Stuart Creal Studio is a leading interior painting and decorative art company that specializes in color consulting, among other things. Over twenty years, founder Victoria Stuart Burke has worked with such designers and architects as Albert Hadley, Peter Marino, Howard Slatkin, and Daniel Romualdez. But, as we all know, color is a very personal matter, so I was curious to find out how she selects the right colors for her clients and pick up some color lessons along the way.
"We start off as diagnosticians, figuring out who our client is and how he/she wants to live," Torie says. Her basic questions include: Do you like to entertain a lot? Is this space primarily public or more of a sanctuary? Formal or more relaxed? What time of day are you going to spend most of your time in the room?--to help build a picture of how and when the rooms will be used. "I have clients that want a dark, moody atmosphere, that are not home much during the day, or that entertain mostly in the evening. Others want a spa-like place where there is little distraction."
If you're going to entertain a lot, especially during the day, Torie thinks a pale neutral is a good place to start. "Parchment is a great color for the walls when there needs to be balance all of the colors, textures, patterns, and artwork in the room. You've got to have some yin and yang, some give and take." She describes the owner of this home as a "youthful journalist" who loves to have friends over.
The dining room is right off the living room--very different in feeling but still connected by color. "It's not small, but it's very intimate. The color here envelops you so you immediately feel like you're in a room where you can have a private conversation with someone." The finish is also unusual--it's one color stippled over another, with a clear gloss finish over that (see Paint Style for instructions) The base is a light orange color, and then there’s a layer of pomegranate on top. "It provides a depth and mystery to the color that cannot be achieved with a solid color paint." High gloss finishes, says Torie, are very formal--perfect for a dining room.
For more informal places like the kitchen, Torie likes lower gloss finishes, because they're more cozy and relaxed. The color here is a big departure from the usual white, and, because it's on the darker side, makes the large space feel smaller and more cozy. "It'd be really simple for a consumer to rag the top color on." (see Paint Style for instructions). The base color is somewhere between a moss and kelly green, and top coat is a bluegrass green, all coated with a low-sheen waterborne satin polyurethane.
In the bathroom, everything except the marble floor and tub are painted the exact same color, Simply White (OC-117). "This is the wife's bathroom, and she wanted it to be a complete getaway. Even the bench, vanity, tub enclosure . . . everything is the same." This lack of contrast, says Torie, equals a lack of distraction, which has a relaxing effect. "It's calming and clean. It's white, but it still has a mood to it."
Not everyone can hire a Torie Burke, of course, but ultimately everyone knows what they do and don't like. So, before you head to the paint store, try being your own color consultant and ask all the kinds of lifestyle questions Torie poses to her clients first.