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7 posts from June 2011

June 30, 2011

Mixing and Matching Materials in the Kitchen

Lucianna Samu

I've been worried I've gone too far mixing metals and mis-matching materials in my kitchen, and it's an easy mistake to make.  Even a thoughtful amalgamation of mis-matched metals and surfaces can get out of hand quickly in a kitchen makeover, since a quick tally of kitchen surfaces, adds up to at least ten: 1. Cabinets, 2. Counter, 3. Backsplash, 4. Floor, 5. Sink, 6. Appliances, 7. Faucets, 8. Lighting, 9. Hardware, 10. Wall color.  It is a lot of stuff, and more importantly, these materials each add another layer of color to the space.


The design community is about evenly split on how much mixing and matching in the kitchen is too much, but I have always been most comfortable mixing.  In an old house like mine, I prefer for essential elements, like lighting and appliances and flooring, to appear as if they have evolved over time.  But how much is too much, and is it possible there's a rule to follow for when we're just not sure?

I've designed many kitchens, but as is always the case in such dilemmas, my own project is proving to be the exception to the few rules I would ordinarily follow.  My rule of thumb is 50/50: Out of the ten surfaces every kitchen is a compilation of, I recommend that half of them, ie any five, should somehow match.  So looking at my kitchen as the example, the cabinets, counter, backsplash, and hardware, are all white white.  Hmmm . . . that's only four matches and I'm shooting for five.


Let's try it another way.  The floor, island and cabinets are wood.  No help there.  The lighting doesn't all match--but I would count that as five consistent surfaces, if it did.  I'm getting warmer.

Clearly the metal surfaces in my kitchen are a gigantic metal mixing mess. There's a lot of brass . . .

Some stainless


Vintage pewter


Ah, oil rubbed bronze


Polished nickel


And a copper sink


OMG, I have gone crazy.  And each differing metal is of course, adding another color to the space.

Since I introduced a little more brass on the pantry doors, and the lighting is the closest thing to another single consistent metal finish I have, I've decided to replace some of the existing mix of materials with one single choice of metal--Brass.  I'm certain I'll get this mis-matched materials problem squared away in no time at all, I'm even going to fix up the boring stools while I'm at it.  I don't think I'll make the stools brass, but I have an even better idea for brass that's sure to solve my metal mixing dilemma with style.


Stay colorful!

June 23, 2011

Beauty and the Bath

Jane Dagmi

When it comes to creating the ultimate bathroom retreat, we'd all wish for a healthy budget, a spacious floor plan and maybe a designer to consult with.  Perhaps we'd also add in the luxury of starting from scratch.  Sadly, that's rarely the case.  Even minor bathroom makeovers can be quite the challenge when your dream vision comes up against space constraints, fixtures that are not ideal yet too costly to replace, and plumbing codes.  But . . . here comes color, a powerful ally that will inject personal style, mood, and beauty into the plainest bath.  So, what are good bathroom colors?  Here are five great palettes to get you thinking outside of the plain white box!


design by Vicki Kornrumpf, Timeless Interiors, Pompano Beach, FL

Jayne Mills, financial advisor and registered yoga teacher, waited ten years before taking the plunge into a total master bath renovation, and when she went for it, she did not hold back.  Her elegant spa bathroom is big, luxurious, and just the way she wanted.  The pale ethereal colors feel peaceful.  The fine natural materials verge on decadence.  The heirloom oak chest adds strength, warmth, and personality.


Inspired by a 2004 Traditional Home story, Jayne's master bath renovation relied on a mineral palette dominated by cool blue gray, soft sea green, creamy white, and silvery accents played out in silk fabrics, travertine marble, and onyx countertops.  Jayne describes this bathroom color scheme as "delicate in a way, but very livable, timeless, and relaxing."--in essence . . . perfection!




Lighthouse cabana bath

top: design by Alison Spear (photo by Jane Dagmi)
bottom: Bridget Conway, Lighthouse Interiors Inc., Lighthouse Point, FL

Copper Patina 619, Calypso Blue 727, Oceanic Teal 669

Refreshing water and air hues are practically a no brainer in the bath. Aqua, turquoise and teal--colors reminders of your favorite relaxing vacation--naturally suit this wet, purifying bath environment.  Playing off white and other light naturals these shades feel crisp and clean and lend themselves to modern or cottage style bathrooms.  Paired with rich brown cabinetry or steely gray tile, they provide a glamorous lift and a pretty vintage vibe, plus you also get that healing air/earth connection. 

Idea: Follow Lighthouse Interior's lead--add dimension to your stripes by alternating finishes.  Here the turquoise stripe is flat and cream is gloss.  Try Benjamin Moore's Aura Bath & Spa Paint, available in matte and gloss.




photos courtesy of D’Aquino Monaco

Woodmont Cream 204

Pale, soft neutrals are restful in the bath, and easy to live with when space or lack of light is an issue, as it so often is.  In a large loft, D'Aquino Monaco created a "texturally quiet haven" for their client using honed stone and a warm cream on the walls.  While keeping a monotone palette, slight variations provide just enough contrast for the sculptural elements in the room, notably a travertine urn and footed tub.  Francine Monaco and Carl D'Aquino worked around the cast iron structural column by incorporating it into the shower.

Idea: In small spaces keep to a monochromatic scheme.




brown bathroom: image from Marie Claire Maison

Wenge AF 180, Black

I would have thought that really dark colors would hinder bathroom activities such as tweezing and shaving, but not so, especially if you have good task lighting around mirrors.  Whether enveloping an entire space or just accenting a wall, deep saturated hues are dramatic, elegant, and seductive. They can give off an old world feel or a modern one depending on the style of fixtures and other décor.  Metallic hardware glows, shapely objects pop, plus any bit of pure happy color announces itself joyfully. 

Tip: Dark paint has more pigment, so mix very well and keep stirring as you work.




stripes: This Is Glamorous
checkerboard floor: Spires and Gargoyles

Black, Decorator's White, Dove White OC-17

A black and white color scheme coordinates effortlessly with white or off white fixtures and tile.  Snappy and elegant, retro and modern, used sparingly or with gusto, this punchy combo is a dependable good looker.  White always feels fresh and black is a powerful companion.  Use them in equal doses or use one dominantly and bring the other in as an accent.  Introduce another neutral or color along the way. 

Tip: A less sterile white, such as White Dove, has oomph and is not as stark.



Lastly I leave you with a virtual crayon box palette bath by Jamie Drake, recently described by Elle Décor as "famously fearless" with color.  In this, the smallest of rooms, he edited the color palette down to just 40 shades!

June 20, 2011

One Great Color Decision Lends Balance and Proportion to an All-White Kitchen

Lucianna Samu

My all white kitchen in the making is turning out to be a great example of how one great color can harmonize and balance a room.  Balance and proportion, form and function--we're all learning to consider these design essentials in our room makeovers.  But whenever I get stuck and a room appears lopsided, or some element feels foreboding or, worse yet, tentative, more often than not I find the solution is in a paint can.


I solved the messy pantry thing 1,2,3, when I painted and stenciled the glass door with what's turning out to be my go-to color for this project, Stonecutter-2135-20 Form+function!


Moving on to the minor proportional issues, the vertical proportions in my kitchen are bold, because of the wall, ceiling and cabinet heights.  Bold proportions need to be supported by bold strokes of color if they're to make any kind of statement.  So while I'm happy with what's happening so far with my cool neutral whites and very soothing shale grey walls, the room still feels to me like it's a combination of two rooms stuck together.  The high ceiling seems like an opportunity waiting for color, but that would exacerbate the disconnected feeling which already exists in the room because of the differing ceiling heights.


The reinvented pantry cabinet defines the edge of the kitchen as clearly as any color could on one side of the kitchen.  So the task is to somehow bring that same weight to the other side of my super sunny kitchen.  The dark copper sink is helping, as is the black and gold fabric behind the upper refrigerator cabinet.  (This hides the compressor!)  This picture was taken pre-white backsplash, which is now all white and beautiful.  What to do, what to do . . .


I settled on an idea that appears to be a trend in the making: very dark colored window sashes.  I could easily find myself getting carried away with the idea of dark window sashes.  I've painted windows, trim and all, bright colors in the past with great results.  We're all familiar with the impact a lively accent wall will create in a room, and if I had a place to hang a gigantic piece of art or cared to have a fussy fabric surrounding the window they would have created a similarly bold color effect.  But my freshly painted Stonecutter window sashes complete the picture with style.


The color continues the line of dark and deliberate color which begins with my sink and creates a vertical swath of drama in the kitchen that's equally as striking as the painted pantry cabinet door.  Mission accomplished.  A great color decision = instant balance and proportion.



More than a trick, using a very strong color to define a singular element or architectural feature is what a designer might call a design device.  If you look around your house there are sure to be at least one or two sleepy features you might like to call attention to with a very deliberate color choice.  Consider the line and proportion of your "thing," keeping in mind that very dark color recedes.  Black, nearly black and all colors with a very low light reflective value will instantly add weight, contrast and strength to a surface or object.  If you worry a very strong color decision could overpower your room (or you!), hang a sheet or a blanket over the area you're considering painting a dark or striking color and live with it for a while.  Your friends will think you're either a little odd, or very clever, while your rooms are draped in color tests.  But your results will speak for themselves once you get the paintbrushes out.

Stay colorful!

June 14, 2011

How Many Ambiguous Colors Can You Name?

Lucianna Samu

When my children were small, instead of playing "Punch Buggy" on a long car trip, they would test my knowledge of the Benjamin Moore classic color fan decks.  The old fan decks were a pair, and each of the kids would flip though their chosen collection of color chips, and call out the number of a color that I was supposed to identify in the passing landscape.  The old fan deck colors didn't have names--numbers only.  So it was especially funny to hear two small kids sigh and moan from the backseat and then begin to shout; "307! 307!  It's such an easy color!"  FYI, Benjamin Moore's Classic color #307 would be stands of sunflower fields as far as your eye can see.


Corn Husk 307

Classic color # 307 (since named) Corn Husk

My children are grown now, but put to the test I'm sure they could both rattle off the numbers for a few colors they know are especially difficult for anyone (including me) to name or identify.  Here are a few of my favorites from the Classic color system, all of which have since been awarded very fancy names!

New Age 1444, Nature's Essentials 1512, Bashful 1171, Somerset Peach 163

Every one of these colors is a great example of a complex shade.  Each is derived from an already tricky mixture of tints and then softened to a shade with liberal amounts of white.  So for example, New Age 1444, is not merely purple and white.  (I'd guess it's violet, red, yellow and umber, plus white.)  Fortunately, Benjamin Moore has figured out the tinting formulas for us.  For those of us who are on the hunt for fascinating colors to complement our rooms, these nearly unidentifiable shades of ambiguous colors, are powerful indeed.  These are the colors that will draw your eye fast.  They usually require more than a passing glance to figure out, and often appear at first to be a little "off."  What these colors do in a room setting is give your eye a place to rest.  Your brain will quickly dismiss relying on an ambiguous color for reference, which is why such colors will always stand on their own, interjecting themselves into a well-balanced palette quietly.

It's magical to add such colors to a room, both to stimulate the eye and create a colorful departure.  This is how color can energize a space, sort of cranking up the palette without making any mischief.  Think of these ambiguous pale shades as being like an understated perfume or a subtle yet glamorous piece of jewelry in your wardrobe.

Often, fabrics are tasked with adding this finishing touch to a room.  For a kitchen, where art, accessories, pillows and the like are not practical, I find it's best to select a single understated color departure into the overall palette, repeating the chosen color now and again, if possible, for balance.  For my kitchen, I chose Crisp Straw 2157-50 as my hard to identify, not exactly perfect matching shade of color, to liven up the cool neutral palette.  The color is a warm pale shade of my painted range, which is August Morning 2156-40.  Here's the range, my test sample, and a little extra help from a china platter in peachy-orangey-cantaloupe.

Crisp_Straw_2157-50 test sample

My experience in working with carefully formulated complex shades, is that what we're really finding in the paint is the "essence" of a color--sort of like the gold glow a marigold will leave on your fingers after it’s fallen from your hand.  Because Crisp Straw is the only warm paint color in my kitchen, it stands out just the teeniest bit extra.  Of course, it helps considerably that it's a color I happen to love.  I think it looks fantabulous in the company of the freshly painted cool gray walls in Shale 861.



Not only does Crisp Straw add extra pattern to my monochromatic backsplash, I'm hoping it helps explain why there is a rather large stove painted August Morning in the kitchen!  August Morning is intrinsic to my whole house palette but I prefer to relegate the color to a supporting role in the kitchen.  Notice too, how the softer side of Crisp Straw makes the tiniest reference to the brass lighting and pulls out the undertones of the copper sink.  Isn't it amazing what a single great color you can’t even name can do?  If you have a room that isn't quite as lively as you'd like, seek out one of the cusp, ambiguous pale shades of color, and include it in your room.  Very pale peachy-pinks or blue-greys, will work well in any green room.  A single understated buttery or even sharp pear yellow will perform beautifully in red, blue, or brown spaces.  Try to mix a warm with a cool, or vice-versa, for extra pizazz.  Here's a hint: To perfect your ambiguous color picking skills, when at your paint dealer, choose from the chips that occupy the place on the display where one color ends and another color begins--same idea works when selecting from a fan deck.


You can experiment with this concept by moving your accessories around to explore the power of subtle color departures.  I hope you’ll share your ideas with us here for working small doses of a subtle shade into your rooms and head over to Facebook to post your photos depicting your success stories for us all to admire.

Remember, don't get yourself in a twist worrying about complementary colors or complicated palette definitions--all you need is the essence of a single fabulous color, preferably one which you, or I, can't quite name. 


Stay colorful!

June 10, 2011

Calm & Comfortable Wall Color? Bet the GRAY Every Time!

Lucianna Samu

I've been having so much fun reinventing backsplashes and painting over glass doors here at the Farm, I haven't had time to look out the window!  So this morning, watching my peonies practically bloom before my eyes, I took it as a sign that it's the perfect day to reveal my freshly painted Shale gray kitchen walls to you.  The color is absolutely sublime.  Everything in the room has come alive surrounded by this newly minted envelope of cool stone gray and its teensy dash of green-brown.  I'm captivated....  Delicious.


Shale 861

Shale gray has just enough of a slight green undertone in it to link the reflections coming off the green foliage outside the window.  Like all grays, the color is very easy on the eye and not at all jarring.  Warmer grays than Shale may have a bit more brown in them, but the thing I'm loving most about Shale, is that it is truly neutral and very cool.  It's the green that causes this cooler sensation in this gray (blue has the same effect), and has my kitchen feeling natural and peaceful and balanced by day.  In the nighttime, under incandescent lighting, the color will warm and appear slightly more brown.


For north facing rooms or a space where the west light streams in all afternoon, a colder, bluer steel gray, such as Pigeon Gray 2133-50, or a favorite cool grey of mine, Smoke Embers, AC-28, would remain cool no matter the lighting.

Pigeon Gray 2133-50, Smoke Embers AC-28

The absence of brown, or more specifically umber, equals a much cooler gray.  To help you discern the quality of a gray, put out a few brown paint chips near your gray chips and you'll see the difference every time.  Red will also help you see the warmth in a gray, while a little assistance from a blue chip will make the very cool gray tones stand out for you visually.


Now that my wall color is up, and the toned cool white backsplash is complete, it's easier to see how my palette translates to the space.  Here's how my color chips all looked together on my palette.


The whites all have a slightly different tint, or undertone, and the variation in the colors is more evident now that the wall perimeter is offering a reference color.  Still, these are very "close" whites--standing on their own they'd look plain white.


The whisper of peachy-orange is really making a difference in the room.  I'll explain more about that little departure in my next post, because you are correct, Crisp Straw 2157-50, is NOT white and it is NOT a cool color like the rest!

Back to the walls, here's how I use mama's china and my white collections to help me arrive at Shale.  I relied on the china, which I could carry around the room more easily than a painted test.  It all looked lovely near the backsplash and that was enough for me.


Shale has turned out to be such a comforting mid-tone gray, that I feel I could just stare at my walls all day long.  Gray is always a stabilizing color emotionally and visually, not unlike a good mid-tone cool beige.  But few colors other than gray can communicate architectural integrity or strength, which is a good thing to have in a very old house.  As for Shale, I'm convinced that in any room where the lighting is out of whack--too dark, overly bright, uneven or in competition with anything jarring--Shale has enough depth and personality to do exactly what every great gray does best--calm and comfort.  Try it out and let me know if you agree. Shale, Classic Color #861: a super, winning gray by a long shot!

Stay colorful!