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6 posts from March 2011

March 21, 2011

Greens Are Good for You

Jane Dagmi

With spring making its 2011 debut, my mind's on green.  Not just any kind of green.  But unmistakable kelly, lime, and sage greens.  As Dorothy Draper once wrote, "Although Mother Nature hasn't written a book, she is continually giving us visual proof of her know-how when it comes to color." 

Green always hovers at the top of my personal color ranking system.  I won't, however, call it my favorite color, because I am a Libra, prone to diplomacy and fickleness.  But, on a continual basis, green captures my attention and makes me happy. 



Sharon Taylor nursery: alifestylething.blogspot.com

Let's begin with kelly.  Kelly is glamorous, preppy, classic.  There is something about this emerald hue, in large or small doses, that just perks up my whole being.  And adding rain slicker yellow to the equation, is like getting an extra shot of espresso.  To tame the sensory jolt, allow for plenty of white space, and then a dark blue or black for giving it some weight.  Sharon Taylor bypassed gentle baby pastels when she designed this nursery.  Feeling extra playful with bold hues, she specified 6" painted ceiling stripes that're sure to keep an infant mesmerized for hours.  I venture to say that when this chic babe grows up to be a sophisticated schoolgirl, with some minor furnishing tweaks, the preppy palette shall survive. 


Glass: Marc Corbin inc.

 Green door: freshhomeblog.com

Kelly Green 2037-30, Sunburst 2023-40, Evening Sky 833




Living room: houseofturquoise.com

Lime is another shade in high esteem that makes for some very juicy décor.  With turquoise, and a room full of bamboo or wicker, the mood gets predictably tropical.  In this Caribbean-colored library, however, Diamond Baratta Design steer clear of the islands and have me craving a martini rather than a piña colada.  They do this by emphasizing the classic architecture with bright white paint, and by using fun hues on rather formal furnishings.  A Pucci-inspired rug, impressively scaled, raises the bar to a new level of chic.


Doors: houseofturquoise.com

 Fabric swatch: Sis Boom

Pear Green 2028-40, Pool Blue 2052-50, Mountain Peak White OC-121


Whereas kelly and lime make my heart race, sage energizes in a subtle and soothing way.  Sage is easy to live with, mellow and earthy--more like a trusted companion than a flashy new beau!  I like to keep the palette au natural with rich sable, taupe, and wheat.  Wholesome cream keeps the vibe fresh and airy.  Glints of gold or even silver make it magical.  For more pop, throw in some burnt orange found in an old kilim or vintage leather chair.


Kitchen: Art & Décoration

 Dining room: House Beautiful

Soothing Green 535, Golden Hills 262, Mayonnaise OC-85, Long Valley Birch 1021, Orange Parrot 2169-20


Lucky for me, I have kind and stylish friends across the globe who invite me to stay at their well-decorated homes.  In Seattle, Ted Kennedy Watson and Ted Sive always have a special room for me.  Watson, an award winning retailer and master of merchandising, adores green too.  The room was painted seven years ago and Watson says, "I still walk into that room and think how much I love it!"


Last week I bought a green watch. I haven't wanted or worn a watch in over 30 years but I saw this one and had to have it.  For me, I guess it's more a beautiful green wearable object than it is a timepiece.  Clearly, it's time for green.

March 17, 2011

Beginning At The Beginning

Lucianna Samu

Planning a whole house palette is somewhat of an art.  Of course, I don't know your level of expertise.  And yet, there's one thing I'm absolutely sure of; neither novice nor expert will walk into a paint store, flash the dealer a smile and say: Surprise me!

So we need to start somewhere, which is why I created what I call a process palette--(click back for a refresher), a collection of the unchangeable colors I'm surrounded by.

Today, I've made up a quick drawing of my floor plan.  Don't panic on me now.:)  Nothing fancy here--could be a layout of your space on the back of a Cheerios box.  Let your kids draw it if you're nervous, and then transfer each of your reference colors onto the drawing.  Having a visual reference in hand which designates the placement of existing colors throughout the house will not only help you to maintain a pleasing flow, it will act as a knowledgeable and comforting friend, helping you to make your choices confidently.


Now it's time to get busy, either working from or around the existing colors. As a practical matter, few of us can heave all of our furnishings or carpets into a dumpster and start from scratch.  So we need to get our color fix in whatever rooms we have, that are willing to see it our way.  In my house, the entry foyer is very willing!


Shaded by the portico outside, the entry is dark, and I'm going to use this circumstance to my color picking advantage.  On a sunny day, and for most of the snowy winter, anyone who enters my house needs to take a minute to allow his or her eyes to adjust.  People instinctively look up when this high contrast, light vs. dark transition thing happens.  It's sort of a "give me a sec while I get my bearings" moment.  Because everyone who comes through my door needs a little time, and looks up, I'm going to add a very strong statement color to the ceiling.  My guests and I will all have a color to admire while we gather ourselves.


Generally speaking, I would choose the warm blue grey of Winter Lake 2129-50 or Normandy 2129-40 for a space like this, and it would be lovely on my foyer ceiling for sure.  But I don't want to advance any kind of nautical or water inspired color reference.  I also want to reduce the contrast inside the foyer as much as I possibly can, without turning it into a cave.

Winter Lake 2129-50, Normandy 2129-40

There's a lot happening in this small space already.  There's lots of movement in the hand-painted black and white "wallpaper" and more pattern in the strie below (Blond Wood 1067, over Ivory White 925).  The grey floor is neutral but a color all the same.  The door is cherry and a tiny bit red.  Plus, I have black, white, 2 beiges and a trim color. Seven colors in a 9'x9' space; be brave my color companions!

Blond Wood 1067, Ivory White 925


Sometime in January, long before I began my color palette planning, I was standing near a window just before dark, looking east over the river.  The sky was a most amazing combination of violet, lavender and purple; twilight, or as my photographer husband calls it, 'magic hour.'  The colors settled deep into my color reference and lo and behold, here we have it: Bonne Nuit AF-635, along with the picture I hurried my husband to capture in January.

Bonne Nuit AF-635

More than a splendid color for the ceiling in my foyer, this color turns up often--over the river, in the early blooms of crocus, and the purple magnolia trees, and on my reference plan.  In truth, I picked the color without considering any of this, but I love it when my reference colors support a bold decision.  How could I go wrong?  Bonne Nuit AF-635 it is!


There's one more tiny tweak I can add to the foyer to settle the entire collection of colors down, and bring the foyer into the adjoining living space . . . ten colors and counting--it's going to be glorious. : )

Stay colorful,

Benjamin Moore Colors:

Benjamin Moore Color Gallery

Blond Wood

Bonne Nuit

Ivory White 925


Winter Lake

More Links:



Reference Plan

March 14, 2011

How to Create a Perfect Color Palette 1, 2, 3, 4!

Lucianna Samu

I am over the moon today, blissfully poking around in my basket of loose paint color chips.  My Benjamin Moore fan decks are present and accounted for as well, but I don't need them just yet, and I will (almost) NEVER cut them up.  Whenever I have a palette to plan, I prefer to work with loose chips, gathered up from here, there and everywhere.  Flipping through the colors with an open mind gets me in a very good mood and I set aside any chips that I linger with for an extra second.  It's color picking Gestalt style--open-minded leap thinking--a belief that the sum is greater than the parts.  I'm not trying to make anything yet, and I'm not doing much thinking either--just perusing my options . . .


Once I'm a little color delirious, I'll get to working on what I call my process palette.  To begin, I'll choose a group of reference colors that represent each unchangeable color already in my house.  So far, my process palette looks like this:


Interior Reference Colors

Floors, marble, cabinets, upholstery I'm keeping, plus metal finishes, brick, and wood surfaces . . .


Almost forgot the range!

Next, I choose some colors that represent what I see outside my windows throughout the year.  In my house, the contrast between the colors of summer and the colors of winter could not be greater.  The trees are as much a part of the interiors as the smoky grey mist, which hangs over the snowy river for most of the winter months.

You may not have a view, yet there are still a group of colors that get into your mind before you walk though the door.  Like the fixed colors inside, the colors outside of your home have an influence your color perceptions.  For that reason, it makes sense to work them into your color-selection process.

Let's see now, I have horse fencing, the river, trees, grass, a relentless grey haze, and SNOW.



Exterior Color Reference

So far, my process palette is looking beautiful; lots of ideas, but not a single wall color yet for inside the house.  I'm getting there, though--it's a process!


Final Reference Colors

I know from experience, that this is when many of you will start thinking 'I'll just go with the Linen White.'  That's an option, but I have much more colorful plans!

Go, gather up your reference colors.  I'll meet you back here next time!

Stay colorful,

March 11, 2011

The First Steps to Building a Whole House Palette

Lucianna Samu

It's a rare day when we can take a "last things first" approach to the making of a home.  It even sounds peculiar doesn't it?  Well, that's just what I'm planning to do, beginning today.  No more disclaimers for the lack of color or absence of faux finishes in my house!  Finally, the down and dirty painting story of my house, can be re-written and I'm anxious to replace the "let's hurry-up and just call it done" chapter with a suitably grand renovation epilogue.  I'm especially delighted to begin this transformation knowing that all of you will be here to follow my progress!


I'm going to begin in the foyer.  More than a place to make a big design announcement, the entry in any house takes a beating.  Mine is no exception.  My hand painted "faux wallpaper" is still looking swell.  But the gi-normous gaps in the trim, make the professional painter in me want to scream, while the scratched and nicked glazed walls below bring the faux finisher in me to tears.  I love a swanky entry--I'm a front door kind of gal.  And even if I weren't, I believe my guests deserve the very best 'hello' I can possibly give them.


The next area of the house I plan to re-visit is the hall between the kitchen and the living room.  This area measures 9' x 11'-6", a center hall actually, although I'm often told it's nearly the size of a Manhattan studio apartment.  I've got big plans for this central location, and I can't wait to show all of you not only how to create an entire room with a can of paint, but also how diminutive transitional spaces are always willing to tolerate a great deal of receding color. 



The kitchen will be next.  My tile guys escaped before I settled on a backsplash and this unfinished area is a blight on my delightful kitchen.  Magnified by the lovely under-counter halogen wash lights, it's a costly tile install in the making so I have other plans!  A budget friendly and color-laden solution will add pattern, rhythm, and color.  Voila!


Across to the other side of my kitchen, somewhat hidden behind the island, sits the one and only over- the-top color decision I made for the house: my Blue Star range.  I had it custom painted to match Benjamin Moore's August Morning (2156-40), and I LOVE IT.  The open floor plan of the house will also need to welcome this color.  Hmm, kind of an "August Morning" everywhere downstairs; that's fine with me--it's one of my favorite colors.



Good, bad or otherwise, you may have a similar color quandary.  When we can't justify eliminating costly or precious color features--such as a floor, or a counter top, or possibly even some well-loved furniture--it's time for a "color compromise."  But fear not.  I'll show you how to expand your color boundaries.  Once I get my palette settled, my beloved August Morning will lend an element of surprise and edginess to the whole house.  You'll see, colors we feel passionately about can always be cajoled, and made to settle quietly, into our homes.



I'm planning a palette that's very expressive--I want to respect my weakness for hot pink, orange, lime green, and purple--I know, it sounds extreme.  But tweaking architectural elements with bold color statements is my specialty.  I'm equally adept at exploiting perceived anomalies in a room, and my very sunny living room is just the place for such flights of fancy.  It's all going to be a breeze for me now, since I know where the sun shines in the morning, and where to find the moon at night.  Next time, I'll show you how the dream of living with boisterous Exotic Red (2086-10), tranquil Silver Pine (AC-21), or sophisticated Moonlight White (2143-60), can come true when you're willing to put your color planning and painting, first. :)

Stay colorful,

faux finishes

Blue Star

Benjamin Moore colors:

August Morning (2156-40)

Exotic Red (2086-10)

Moonlight White (2143-60)

Silver Pine (AC-21)

March 09, 2011

Three Times Lucky: Finding the Perfect House, Finding the Perfect Color Palette

Lucianna Samu

Cozy or roomy, country or city-based, to echo Dorothy, "there's no place like home."  It's where we begin each day and sleep securely at night.  Everyone's home evokes different emotions and holds hosts of memories--but for most, say "home" and you are flooded with warm, comfortable thoughts of love, laughter, family, serenity and, for me, color.  For me, the best canvas in the world to work out my perfect color combinations is my home.   


Over the coming weeks, I want you to join me on my most recent renovation journey as I search for just the right colors to use in my old farmhouse, "The Peabody Farm."

The house dates from 1792 and stands watch over an especially interesting bend in the Hudson River, which turns to the east, to welcome the Snook Kill Creek.



Its Federal roots are only discernible by the organization of six original first floor windows and its correct, albeit backward, floor plan, which orients the house to face the river and the original road.  When I first saw it, the original belvedere and porch were already missing. It was in a sorry state, but I asked myself in complete wonderment, "Could I possibly be this lucky?"  How to put the house right was a concern for another time.

Of all that the house had to offer, from its generous rooms to the integrity of its timber framing, its simplicity--what I refer to as the honesty of the house--is what I have fought hard to preserve.  This was a farmer's house, where the labors of the land and the care of the animals superseded a want of intricate millwork or fine finishes.  There was one coat of whitewash on the clapboards, and the only exterior flourish, 60 working window shutters, I had removed. (yes, yes, I saved them--anyone need a few good shutters?)


Inside, the colors were an odd marriage of utility and color prowess, to say the least.  Doors were painted persimmon, a sharp oxide yellow, or a screaming electric blue.  The floors throughout, the ubiquitous red oxide of the day.  Other than the cherry newel post, every other surface in the house, was white calcimine.  The biggest curiosity--a (possibly) once beautiful hand screened wallpaper--I've left untouched in the third floor stair well (pending more investigation).  My high hopes, of uncovering a divine historic Monticello inspired yellow, or the remains of a Hudson River School mural, were never realized.  The previous owners were clearly not much for painting, nor color enthusiasts like me, and that's just fine--more space on the blank canvas.


Like me, my carpenter Fred and his crew came to respect the house, believing it had been denied its dignity for much too long.  He would regularly send his entire crew home, so he could very slowly crank a jack, and then listen for the response of the aching timbers in silence.  We all resisted the urge to over embellish, fix, straighten, "improve," or, worst of all, throw away anything useful.  The house itself speaks a quiet truth now, reminiscent of Fred's final thoughts on the laborious restoration: "Look how proud our old girl looks."  A proper mural, some historic colors suited to the era, and a few tricks of my painting trade, will have the place feeling like home in no time.

I welcome your ideas on what should happen next to a house that's been rescued from a waiting bulldozer and loved by all who have brought to it their talents.  How much fixing can one house need?  I've got 3361 colors to consider.  Lucky, lucky me!

Next time, I'll take you inside and get you more acquainted with the house.  We can sit by the fire, talk a little color, and share our renovating stories.

Stay colorful! --Lu

Talk Color: http://apps.facebook.com/bmexperts/experts/1314