Tuesday, July 26, 2016

There's More to Color Than Paint Chips

I fairly frequently get a desperation call from clients saying their painter is coming in a couple of days and they just can't decide on the paint color. Can I help? And my answer is generally "maybe".
But first you have to ask your painter to postpone the work.

Selecting color for a room (or an entire  house) is not just going to the paint store and picking out a few chips you like, then deciding among them. And while I won't go through the process I've outlined in earlier posts (chips on white posterboard in various positions), there are still a few things that you really need to keep in mind when painting.

All the walls and ceiling are the same color.
First, always select paint colors in the room to be painted. While you may be able to go to the store and select chips of colors you like -  and even bring fabric to coordinate -  they will look very, very different in the room to be painted. And the time of day and amount of light (both natural and
artificial) will vary the color as well, which is why it's extremely important to look at preferred colors during different times of day and in different parts of the room. If you've ever (as I  have) lain in bed and marveled at how one wall can't possibly be the same color as the adjacent wall, you know what I mean. To make the correct selection, live the colors for several days. Which means if you really don't want to make a mistake, the painters can't come tomorrow to paint.

Don't try to match colors. Instead, blend. If you have a painting or a piece of fabric that has a gorgeous color  you would love to see on the walls, find a color that blends with it. If you're not sure why, reread the last paragraph. Colors (of paint certainly, but even in fabrics and art) will look very different depending on the light. An exact match will be impossible. See  how the blues in the House Beautiful photo blend rather than match?

And finally (after saying all of that), don't overthink the process. Focus a bit more on your emotions. How do you feel when you see that color in this room? Are you happy? Does it seem to "work"? Then that's the color for you. After all, it's only paint.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

It's All About You

I'm cheating a little bit . . . when I wrote my newsletter for School of Interior Redesign, I realized it has to do with my beliefs as a decorator. So rather than reinventing the wheel, I decided to share it. Please forgive me (but it is after all summertime) and I'll be back with more pretty soon! 

You know I'm a huge believer in the importance of our surroundings to our emotional health. I believe our homes should be filled with things we love - and only things we love. So it was very exciting . . . Read more

Monday, June 20, 2016

Make It Yours . . .

It's easy to get confused about the "right" way to decorate, especially if you subscribe to a variety of decorating magazines. One will tell you to keep to a simple color and pattern design or the room will be overwhelmed, while another will suggest mixing and matching pretty much anything under the sun. (Have you seen the "exuberant" work of William Diamond?)

So rather than paying attention to what "they" are saying, perhaps you should pay attention to . . . yourself. And rather than looking at the glossy photos and wondering how to do that, start with looking around at your own home and deciding what you really like, and what you really don't.

Then start with getting rid of what you don't like, What you do like can (almost) always be incorporated, even if the color/style/overall design of the room changes.

I'm an excellent example of this. I was a huge lover of antiques, particularly Victorian. (I know, I know, but I used to live in a Victorian house.) When I lost that love (and left the house), I still had a few pieces I wanted to keep, but without keeping the overall Victorian look and feel. So I used a few simple techniques that I now recommend for my clients:


  • Repeat something about the piece(s) you love in other pieces in the room. It could be color, shape, line, fabric . . . something that makes it feel like things "go" together, even if they are from completely different eras. (The 4-poster bed on the right fits right in with modern tables with similar turned legs and contemporary bedding.)
  • Use it in a new way, something perhaps a bit unexpected. (In my case, a dining room buffet became a bedroom dresser, with a few minor alterations.)
  • Pair it with something au courant. (My gorgeous-to-me split-pedestal dining table is now paired with parsons chairs in a lovely soft beige.)
  • Give it an instant upgrade with a coat of paint, modern fabric, a simpler frame, new hardware. (New upholstery give the spindle chairs above an updated look.)
Simple changes like these won't mar the pieces you love, but will help give them a "new" look that will work as your tastes and styles change.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

It's All About the Undertones

In working with clients on color selection, when I ask a client if there is a color they really don't like they may say something like "green". Really? If you've ever looked at a color deck, you'll see there are an awful lot of greens. And my bet is that there are a few of them they really do like.

Because it's not really about the color, but it's about the undertones or the color behind the color. And oh, the places those undertones can take a color!

If this is a bit confusing for you as well, start with whites. In Benjamin Moore's off-white collection (really whites with different undertones), there are 140 tones. That's a lot of shades of white! 
But it's all in the undertones . . . 

Simply White
Let's compare three whites and I think you'll see what I mean. Start with Benjamin Moore's Color of the Year, Simply White. It's close to a pure white, but against the white background of the blog, a bit of a yellow undertone shows through.

Owl Gray
The next white is actually called Owl Gray. Yes, the name gives part of it away, but it's not just gray you see as an undertone but a bit of green as well. 

Chantilly Lace
And the final white is Benjamin Moore's Chantilly Lace. A crisp white with a - can you see it? - touch of an icy blue-green.
It should start to become apparent (yes, I understand monitors may be creating a bit of havoc) that undertones are an important consideration when selecting colors for our homes. Fan decks can be very helpful because they are ordered by undertones. (The greens go to the blue-greens then to the blues for example.) Or just put a color next to another color to see if they "go together". If they do, it's probably because they share undertones. If you begin paying careful attention, before you know it, all of your color choices will be the right ones!


Monday, April 25, 2016

It's a Small World After All

That's not entirely true . . . but how do you explain the interest in the Tiny House Movement? (Yes, there really is a movement.) I think people are fascinated by the idea of living in a very small space, maybe even one you can take with you. While most people I know aren't ready to make that jump yet, I am working with a lot of people who are down-sizing. And that has it's own set of issues.

As someone who did this a couple of years ago, I understand the difficulties of living in a smaller space. There's less storage, less space for furniture, fewer rooms . . . but for me it's been well worth it as I learn that less really is more. I like having less to clean and maintain, less "stuff" around me to worry about, and the new house really does feel cozy rather than small.

But there are a few things I've learned that I thought I would share with those who are going through or are considering going through a similar transition.

First, furnishings need to be flexible. That means the sofa/loveseat combo is probably not a good idea. If  you still want a sofa, go smaller and have chairs instead of a loveseat. Or forego the sofa and simply have chairs surrounding a round coffee table. Two pairs of chairs or all four matching keeps the arrangement from looking too random. (And the mirrors help expand the space.)

HGTV
Get creative with seating options. Rather than a coffee table, what about an ottoman. Or have poufs or small stools available. A plus is if they can be stored under another piece of furniture (console table? coffee table?) or used in place of a side table until needed.
Midwest Living

Banquettes and benches make great space-saving seating options in the dining room. And if you haven't seen some of the great storage options available under beds, you're missing out! While there are lots of creative ideas for putting things under a bed, there are also some wonderful beds that have built-in storage underneath - and I'm not talking platform beds!

Then keep a few "rules" in mind to make space feel larger. Use one area large area rug (8x10) to ground the seating, and keep all other rugs out. Hang larger artwork pieces rather than groupings, especially of smaller pictures. Keep window treatments minimal. Use one large accessory rather than a few smaller ones. And while you may not be ready for a tiny house, before you know it, you'll be loving living small!

Monday, April 4, 2016

You've Got This

One of the most difficult aspects of working with my clients is seeing how some of them struggle to feel comfortable in their own homes. And the reason is usually because they think they don't know how to "decorate". It seems that with our design "rules" and shelter magazines, we've intimidated people so they are afraid of doing something wrong. So they do nothing at all.

I understand when people have rooms that just don't quite seem right and they can't figure out why not. There are some things that do go a long way towards making rooms warm and inviting. But that's different from not doing anything because you're afraid to do the wrong thing.

So here are a few of my "rules" that anyone can implement. And immediately feel better about their homes.

  1. If you don't love it or use it, lose it. Why keep things around you that aren't useful or don't make you smile when you see them?
  2. If you do love it, showcase it, whatever it is. And no matter what anyone else says. That means putting it on display, hanging it on the wall, using it regularly and not just on special occasions.
  3. Less is generally more, but only because we can really notice our things if there's not too much else around them. That doesn't mean getting rid of anything (unless you don't love it), but perhaps rotating your things. You'll really appreciate them so much more when you do see them. 
  4. Don't pay attention to trends, unless there's one you happen to really love. I can't tell you how
    many times I hear things like "I really love green, but I know it's not a good color for a dining room". There are no decorating police. See Rule #2.
Of course there are tips and tricks that can really work to make our homes look and feel the way we like. And we don't always know what they are or how to use them. But start with these 4 "rules" and you'll be well on your way!




Friday, March 4, 2016

What About That Artwork?

I've been working with a client who wants to fall in love with her home. She and  her family have lived there for many years and she's never really been happy. It's a beautiful home . . . set in a beautiful rural location in southern Connecticut. Sounds like a fun project! But what has been interesting about the 7 hours I spent with her this week is that so far it's been about . . . artwork.

And what has been reinforced to me is . . . this doesn't have to be difficult. With a few "rules" everyone can surround themselves with the art they love - and make a huge change in how they feel about their homes.


Using children's artwork
As an example, one of the rooms we're working on is the basement "rec" room. It now has a pool table, comfortable seating, and will soon have a pub table and chairs. But what to do with all those walls?

We decided on a travel theme. She bought travel posters and artwork of beautiful travel destinations - or even just words. The room is fabulous. And here is "rule" #1: connect the artwork in each room in some way. While maybe a strict theme isn't necessary, the art should be similar in colors, frames, and/or subject matter. Another room we worked on is the entry. The art we hung in the entrance with very high ceilings is all artwork her college-aged daughter had done through the years. With different subject matters, we combined works with similar colors and done in the same medium, creating a unified look that makes the home owner smile every time she walks through the door.

Gallery in a Box from Pottery Barn
Our next room to tackle is the family room, where she wants a wall of family photos. Which brings us to "rule" #2: family photos, like collections of any sort, make a greater impact when displayed together. It doesn't have to be a wall, but consider within a bookcase or on a console table. (Save the mantel for large, eye-catching art.) 

Back to the photo wall - and rule #3: hang groupings close together. A good rule of thumb is 2" or the width of the mats (if there are mats). And if you have a lot of photos to hang (rule #4), use matching frames styles. Sizes can be different, but keep the style simple and the colors the same. 

There are a few more "rules" . . . but this is a good start. And if you make an error in placement? That's what spackle is for!