« A Quick Kitchen Storage Makeover | Main | Calm & Comfortable Wall Color? Bet the GRAY Every Time! »

June 06, 2011

How to Use Yellow

Jane Dagmi

For such a cheerful color, yellow can be surprisingly hard to use.  Maybe it's just a little too sunny and overpowering.  But recently, I fell in love with bright yellow again.  It happened while touring The Bonnet House, once a sprawling Florida 1920's home and now a Ft. Lauderdale museum and popular site for artists.  From every vantage point, yellow provides exclamation to architecture, ironwork, and trim and asserts its golden joy throughout the house.


The lucky inhabitants of this 35-acre Caribbean-inspired enclave were artists. Painter Frederic Clay Bartlett and his second wife Evelyn Fortune Lily loved primary colors and sought to decorate every surface.  Using bold brush strokes and painterly trompe-l'oeil finishes, Bartlett transformed a concrete block compound into a magical dwelling.  Linda Schaller, Bonnet's Education Director, confirms that the color palette is indeed original!



top right: exerior of Bonnet House with statue and yellow door--
bottom left: http://jesslikeslists.blogspot.com

The doors of the Bonnet House are painted sunshine yellow, and the feeling is warm and lively and welcoming.  It's a bright idea that translates well to any front door.  When it comes to painting the exterior, bold yellow accents provide a tasteful serving of 'WOW,' especially when placed beside neutral materials such as glass, brown river rock, or gray siding.  I spied the last house on the right while roaming the streets of Seattle this past fall.  To me the distinctive yellow and gray exterior is an expression of the Northwest climate with fervent hope for more sunshine!


top: Bonnet House Shell Museum and Music Room courtesy of Bonnet House--
bottom: yellow barn door--http://www.southernliving.com/home-garden/idea-houses/texas-idea-house-2009-00400000050550/page31.html

Cheerful 354, Thundercloud Gray 2124-40

Yellow can bring its energy indoors where it also benefits from pairing up with a neutral, like brown or gray.  In a gray and yellow scheme, be sure to add black for definition and drama, add white for calm, crisp relief, and a dose of bling to feel glamorous but not too over the top!  At Bonnet, the Bartletts used this harmonious palette to gussy up a music room and to showcase a prized shell collection.  In more contemporary settings, the yellow-gray color palette looks just as swell.

Yellow Roses 353, Bluebelle 2064-60, Tricycle Red 2000-20


I've already referred to Barlett's zest for primary colors, and now . . . Ta Da!!! . . . you see it!  This triumvirate color foundation is so secure, that one can tweak the shades and play with the proportions, and unfailingly create a chic well-designed room.  Beyond bold Mondrian hues, I'm loving lemon yellow wedged in with powdery blue and lipstick red.

Happy shades of yellow are on my radar, and I'm finding that a lot of my friends feel likewise.  I'm currently designing a yellow bedroom and was very excited when I came upon this vintage modern dresser.


I also got excited (and my quest validated) when I found this quote from Dorothy Draper: "Be sure your yellow is not a namby-pamby creamy type that borders on the tan.  It doesn't pay to tip toe around a room with a washed out color."


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference How to Use Yellow:


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Thea, I am so glad the blog provided validation--although living in the cheery golden space is probably validation enough!

Jane - love this! I feel so validated. My dear friend Patti just convinced me to paint my downstairs yellow - it's done and I LOVE it!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks Barbara. I went through a phase of not truly appreciating Yellow, but now I see its great spirit and strength!

Lisa, you must go NOW! And charge your camera to the limit! They won't let you take inside pics, but there's plenty on the grounds to get your going.

Ahhh... #311. But seriously...how could you, Jen...of all people...forget that silly name! It sounds like something you’d come up with!

Jen, did he vote for Squish Squash too? I want to see a photo of the whole room. I want to see what else you are putting into that room. Knowing you, it will be a visual feast.

Amy, like a lot of things in life, I think we do O.D. on color. But loving that you are on the yellow brick road to recovery! I have a friend with bright yellow laminate in her kitchen. At first I was like ... "Whoa," but now I embrace it and love its period charm.

Elisabeth, your persistence paid off! Looks like that color has that copper meets bronze kind of glow, and I am sure it looks quite spectacular in the evening.

Thanks Ginny. I'm sure for pleasure or work, you've been to Bonnet. It's just extraordinary.

Leslie, thank you so much. You can't tease me like that and not send a photo. After the shell shelf (say that 10 times fast!) is painted, I want to see it. I'm glad I inspired you to revisit yellow.

What a lovely selection of bright, beautiful, sunny, happy YELLOW. Good job!

Jane, Love your Blog!!! Thanks for reminding us to use colors that are fun and bring life to a room. I've always loved yellow and gray and I can't believe I have never been to the Bonnet House. It's on my must do list for the summer.
Thanks again for your inspiration!

SQUISH SQUASH just remembered
it's light, with great tonal depth, juicy and very fun...

...totally wonderful Jane and thanks for calling attention to yellow...just re painted my boys' room ...yellow..of course Benjamin Moore...now why can I not recall the name??!! Will send a piccy for you
keep the great blogs coming!

Great blog! I always loved yellow, but when I bought my house the whole kitchen was bright yellow. I mean the WHOLE kitchen...the walls, window trim, cabinets, counters, ceiling. I just suggested yellow to a client for their walls, so I am slowly recovering from the yellow overdose! Your use of it is giving me more inspiration:)

I tried without much luck to work with yellow for my dining room, but every sample I tried looked too wild and crazy! I found a color called metallic gold, which is neither metallic nor gold, but looks more like a chocolate milkshake. It has wonderful yellow-ish undertones and looks happy and sophisticated and works perfectly in my small dining room!

Love it Jane---good find!

jane, i am so inspired by this blog. my childhood bedroom was yellow and while i have such fond and loving memories of it - i never thought that yellow was sophisticated enough for my grown up home. i love your idea to mix yellow with gray ....and am excited to repaint a book shelf to highlight our family shell collection. thank you again for bringing a little sunshine into my NYC home!

The comments to this entry are closed.