know more bloggers or designers because I never read their info, instead I am just memorizing photographs under my magnifier. But this book I read, over and over.

The book that started it all.

Suddenly I found myself shopping for anything that would go with the Shabby Chic fabrics: painted furniture, crusty mirrors, crystal chandeliers, iron candelabras. Once I got into a routine with it, I realized how much easier it was to go to a giant flea market or antique show and sift through all the dark merchandise and hone in on a white item. I got in a groove with it and started to like it all the more. I will always remember one customer walking into my booth for the first time and saying, "Oh my! This is like heaven!" I could see the reaction of the customers and how the white and ivory palette seemed to calm them.

This purple sofa was the first thing I spotted but then I
noticed the lovely, dusty lavender walls.

Suddenly I became known as the Shabby Chic gal but my own home was still dark and rustic (I was in my log cabin/Legends of the Fall stage now!). I eventually, left that first shop and opened Curious Sofa two years later. I decided to take a little of the Shabby Chic palette with me but because I was moving to a downtown area, I added a few urban touches as well. A year later a magazine called and wanted to shoot my house. That was when everything changed. Knowing I had to take full advantage of this press to advertise the store, I repainted my entire house white, ordered a slipcovered sofa, and added Curious Sofa accessories throughout. Afterwards I found myself being calmed by the white style too, so voila, a personal style was born. Throughout the last four years (and after other magazine shoots) I have changed the white walls to tea stained, then to shades of grey, but my neutral palette is still there along with painted furniture and vintage accessories.

There are a lot of bad pink interiors online but this muted version looks great
against the dirty gold bed. Over the top? Maybe, but if the headboard had been
pink also, it would have been all wrong.

Having a specific color palette was crucial to my style at Curious Sofa. Not only was it easier to shop for but it set the tone for my branding. I did use color accents in the shop by always adding accessories or themes based on the season. My explanation was always two things:

1. With a thousand pieces of merchandise to look at in a store, a neutral palette was just easier on the eyes and made the store appear less cluttered.
2. A neutral palette is timeless. Keeping larger items in your home neutral (ceilings, walls, sofas, rugs) was easier and cheaper to then accessorize with color.

Want colorful drama? Wall murals have come a long way.

Another great example of dusty color.

Now, all that said, I still love color but unfortunately (no thanks to the DIY decorating shows) many people use it badly! If I were consulting or talking serious about interior decorating, I have three rules:

1. Pick a palette for your entire home based on three colors. Now from this go lighter or darker but stick to it so your home flows. If you are using all neutrals then pick one accent. Example: Four years ago, I repainted the exterior of my home for Country Living magazine based the colors of three things I couldn't avoid:
1. The blue spruce tree in my front yard. (This is one of my favorite colors of all time!)
2. The red brick chimney on the side of the house.
3. The tan colored stone around the base of my home.

The colors I chose to repaint my home.

2. If you are not into neutrals, pick your favorite color combination but find a dustier version of the colors you love. A crisp, sharp color is just that- a little jarring. Look for the swatch that has a little grey or a dirtier version.

The red dot shoes a brighter version where as the dustier version is more soothing.

3. When looking at a few samples to use in your home, use them across the board. Line up your swatches and do not jump from the top color of one to the bottom color of another. I have never heard anyone suggest this, this is just my opinion, but it works for me every time. I think they blend better for some reason. Here is what I mean:

The red dots show jumping around your color swatches may not always coordinate well.
Choosing across the board might be better.

Now go out there and paint something!
__________________________________

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And, on newsstands now, Bedroom & Baths features (an old) picture of my bedroom, originally seen in Romantic Homes magazine, 2008.



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12 comments:

  1. Debbie, this is a great post! Love your color sense. I'm getting ready to move into a new house so I'm going to study this to see if I'm doing this right! I got some yellow Country French fabric for my kitchen and will use white cabinets and cobalt accents .Trying to decide on the wall color. My primary colors are white and blue. Thanks for the lesson.
    Sandy

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  2. What a great mini-history of your style! Like most of your fans, I knew bits and pieces of it but thanks so much for pulling it together for those of us who are occasionally surprised by what you do! Your short color tutorial is helpful, too. There's a talent in simplifying these daunting decorating principles and you've done it nicely!

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  3. Ah, Manhattan Transfer. That brings back memories....

    I am a decorative painter, an Etsian, and also a non-reader, except for blogs and magazines. I completely relate to decorating phases and my homes have run the gamut of colors, dating all the way back to painting my room as a teenager. It's just paint, right? :)

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  4. Loved this information about you and appreciate the tips-especially across the board!

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  5. I, too, adore Shabby Chic, but my husband adores Rustic and funky guy stuff- I am constantly trying to blend it in a way we both like. I appreciate your tips!!!

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  6. Loved your post! Will you share the brand & color for your Red Front Door?

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  7. Sherwin Williams #SW6054, Canyon Clay- but that was 4 years ago. Hopefully they still have it.

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  8. These photos are all so lovely! My pinterest is full of images like these for my future home :)

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  9. i ate up your color instructional! thank you! i learn something new every time I tune in to your Curious Sofa. Big fan, thanks! leslie

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  10. I owe you an apology. I left the snarky comment last week. I really felt you were trying to rid the world of color. Thanks for explaining. If you get anymore such comments they won't be from me. Great colors this time! Thanks again.

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  11. Thanks for the suggestions. You always make me want to "redo" everything! Also, Love the post about the lace wing chair. I have been collecting old lace all week and I am determined to try this myself. It goes against all I've been taught as an upholsterer to hot glue it on there. But what have I got to lose?

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  12. I really liked this post-you are very articulate and the pictures were perfect illustrations. I've been having some problems with color in my house and this combined with a ton of magazine tearouts makes me think I just might make it! Thank you.

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