Thursday, February 19, 2009

Grown Up Color




Recently, I was interviewed for an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article on color. I was asked for my thoughts on color trends and the predictions that yellow and purple will be THE colors for 2009.

Though I don't have any yellow in my home, I heartily approve of the color- whether it's the "in" shade of the moment or not. I prefer gutsy yellows, much along the lines of Nancy Lancaster's buttah-yellow drawing room. (I recently saw the room in person, and it's far more vivid than I expected. The buttah that I grew up with is quite positively pale in comparison.) To me, the other gold standard of yellow rooms is Chris Spitzmiller's living room. The color- and everything else in it- is perfection!


In terms of purple, I am quoted as saying that I'm not a fan of purple. That is true. It's a great color, but it's just not for me. And then I went on to say that I'm mad for aubergine. The kind journalist asked me "Well, isn't aubergine a shade of purple??" Well, yes it is, and obviously I was having a daft moment. So to clarify, aubergine is one shade of purple that is very me.

But I did go on to say that I'm currently craving deeper, more sophisticated colors like aubergine, moss green, and moody shades of blue. Basically, I'm ready for some depth. And I swear it was as if Jeffrey Bilhuber read my mind. When I read my March issue of House Beautiful last night, I was giddy over his use of color in a Pennsylvania farmhouse: aubergine, kumquat, and indigo to name a few. It's a combination that just seems right for right now. As for that indigo room featured at top, Bilhuber was inspired by a similar color that he saw at Mount Vernon. (If I used it in my home, I'd have to go the high-gloss route just because I'm weak for shiny surfaces.)

I think we've all grown up a lot over the last year- we've had to because of the current political and economic climate. And I think color has matured too.


An armchair in the farmhouse decorated by Bilhuber. I adore this color; I almost want to eat it! The fabric is "Carom" from Malabar.


The kumquat/aubergine combo has some zip, especially against that blue chair frame. Bilhuber obviously has a great eye for color.


Chris Spitzmiller doesn't know this yet, but I'm planning on moving into his apartment with him. His living room is probably my favorite yellow room.


I remember being struck by this room in the Newport home of designer Meg Braff. Back in 2007, you really didn't see this shade of blue very often. It was a breath of fresh air, and it still is. The wallpaper is Farrow & Ball's Plain Stripe blue wallpaper with Stone Blue trim. The red accents look really good against that blue too.


Katie Ridder does some really interesting things with color, and I think her rooms have a lot of depth to them. Again, this room is a unique shade of blue.

(Bilhuber images from House Beautiful, March 2009; Julian Wass photographer. Image of the Spitzmiller living room from House Beautiful; photographer Tara Striano. Braff living room from House Beautiful, June 2007; Simon Upton photographer. Katie Ridder room from her website.)

30 comments:

  1. Your secret reveal about Chris Spitzmiller made me laugh out loud - which always deserves credit. Well done !!

    My slow to the finish church interiors will be so fashionable! I am using colors I would not normally choose, but it's hard to argue with stained glass windows. The simple blocks of color are purple, green, heavy yellow with a few blocks of blues and garnets. I have no choice. Thanks as always.

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  2. Jennifer - this is such a sophisticated palatte. I am not a fan of purple either, but there are two shades I adore - the palest lavender and one deep, almost brown, purple that I saw on a chair that Rose Tarlowe did a million years ago, a silk velvet I think. Delish.

    And - Chris is so nice, I'm quite sure he'd welcome you with open arms.

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  3. As this post proves once again, it's all in the way a colour is used--that's what makes it appealing. I'm in full agreement about Mr Bilhuber's use of aubergine and kumquat.( In lesser hands, it could have been a disaster.) So bold and assured.
    Yellow walls can be treacherous, don't you think? Mrs Lancaster's were finely stippled, so there's a sort of transparency that raises it to another level. Really, it must be glazed. Otherwise it ends up looking like Mom's kitchen...a far cry from 22 Avery Row.

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  4. I just love your posts,your writing and your perspective. It's so TRUE that....the standard by which we measure things we love ---is when you just want to EAT it!!

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  5. What a great post. You are so right about color and how it is used. I did a post on the same Pennsylvania farmhouse, in general, because I am wild about it - in every aspect. I struggled with my photos blurring as I am trying to use a new publisher - yours are so clear and lovely. In my opinion, it is a glorious house with the perfect mix of the right colors and furnishings. Thanks!

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  6. I've never liked purple in interiors - until this year and then all of a sudden, I was loving it! I'm still not on board with a bright yellow in my home - but love the cherriness of it! Especially in winter, in the midst of a recession!

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  7. I agree about the yellow-
    one of my favorite peices is an old round piano stool with the original glass-ball feet and lovely original mustard yellow paint....
    the children use it daily to reach the tap.
    wonderful blog-
    very inspiring....

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  8. congratulations is in order for you !

    so, congratz !!

    i am in complete agreement with you over the color issue.

    air xx's

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  9. Mary- Glad you had a chuckle!

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  10. Patricia- Deep brownish purple is a gorgeous color! That is my kind of purple!

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  11. Toby- Yes, I agree about yellow. It can be a difficult color with which to work. Chris Spitzmiller's walls are lacquered, which is a nice twist on yellow.

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  12. Diana- Thank you, and so glad you understood what I meant about wanting to eat that gorgeous shade of aubergine!

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  13. Hill Country- Great minds think alike ;)
    I think there are a lot of us who were inspired by this house!

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  14. Linda- I wonder what it is about purple that you either like it or you don't? There seems to be no in-between!

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  15. And thank you too Renee!

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  16. great post! I found it very intersting and the photos was wonderful as well. thanks

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  17. You're definitely on to something, Jennifer. The young, fresh, happy colors of the last few years--the orangeade oranges, watermelon pinks & tangy limes--were fun, but as we watch the rosy, optimistic times receding into the past, it seems that a little more seriousness is called for, in color, as well as in other stuff, so it's no wonder that slightly muddy, definitely mature colors & combinations seem very appropriate. These subdued tones are hardly dull & boring but they're nothing like the manic, giddy hues we've grown used to seeing.

    Anyway, here's Thomas Hardy's explanation, from The Return of the Native :"Fair prospects wed happily with fair times; but alas if times be not fair! Men have oftener suffered from the mockery of a place too smiling for their reason than from the oppression of surroundings oversadly tinged."

    At any rate, psychology aside, these are all good-looking rooms, but what sets them apart from many other other good-looking rooms that we've seen lately are not only the rooms' handsome, complex colors, but also their very grown-up approach to decorating. These rooms were not aimed at the Domino crowd. Whoever lives in these rooms has never heard of Etsy.

    The last room, in particular, though struck me as somehow familiar: its colors--the unusual color combination, strong but dulled--plus the velvet upholstery, the pale rug & the angle of the composition all seemed to remind me of another room when I first saw the post this morning, but at first I couldn't think of what it was. Then, looking at this post again a few minutes ago, I knew. Anyway, here' a painting--done by David Payne for the late great House & Garden magazine--of that other room, decorated by the East Coast firm of Schuyler & Lounsbery during another period of economic uncertainty, almost three quarters of a century ago. Similar causes produce similar effects.

    http://s13.photobucket.com/albums/a286/MAGNAVERDE/?action=view&current=ART--DavidPayneforHG--small.jpg

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  18. I enjoyed your post! Great images, and it's nice to see some different colors entering the scene.

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  19. Great insight. It's funny. All of a sudden I'd been looking to see where the yellow is in my house, and it is in small pieces here and there in accents, and the purple that I really like, I call eggplant...that dark, serious, yet mysterios sort of shade. I think it's darker than aubergine. Thanks for helping me think in colors!

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  20. I Enjoyed your blog it is very inspirational!

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  21. The problem with things purple for me is that they tend to remind me of embarrassing highschool tastes I once had. But I love it in the garden, once Penelope Hobhouse renamed it plum But lately I've been ogling ochre/gold lime washed rooms with excitement again, so I think your prediction may be right. I'm tired of beige in all its tasteful variations, bored with swedish white, and cheerful mod colors don't resonate right now.

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  22. Great post, and the photos you show prove how good colour can be. As others have noted too, it is not always an easy thing to get right, but when it's good, it's very good!

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  23. Jennifer, the Spitzmiller yellow (and Lancaster's of course) will probably always be my favorite but I love rich vibrant greens too. Or the mossy greens that you've talked about before.

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  24. Is there any chance for a slumber party when you move into Christopher's place?
    I am even willing to sleep in a tent in the garden to get a peek at his place in person!

    I find this post very interesting as I was most recently at a lecture at the SF Design Center two weeks ago and Benjamin Moore (the paint company) was saying that the trends for upcoming were just sand and tan and cream and the use of no color at all.
    I ordered the Malabar fabric sample as well. Thank you for the great attention to naming things in the details. I have a client that wants that exact color on a chair- so I think it is perfect fit!

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  25. you like hydrangea colors - I once saw a house designed in moody hyndragea shades that I can't for the life remember who did it, but it was an A lister - I think it was in HB a few years ago. so beautiful. do you not like lilac? jsut wondering.

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  26. I picked up my copy of House Beautiful this weekend and nearly died when I saw those dark indigo walls in the Bilhuber designed home - so luscious!

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  27. Alison11:22 PM

    Thank you so much for this perspective! Colors aside, I loathe the trend I've seen in design blogs over the last year featuring elements perfect for a six year old (stuffed handmade animals, cartoonish bird prints, jello colors, goofy wall decals, etc) but meant for ADULTS. I've been scratching my head over this, why the trend toward juvenalia?? Is it a desire to run from adult responsibility? Your blog, and 3 others I can think of are always adult and sophisticated. Thanks for addressing it head on.

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  28. Thanks Allison! I'm glad that we can be adults again!

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  29. The color walls on the first photo is spectacular

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