92 posts categorized "guests"

August 08, 2011

Finding the Best Blues and Purples

Jane Dagmi


Lately, I've been thinking a lot about decorating with blue.  Inspired by a recent and joyful overdose of hydrangea plants along the California coast, I am loving many shades of blue represented in this bountiful flower from fresh French blue to a mellow heather hue and onto a vivacious violet.  Riding a hydrangea blue high, I found a few beautiful rooms whose palettes reflect my state of mind.


A Patriotic Palette in Raspberry, Cream and Cornflower


I always enjoy a stylish spin on the American patriotic palette, and that's why I went gaga for this open and airy non-kitschy gracious living room designed by Little Rock maverick Tobi Fairley.  While the furnishings and architecture reflect strong Anglo-American roots, the traditional red, white, and blue is tweaked.  Updated shades of blue are brilliant and serene and go splendidly with a more berry-ish red and creamy white.  Aptly named, Heaven on Earth 1661, seems to raise the room's ceiling, yet the impressive Chippendale lantern, a piece in Tobi's namesake home collection, keeps the space intimate and centered. Underfoot, black adds graphic goodness and a bit of punch.


Walls 926 Seashell, Trim Ivory White 925, Klismos chair San Francisco Bay 802
photos: TobiFairley.com

Heaven on Earth 1661, Raspberry Truffle 2080-10, Seashell 926, Ivory White 925, San Francisco Bay 802


Understated Chic with Faded Lavendar Blue


While purple is always high on a child's list of favorite colors, this hue in its diluted and grayed state is decidedly mature.  Pale smoky lavender blue, such as Organdy 1248, is seductive in a bedroom and modestly posh everywhere else.  Emulating the look of dried hydrangea, the faded, chalky cooled down version of a fairy tale hue feels timeless and real.  Its amethyst vibe pairs well with elegant servings of silver, gold, and white.  Mixing in weightier metals and less precious textures such as rough hewn wood and natural fibers, brings this refined ethereal shade back down to earth, and makes it a tad more man-friendly.


photos: hydrangea: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thehomebird/4318565779/
bedroom: Decorpad, living room: fourwallsandaroof.com

Dreamy Cloud 2117-70, Hearthstone 1601, Dunmore Cream HC-29, Sterling 1591, Vanilla Ice Cream OC-90


La Vida Violet


Violet feels indulgent, spirited, and mostly feminine.  It is not recommended for decorating lightweights since it never goes unnoticed.  Several sophisticated steps up from little-girl pink, violet is a confident choice for a private or personal space such as a dressing room or study.  I could see it being successful in a dining room too.  Its innate redness gives it an intense, warm personality.  Too much for some, violet's vibrancy is easily tamed with white or a strong, solid neutral--such as chocolate or black.  Wildcard accents in tangerine, aqua, or olive green add a bohemian flair.


photos: hydrangea: Jane Dagmi
bottom (left to right): Steven Gambrel, Coco & Kelley, Apartment Therapy

Cranberry Ice 1362, Barrista AF-175, Marscapone AF-20, Electric Orange 2015-10

End Note: I know that I share this earth with many other hydrangea admirers, and so I wanted to make you all aware of the passionate efforts of the late Ms. Penny McHenry who became first enamored with a blue hydrangea bloom back in 1975.  From there, she spent many years learning about the various hydrangea species and cultivating them in her Atlanta garden.  In 1994, she founded The American Hydrangea Society.


photo: The American Hydrangea Society

August 04, 2011

Great Bedroom Colors

Lucianna Samu

It's probable that there are better things to dream about on a sultry August afternoon than bedroom walls that match the Mediterranean, or a bathroom painted the color of my riding instructor's Palomino horse.  Maybe cruising the Mediterranean or riding the Palomino horse.  Hopefully you are reading this post with one foot on the ground to keep your hammock rocking at your favorite summer spot.  You can thank me in September, then, for sparking your enthusiasm to plan a favorite bedroom color combination while you're surrounded by the inspiring palette of summer.


Put to a vote, the quintessential color of summer--yellow--probably ranks in the top three favorite bedroom colors.  With years of color consults behind me, I've figured out that most people feel pretty neutral about yellow, most especially an honest-to-goodness creamy yellow ochre tint, such as Weston Flax HC-5, or its more yellow neighbor, Hawthorne Yellow HC-4.  Neither will ever appear green, even in the most overcast or blue bias north-facing room.  I interchangeably call each of these yellows "Switzerland"--the most non-partisan of colors that most people feel good about and can agree on.

Hawthorne Yellow HC-4, Western Flax HC-5


I myself have no particular "always" color for the bedroom.  My husband prefers blue and I'm a green person, making my existing Hawthorne Yellow bedroom, pictured above, the default non-partisan color of compromise. Since I plan to sleep in this particular bedroom for a long time, I put an extra special amount of effort into figuring out a more exciting color compromise.  Choosing Deep Ocean 2058-30, a blue that leans ever so much toward green, but stops short of appearing the turquoise I would prefer, is a great example of how sometimes it's best to allow the space and not the occupants, to dictate the color choice.  Once again, I used my view to my color picking advantage as well.

Deep Ocean 2058-30

My first choice for my color change would have been Kendall Charcoal HC-166.  This saturated gray would be beautiful below the high ceiling, but I lacked the opportunity to add enough white, and the orangey pine floors would clash with charcoal gray.

Kendall Charcoal HC-166


This room faces due east--so gets lots of bluish morning light.  Purple would have been fabulous with in the morning light.  I'd choose a rich aubergine, like Dark Lilac 2070-30.  The floors would be so happy in the company of its purple complement.  Maybe some acid or apple green accents?  Be still my heart!  Giant white artwork and white linen drapes . . . I need to get a hold of myself; after all, I don't live alone.

Dark Lilac 2070-30, Feel the Energy 417, Candy Green 403

A richer, golden yellow, maybe Sun Kissed Yellow 2022-20, would be very luscious in this space and definitely more of a 'wow' than Hawthorne Yellow.  Brassy yellows too, some might call these the south of France yellows, soothe a morning exposure and are very beautiful for bedrooms with all-white or linen fabrics. 

Meadow View 383, Angels Trumpet 278, Sun Kissed 2022-20

So there you have it.  I re-considered all options and determined my bedroom wants to be blue.  Deep Ocean 2058-30 complements the river view, and loosely references a Revolutionary war era 'George Washington' blue.  It's a lot of color no doubt, but the high ceiling, fireplace surround, new bookshelves and large windows all provide me a spot for contrast or relief.  Think I'll add a little of both--a colorful texture to better define the fireplace, and an accent color, to reduce the high contrast of the white trim.  Think I'll be wanting to have some of Angels Trumpet 278 somewhere in the space, to lift the floor color. Lots to do, so send me any thoughts from your summer hideaway!


Stay colorful!

August 02, 2011

A House Full of Cool Colors

Lucianna Samu

I heard a news story recently which proclaimed 85 percent of the U.S. population live in air-conditioned 'circumstances.'  'Circumstances,' is probably the operative word here, and my particular circumstance is not air-conditioned.  While the debate in my house over whether the benefits of a constant breeze and fans is the equivalent of whole house climate control rages on, Grant Beige, HC-84 is adding a cooling and calming contrast to my side of the argument.  Turns out it's indisputable; you can cool a room with a cool color and improve your circumstance dramatically while you are at it.


Here in the southern Adirondack Mountains where I live, architects and builders endeavor to site a house for the most solar gain.  Makes sense, since it's mighty cold here for six months, and a sunny house is a warm house.  If you factor the landscape into the equation, the summer heat can be reduced with trees situated for shading the roof and sun glare.  If all this climate planning is done well, the result is often a house like mine, where the seasonal changes are so dramatic, the winter and summer atmospherics are equally dramatic.  My color choice, a very neutral cool beige-y-gray--Grant Beige--fixes all that and then some.

I suppose 85 percent of my visitors still think I'm crazy because I don't have air-conditioning.  I can say that 100 percent of them love the look and feel of the monochromatic and neutral surround, which I've punctuated with all the colors I love and see in the landscape.  The colors will not only warm the house again when the leaves fall, they will keep me company on a snowy winter day.  Here's a re-cap of how I worked each changing color in my landscape into my whole house palette.  You could easily do this yourself, once you begin to approach your color planning this way.

The Bonne Nuit AF635 ceiling color in the entry foyer was taken from a winter sunset view.


Budding green, grassy green and brassy winter green is reflected in small furnishings painted Paradise Hills Green 550 and accessories.


Pink dots the landscape throughout spring and summer and looks swell as a foreground color to the sweeping green lawn outside the windows.  Wild Pink 2362-40 did the trick for me!


Simplifying the kitchen palette to match my mother's china ensures a basket of red delicious apples on the counter will look just as yummy as freshly baked holiday breads.


I've referenced the whole house palette in its entirety in small details, which will make the transition to a more colorful second floor feel effortless.


My tiniest inspirational piece, the diminutive life-like sculpture of my black & white goat, acts as my single consistent core color throughout.


I've packed my paint boxes, and Andy the painter is way ahead of me on the second floor.  Hope you come see the color ideas we'll use to change the atmosphere up there?  Bedrooms are the place for very personalized color decisions, and breaking a few color rules is great fun in small guest or children’s rooms.  As usual, I'm on the hunt for inspirational references to make all my color-dreams look beautiful and feel comfortable.  So while it's cool and breezy here today, I'm already thinking about the ensuing winter debate; a thermostat set at 64 or 72 degrees!


Stay colorful!

July 29, 2011

A Quick and Lasting Faux Bois

Lucianna Samu


Avid thrift shoppers, garage sale hunters and curbside collectors alike have yet to put a crimp in the availability of solid wood finds worthy of up-cycling.  I like that word, up-cycling--it has a certain poetic ring to it that blurs the fact that really what we're all doing is passing our discards around.  Doors are probably my greatest obsession, and a solid cherry or, better yet, walnut door is a hard thing to find by the curb.  So when they do turn up, I strap them onto the roof of my old Volvo and add them to my pile of "someday someone will need this beauty."  Someday may come sooner than I thought for my tall pile of rescued wood furniture, thanks to the greatest invention an up-cycler could ever hope for--a reliable waterborne wood stain called Arborcoat.


When a thrift shopper, who is also an up-cycler, sets out to resurrect an old wood furniture piece a familiar lament generally follows and all interested parties take up sides.  I am firmly entrenched on the "faux it" side of this debate, while others enjoy the toils of stripping and staining wood.  Surely I won't win over the purists among us, whose intent is always a fine restoration.  To those of you who are in my busy camp, where there's more to fix than hands to fix with, learning to rejuvenate these pieces quickly, inexpensively and effectively, softens the talking to you'll surely get, from the stripping and staining crowd.  I like to indulge myself in the folly of believing that someday I'll have time to refinish all of my fine wood finds, too.  But in the meantime, and often before lunch, I treat them to a faux bois painted and stained finish, which leaves the wood looking old and salvaged but loved.

Job one is to get the piece clean.  I've taken a liking to Benjamin Moore’s wood cleaner for this, REMOVE Finish Remover 315, which solves the dilemma of figuring out if I'm cleaning mildew, mold, dirt, grease--you name it.  Once the wood is entirely dry, sand it lightly with a 220 grit garnet sandpaper, wash it again, and let it dry again.  Wear gloves and a mask for this part, and if your project is large, you may prefer to work outdoors in a cool, shady and relatively dust-free place.


Ever the contrarian, I worked on my door in the house and hanging in place.  Because the door weighs a ton, I figured it was safer to chance using an exterior product inside than it was to risk having the door fall on me, outside.   Either option beats an all-out refinishing project, and that's my pat answer on that part of the debate.  No matter where you're working, you'll need to get the surface of the wood to appear consistent, and that part of this technique is done with paint.  Every wood will vary in color considerably, so work toward identifying a color that looks logical on your wood.  I choose to use Blanched Almond 1060 and Buckhorn 987. The transparent finish coat of Arborcoat Stain, was mixed in Weathered Oak 1050.


To begin, I applied the lightest color, Blanched Almond, with a brush to conceal the shadow left by the hardware.  As I went over the entire door, the idea was to leave most of the wood revealed, and cover up the surface imperfections with the fresh paint.  Scratching through the wet paint using 0000 steel wool, added graininess and authenticity to the coloration.  Wear your gloves!


Next, I added the darker paint color in the same open grain technique, meaning the wood surface below is always being made to show through the paint.  I scratched that color in with the steel wool too, and fussed in the suggestion of more grain on the rail with a small brush.


For the final stroke of up-cycling beautification, I applied one coat of Benjamin Moore's Arborcoat transparent wood stain over the entire door and rail. The stain had everything appearing woody and matching in no time. The stain cleaned up the corners, evened the color overall, and balanced the difference in the door and rail color. Plus, it didn't smell and cleans up in a jiffy with soap and water.  Arborcoat is the most forgiving stain product I've ever had the pleasure of using for this kind of faux bois technique.  It is beautifully transparent, sands nicely, and didn't raise the grain in my dry old door at all.  The advantages of Arborcoat go well beyond my small faux bois project.


I chose not to put a finish of any kind on my door.  I didn't want to entirely obliterate the wear a hundred years hanging in a horse barn had made, and the dead flat matte Aura finish helps to preserve the intrinsically dry and powdery look, as does the Arborcoat's transparency.  The leather strap I fitted onto a black metal back plate, made quick work of concealing the hole left behind from the original door pull.  If I were to ever leave my home here at the Peabody farm, you can be sure this door would be going with me.  Maybe, on that someday I'll get around refinishing it, but then again, why bother? 

If you've ever thought twice about rescuing a wood door or furniture piece, thinking it's just too much work to have it looking fabulous, maybe your someday has arrived?  Happy thrift hunting, and Faux Bois the Bois!


before and after

Stay colorful!

July 26, 2011

Colors Every Man Will Love

Lucianna Samu

Now that you have all had a chance to process the construction details of my tiny storage cabinet, I'd like to share the inspiration for this unusual color solution.  I'm not opposed to a solid color accent wall in general, but with a little ingenuity it's possible to take the ubiquitous solid color accent wall to new heights.  Surrounding yourself with color references that recall a time in your life you fondly remember has the same effect on your well being as tuning into a radio station that just happens to be playing your favorite song.  It's subtle, it makes us smile, and it makes us feel happy and safe, all at the same time. Reaching back in my memory for a collection of colors I feel best about got me half way there.  I'm giving myself some extra credit on the pattern.


My father wore Argyle socks.  Another fond memory is of his well-polished wing tip shoe teetering over the crook of his knee while he sipped his afternoon Manhattan on the rocks.  I can't say I set out to emulate my father's afternoon arrangement with Jim Beam when I decided to outfit my living room with a storage cabinet for liquor.  But, as is so often the case when we personalize the design decisions we make around the house, color & pattern references culled from the "memory file" entitled Happiness happen naturally when we let it.  While this design could better be described as a repetitive diamond pattern, to me it's my father's argyle socks and his favorite drink, all realized on a wall.


It was easier to get an impression of how the twelve colors would work as a group once I put the paint into cups.  For those of you who prefer to think through your designs and color arrangements, re-arranging the cups is a reliable method to organize the palette.  Here's my happy color collection . . .


Grant Beige HC 83, Muslin, OC 12, Sugar Cookie OC 93, Rosewood 2082-40, Branch Brook Green 572, Mozart Blue 1665, Foggy Morning 2106-70, Blanched Almond 1060, Mystical Blue 792, Coastal Fog 976, Buckhorn 987, Inner Balance 1522

I did use a stencil for this project, which I mention not as an apology but rather because it was a stroke of luck that I had one that fit.  If your ability to calculate a hypotenuse is clear in your mind, it's not difficult to lay this design out and tape each diamond as you go.  A check, large grid, stripe, or any easy-to-render pattern you have an affinity for would be just as interesting.  There are a number of reliable on-line sources for custom stencils--maybe you have a fondness for madras or toile?


After painting out each diamond with my signature random obliviousness, I noticed a pattern in my pattern and thought the distribution of color was a little unsettling.  (I suppose I should have played around with the cups some more!)  It would have been easy enough to change a few of the colors I had already painted, but I've learned such remedies can make me crazy in no time.  Instead, I popped the top off a gallon of latex glazing liquid and got busy.


I mixed some brown paint from my cups with some matte black Aura paint, and added in one part Benjamin Moore's latex glazing liquid.  Thinning this oddball color mixture with just a drop of water made what pro finishers call "dirt."  Heavy dark glaze mixtures age and diffuse painted effects nicely.  The small amount of water allowed plenty of time to play around before the glaze dries.  I made this toning layer look somewhat linear with the help of a big brush to soften the glaze.  The final effect is diffused, making the visual bounce in my busy pattern less jarring.  If you try this "dirt" formula and it appears too dark or too overpowering, the glaze can be removed almost entirely with a wet rag.  So, by all means, soften your paint techniques with a glaze.


Although I don't share my father's affinity for bourbon, I know this tiny storage cabinet could also be useful for napkins, stemware, or wine bottles.  Would you agree the interest the cabinet adds to the room nearly trumps its use by any measure?

There was some question about the rail, which projects off to the side, serving as a guide for the door as it opens.  It has turned out to be an excellent picture ledge, which frankly was just a happy accident.  Maybe the rail would appear more well thought out if it were made to match the wood door?


The wood door needs some fixing and I'll explain the easiest and most efficient technique I know to clean up salvaged wood surfaces next time.  A super easy rendition of a Faux Bois technique will make it look cleaner and be easy to keep clean.  I have a way to go before I can report in on the efficiency of the tiny 28 square ft. storage cabinet, but for now I'm happy enough to have a destination for friends who share my father's affinity for a cocktail before dinner.  Good design, great colors and making everyone feel right at home--all we need now is to find some Sinatra on the radio.

Stay colorful!