Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Color Inspiration

Last week, I attended a luncheon at which Charlotte Moss was the guest speaker. If you've read any of her books, you know that Charlotte finds inspiration in almost everything: travel, architecture, books, flowers, fashion. It was interesting to learn what sparks her imagination and how that spark might manifest itself in a later design project. Take, for example, Madeleine Castaing's pink and black bathroom (at top). Charlotte has long been a devotee of Castaing, and the particular color combination used by Castaing intrigued Charlotte- so much so that Charlotte later used a pink and black color scheme for her table setting that was photographed for At Home with Wedgwood: The Art of the Table. You can see that Charlotte chose a pink cloth and napkins as a backdrop for her black basaltware. Very striking just as Castaing's bathroom was.

Inspiration can be a funny thing. There are times when we see a photo or a color combination, for example, and might actively find a way to incorporate it into whatever it is we're working on. But then there are times when inspiration can be more passive. You might be struck by the mood or feel of something, and only much later do you realize that that "thing" has found its way into one of your creations- maybe a piece of art if you're an artist, or perhaps a dress if you're a fashion designer, or even a table setting if you like to entertain. This not so "deep thought" occurred to me after Charlotte's lecture. When thinking about the Castaing influence on her Wedgwood table setting, I remembered this photo of the Maharaja of Jaipur, featured in
The World in Vogue, that I first saw well over a year ago.

This image is all about dazzling color- vibrant pinks, oranges, blues, and golds. It's really quite magical. Every so often, I would pull the book from the shelf just to take a good look at the Maharaja and soak in the gorgeous setting. But you know, I never really thought too long and hard about the photo. I never made a concerted effort to strike up a room in a bevy of pinks and blues because that's not my style, nor did I ever think to write a blog post about this photo. I made no plans to do anything with what I saw. And then it dawned on me a few days ago- this photo has indeed had an effect on me, though I never realized it. I now believe that it inspired me to:

1) Buy these Rajasthan table linens by Le Jacquard Francais. My linen closet is filled with solid-colored hemstitch napkins and some Porthault here and there, but when I saw Rajasthan last Fall, I was so taken with the pinks and the oranges that I had to have them. The Maharaja never once crossed my mind while making this purchase, though. Or did he?

2) Arrange my books by color. Well, at least on one shelf. Now you know that I'm one of those people who will not arrange books by color. I have a system that works for me and organizing by color would mess that up. But on one shelf of books on fashion, I found myself stacking rows of pinks mixed with some reds. How did that happen? Maybe the photo had something to do with it?

3) Pull fabric samples that seem to fall in the pink, coral, orange, or peacock blue range. They tend to all be velvet, which isn't very Indian-like, but the colors certainly are. Now, where should I use this fabric???

Of course, there very well may have been other factors, and obviously I'm not the only person currently influenced by these particular colors. But, perhaps that photo of the Maharaja was the spark that I needed to branch out and experiment with a new color palette.

(Castaing image from The World of Madeleine Castaing; Wedgwood photo from At Home with Wedgwood: The Art of the Table; Maharaja from The World in Vogue)


  1. Thank you for your Spark! I find that it can even come from a sound, smell, or experience. You've reminded me to pay attention and be aware, because whenever it arises,the results are always interesting.

  2. Never having been a member of the griege school, my house is all pinks, oranges, golds, and greens. I just bought Tony Duquette's flaming orange sofa from the OKL sale and put it in my dining room. So you are preaching to the choir here.

  3. Barbara- So true! If only I would pay attention more often...

  4. Liz- Oh my, are you lucky! I bet that sofa looks smashing in your home!

  5. J --

    I love this post. And that maharaja photo is one of my faves from the book :)


  6. yes -inspiration IS everywhere. So jealous you heard C M speak. I remember my grandmother's bathroom had those retro pink wall tiles -but dark brown marble floor from a later renovation and a white marble vanity top with pink veining. Looking back it was such a stylish bathroom. I just hope the current owners didn't gut it!

  7. Anonymous5:03 PM

    brings to mind the current "country living" magazine and jennifer bright's daughter's bedroom (p.125). love the happy combo

  8. So glad you were able to spend time with Charlotte and hear her speak! I know she truly sees a spark in you and all that you do to inspire designers with your blog every week. You are such an inspiration!

  9. Jennifer,

    This post was so inspired, a la Diana Vreeland. It made me fantasize about India, old chinese wallpapers, and places I've been to in Long Island, NY and also places I've never been to such as India!

    Dean Farris

  10. PINK PINK PINK I LOVE it ...years and years ago I started painting clients ceilings pale pink it brings a beautiful flow to the rooms and makes one look good to .PINK is a very flattering color to most peoples skin tone...

  11. Could you give us the sources of the fabric samples in the last photo?

  12. Playhouse- The fabric in the middle is an Osborne & Little, while all of the rest are Schumacher. Hope that helps!

  13. annepotter4:08 AM

    This is such an inspiring post. I love Indian color palettes myself. They are bright, vibrant and exotic. Let me add to your post with these 17 color schemes inspired from the Desert Festivals of India