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July 11, 2011

Choosing a Wall Color for All Seasons

Lucianna Samu

If you were to take a poll, asking design professionals where to begin when planning a color makeover for a room as large as my living room, chances are nine out of ten would say start with the rug.  I would agree.  And I have a rug; in fact, I have a lot of rugs.  All are strategically stowed away, patiently waiting to someday make an appearance.  My problem is, in addition to a lot of rugs, I also have a husband.  For the most part, my husband is a good sport about my design aesthetic.  His good-natured agreeable demeanor ends, however, with my garden inspired needlepoint rug.



I like to quote Elise de Wolfe whenever the subject of my favorite rug comes up.  I'm not certain of the year on this, but I try to garner some design leverage by repeating it just the same.  She states:

"It is the personality of the mistress that the home expresses.  Men are forever guests in our homes, no matter how much happiness they may find there."

--Elsie de Wolfe

Still no deal on the floral rug.  I love this rug because it reminds me of summers spent at my grandmother's.  In grandma's living room, I would step, heel to toe, along the pale blue and raspberry border of her similar floral rug, clicking my cordovan Buster Brown shoes together as I progressed.  My mission was to make it around the entire perimeter of the rug, without missing a step.  I'd then trace out the shapes of the leaves, name all the colors, and guess at the name of the flowers.  The cacophony of delphinium, peony, rose and marigold, sits deep in my color memory, still influencing my every color choice today, as the colors we associate with our youth so often do.  Think about you first bike; can you still remember the color?  Mine was Pink Ladies 1347!


Diplomacy is important when we're choosing colors, no matter how fixed our likes and dislikes may be.  On the other hand, asking for too many opinions when choosing colors will always turn an otherwise exhilarating endeavor into an arduous task.  Whenever we need to compromise, it's a wise color sentimentalist who can fashion a way to make good use of the colors they truly love.  So if it turns out I don't unfold my treasured rug just yet, until opinions change, I'll add something similar in feeling instead.  I have a few vintage crewel drapery panels and a nostalgic art piece to frame--either just might do the trick?


My objective is to make a room that evokes an easy, countrified casualness irrespective of what's under foot.  So, if I can sit quietly and reminisce about my days spent teetering around Grandma's rug in my Buster Browns whenever my husband walks though the room with his boots on, I'll know I got it right.  That is, assuming I work my "wow" colors into the mix.

Pan for Gold 181, Rosewood 2082-40, Jet Stream 814, Wild Pink 2080-40, Paradise Hills Green 550

Wow color dollops

Over the next three weeks you'll see how I problem solve in this room, always looking to the fan deck first for color driven solutions.  I mean to "tighten up" the perimeter, form a tighter collaboration between my irreverent mix of materials and better define the function of each specific area within the space.  I think you'll agree it's a difficult room to furnish, being so long and narrow.  I'd appreciate any tips for an old house furniture arrangement since I'm officially worn out from pushing the sofa around!


Another old house plus, sometimes minus, is that my room has more windows than wall.  I'll need to really get the "wow" colors just right if I'm to succeed at modulating the seasonal color and lighting disparity my lovely views create.  If you have a room with two or more daylight exposures, or lots and lots of doors+windows, you know how dizzying it can be to land a color that feels as great as it looks all year round.


For the walls, an honest to goodness dead-on-neutral gray-beige, is exactly what my living room needs.  I think you'll appreciate seeing how architecturally supportive a neutral gray can be as you watch this room come together.  Here are just a few options worthy of serious consideration for any room you may have where uneven lighting and shadow conspire to make so many truly beautiful colors appear drab.


The lack of agreement over the rug is feeling like a small impediment to the changes I'm planning to make, and just between us I'm not quite ready to surrender on the rug thing just yet.  Would you put this rug back in the attic?  It's a rare opportunity to have a room that's just waiting to receive a tapestry of accent color, and that's an opportunity this color expert is ready to exploit.  So pass the word and grab your color chips, it's going to be a colorful ride.

Stay colorful!


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I was excited to finally find someone addressing the seasonal/lighting dilemma. I was so hoping you'd found the perfect shade of creamy white, yellow, or maybe even a bolder color that faces the challenge. My heart sank (and color-filled fantasies of the perfct open plan wall color vanished) when I saw the BM palette of grieges. Besides a cave, I can't think of anywhere in nature one is surrounded by such drabness. Perhaps the cave palette speaks to our primitive associations of shelter. I suspect however, early cave-dwellers were probably out more than in their natural dwellings than we spend in our constructed habitats. I cannot resolve myself to live a cave-colored shell that "works" in all lighting, with the only color of life in accessories and the glimpse of the vista beyond.

Great post. Indeed, rugs should be one of the firsts to consider in decorating or putting color for a house. This site is also informative: http://bestrugsite.com/. Check it out.

Thanks for sharing. Keep it up.

Thanks for providing this information. This is really helpful for me because next month i am going to paint my home.

Wow Cristin--I think you've helped me figure out the rug dilemma once and for all. Thanks!!! Negotiated a summer/winter switch with my husband--he gets a winter TV for football, I get my rug for summer. I also love your suggestion for the sofa. I've had it there, but kept thinking I may have overlooked another idea. So glad for the feedback. I'll be posting about the Revere Pewter again next week--I can't believe how much cooler this room feels this summer (Yay gray), and I know it will be just as warm when the snow returns. Hope you'll stick with me here on the blog, and comment often on how you think I'm doing!

I think egdecomb grey will look best it will complement the seasons. It also will not darken the room to much. You have a very lovely room.

I love that rug and suggest you pull it out for summer months.

I am a Revere Pewter fan and love the warm gray is casts. I think it would change beautifully in your sunlight room throughout the seasons.

Hard to say with just one picture, but I would place your sofa along the back wall and have a pair of armchairs across.

Love your beautiful home! Let me know when you are complete and I will blog about it. :)


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