06 July 2009

Decorating With COLOR: Part I

Truly, I do appreciate the peaceful calm of a neutral or an all white room. For some beautiful examples, see this post on New Orleans designer and French antiques maven, Gerrie Bremermann, from Joni Webb, herself a terrific decorator, as well as the talented writer of the popular blog, Cote de Texas.
An English cottage from Cote de Texas

Joni's own home, which is frequently featured on her blog:

...is a gorgeous mix of soothing neutrals, as are homes of her clients, such as this charming vignette:

(...et bien sur, I adore all the French country references in Joni's decor!)

Or check out this Cote de Texas post on the home of Wisteria catalog owner, Shannon Newsom (as featured in Veranda Magazine, which is edited by Shannon's mother-in-law, Lisa Newsom.)

Home of Wisteria's Shannon Newsom

So...you can see that I do appreciate subtle neutrals........

However, I simply CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT COLOR - and lots of it! Whether a room is decorated with a group of colors, or in a monochromatic scale, to me, color is what makes the room come alive. Some of my absolute all-time favorite fabric designers are those who are not afraid of either color or pattern, and usually do use both together, with smashing effect.

For instance, I have adored Manuel Canovas since I was in perhaps 6th or 7th grade, and viewed his Paris apartment, in my mom's House & Garden magazine (which I avidly devoured on a monthly basis). His home, with its high ceilings and tall windows, was full of his own fabrics: on the furniture, walls, everywhere. His master bedroom was completely done in his oversized tropical fruit print, Pali, in blue on white.

Pali - still fresh after 40+ years

I couldn't get over how dramatic the prints were, how bold his palette. While Canovas, himself no longer owns the company bearing his name, his original designs are still printed and sold - and are still as fresh and vibrant today as they were over 40 years ago! Fortunately for us, Cowtan & Tout now owns the company and also continues to add new patterns reflective of original Canovas style.

Joe Nye used Pali for these pillows

Gerrie Bremermann used Pali for this loveseat

Some of the luscious colors coming from Manuel Canovas these days

Today, Manuel Canovas (the man, not the company) designs under the name Lorca (his mother's maiden name) which is owned by Osborne & Little, and produces some of the most gorgeous fabrics you could ever hope to see! This picture of Saskia does not do it justice. It is a very heavy fabric and the tulips and leaves are all completely embroidered. It is, in a word, spectacular.

Lorca's Saskia

I am also passionate about the fabric designs of Dorothy Draper, whose legacy is perpetuated by her long-time assistant - now owner of Dorothy Draper Design - Carlton Varney. Through his line, Carlton V, he has revived several of Draper's fabrics and wallpapers from her heyday as a society designer in the 1940's, only slightly tweaking the colors to fit better into today's interiors.

Dorothy Draper's original fabric, Rhododendron, as seen above in Mint, has been re-released by Carlton V, in a gorgeous aqua. I was so inspired by this bold and colorful print that I used it as the basis for my entire dining room scheme at the Newport Showhouse Guild's 2008 showhouse in Narragansett, RI.

Close-up of Carlton V's updated version
Trimmings from Highland Court are just plain FUN

(Photo by Michael J. Lee)

The amazing aqua sea glass chandelier and sconces -
perfect crowning glory for this colorful room

Keeping to a palette of aqua, lime and raspberry, I used other fabrics in this room from China Seas (the lime zebra print & the raspberry cheetah print) which are colorful enough to share the stage with Draper & Co.'s Rhododendron, as well as vibrant lime and raspberry silks, which I had my upholsterer combine on the Louis XVI style chairs. The tailored tablecloth is Monterey Woven Texture in Sea by Brunschwig & Fils. My friend, the very talented Chris Smith, glazed and stenciled the walls in several shades of aqua. The gorgeous bordered Wilton carpet is raspberry with white accents.

I love this room, and had so much fun putting it together, since the colors and tones here just exude happiness! I am still amazed that it could be at once so lively, and yet calming.

I was also invited to design the guest bedroom and bath suite in this same house, for which I went all out with Brunschwig & Fils's collections from Spring '07 and '08. the colors and the fabulous French country motifs were so inspirational.

(Photo by Michael J. Lee)

(Photo by Michael J. Lee)

I personally mixed this wall color to compliment the fabrics in the room. While the paint is not an exact hue in any of the fabrics, it is a sort of melding of several of the colors and works overall. I spent a couple of hours getting just the perfect shade of periwinkle. As with the dining room, this palette is both exciting and soothing at the same time. (It's also an extension of the ocean view from the room's wonderful big windows.)

Detail of Brunschwig & Fils fabrics on custom headboard

Settee in more B & F fabric & trims

The bathroom in this suite showcases a matching wallpaper and fabric, again by Brunschwig & Fils. To enhance the colorful shell and vine toile, I glued rosy mauve toned scallop shells onto the homeowner's mirror. Then, I had cosmetic bags and towels embroidered in matching colors. Here again, notice how the periwinkle of the ribbons is neither the blue nor the violet of the toile, but something in between, which goes so well even if it doesn't exist in the actual print.

(Photo by Michael J. Lee)

In my own dining room, below, historic hand painted murals are enhanced by woodwork in another custom paint color, this time pulling out the various blue/greens in the walls. Once again, I submit that it is worth several hours or even days of one's time to concoct just the perfect shade of paint, as it will give years of enjoyment.

My living room and kitchen, below, will be featured in detail, soon, but these shots will prove (in case you still doubt it) that I adore saturated color in home decor:

(Photo by Nan & Monty Abbott)

(Photo by Nan & Monty Abbott)

I have many more photos (my own and the work of other designers) which I'll show in future posts, glorifying the power of COLOR. It's a visual stimulation that can act in so many ways on our mood and outlook on life! The next time you are in a room with lots of color, let it wash over you, and think about how the tones in that room make you feel. I think it's impossible not to be affected by color.


  1. Thank you so much for the mention!!!!!! your house looks beautiful - can't wait to see more.

    Good luck on your blog!!!
    thank you again,

  2. Joni, thank YOU! I take that as a real compliment, since I admire your talent and style so much.

    Yours was the first blog I ever followed with regularity. Keep up the great work.

    Best, Kate

  3. that shade of blue/green in your dining room is the EXACT color i've been searching for over a year for my bedroom. i know you said it was custom mixed, but do you have any idea how i can get my hands on something very similar?



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