Crazy Colorful: How to create colour flow with a varied palette

One of the things that signifies a well designed decor is a certain flow from room to room, and colour is a large part of that. The easiest was to achieve this flow is to pick one colour (usually a light to midtone neutral and use that colour throughtout most of the space. This does create a serene, space expanding backdrop. However, it can also be, quite frankly, boring, especially if your soul craves colour and lots of it. But how do you create a home with flow if you paint every room a different colour? Is it possible? It can be.

Below is my home's paint palette. And no, my parents did not travel with Ringling Bros. circus. Why do you ask? I know, I know it's a lot of color, but I promise you the colours do flow through the home, and I'll demonstrate how and why.Note: the paint chips did not photo graph true to colour, especially the teal in the upper right which is much less blue and the cranberry next to it, which is much less purple. This is one reason that you can't select your paint color from a photo of another room.

First, though, before you go crazy grabbing samples at the paint store, you need to spend some time thinking about how much colour you will be comfortable with and whether or not your home lends itself to a lot of varied wall colors. Typically, a wider palette works best in traditionally styled homes with lots of definition between rooms. Think of those beautiful French rooms laid out enfilade with double doors between, or Georgian style homes with thick moulding framing doorways. Bungalows and cottages also tend to lend themselves to a varied palette. In modern construction with an emphasis on open floor plans with few cased openings, the best plan is often to use a neutral in the main living spaces (with an occasional accent wall), and confine the colour changes to discrete spaces like bedrooms, powder rooms, mudrooms, etc.

Secondly, you'll need to apply the artistic idea of variety with unity. That is, the more the walls change, the more other things need to remain consistent. For example, in my home, the same flooring flows through every room, the ceilings are all the same off-white, all of the doors are painted the same dark glossy brown, most of the furniture is covered in off-white cotton, and I'm in the process of replacing my varied woven shades with relaxed roman shades in off-white burlap. Having a lot of different wall colors is visually stimulating---add in differenct ceiling colors and flooring....it would be an assault. Your goal is for guests to be stunned by your daring choices, not for them to ask if your paint consultant was a drunk colour blind clown with
a gift certificate to home depot.

Third, the ideas and examples I'm going to show can be adapted to less extreme palettes--the same kind of principles apply to a mix of tones of the same hue or to a mix of neutrals from light to dark or to a mix of pastels.

Fourth, I highly recommend you go check out the blog Colour Me Happy on my blogroll. Maria Killam is a colour expert who has written some tremendously informative posts.

When I've decided on my colours, I like to lay all of the samples out and see if they look good together--in an abstract way. Does anyone jump out as being out of place? i.e. a clean color has snuck in with my complex ones, or a bright has mingled with my jewel tones. Then I try to imagine them together in a print: would they blend. Here, I've placed my swatches on a pillow that miraculously does contain all of the tones:

The fabric below also contains a lot of the tones. This lets me know that colours do relate. Of course, it's most important for the colours in adjoining rooms to live harmoniously, but I prefer all of the colours to be able to blend. This will become important as I sprinkle touches of each colour throughout the house.


If possible, I like to indicate the palette as soon as possible, in this case my front porch. Since the front door opens directly into the living room, the porch actually functions as a sort of foyer for the house. Notice the outdoor pillow contains a print that mingles most of the colours, and that the upholstery is in the same offwhite that the interior upholstered furniture wears. The orchid and vintage pot also tie to colours found in the interior. (ignore the green vinyl trim and white siding...these are things I can't change, so I ignored them.)
The living room and office are connected by a large opening, so I treated them as one room. As the house's largest and most used space, it is also the most neutral. When using a lot of colour, I do think it's important to have some places to be able to get away from all that stimulation. Though the paint (Sherwin Williams's Blonde) is a distinct gold, it still acts as a neutral. The offwhite fabrics and natural touches (wood, wicker, etc.) continue throughout the home to provide some consistency.

Looking toward the office, you get your first hint of strong colour from the stairwell/dining room. The broad horizontal cream stripes keep the colour from being overwhelming and relate to the soft golds and creams of the front rooms. The large green leaf gives a hint of things to come in the kitchen. Notice how the uninterrupted flow of flooring connects the different spaces.
A vintage style glass lamp in an orange swirl brings the orange of the next room into this space. As demonstrated by the orchid, most florals are white or green....there is enough happening without adding coloured bloom.

We've definitely hit more colour now (Truepenny by sherwin williams on dining room walls and pale avacado by Benjamin Moore in the kitchen). Orange and green are near complements on the colour whell and work well together. Continuous flooring and lots of offwhite trim also help unify the rooms. Notice how the yellow orange of the print in the kitchen related back to the orange walls.

Little details can make a difference: notice the offwhite ceramics on top of the china cabinet, as well as the bright green off the centerpiece. Both are accents repeated in other rooms.
In the kitchen, the chair upholstery references the orange and cream scheme of the adjoining room.
The natural cherry cabinets also reference the terracotta dining area. Dishes and bowls in turquoise, gold, and white repeat colours found throughout.
Again, a small touch, the vintage wall hanging, puts all the paint colours together in one piece.
For consistency, I've even brought the avacado green (in the form of the sweet potato vine) and the terracotta out in the patio area directly outside of the glass kitchen door, as well as to the outdoor dining area which also joins the kitchen.

Vignettes time the color scheme together:

The orange walls provide a dramatic backdrop for an ever growing collection of eclectic art.

The colours in these painting directly influenced the choices for the other upstairs rooms. The background yellow of the large oil a and digitally manipulated photo in the gold frame was repeated the bath.
Again, a small touch, a dull orange vase brings the hall color inside.
Pillows, stencilling, and more art tie the varied colours together.
Offwhite ceilings, rug, bedding, and roman shades help calm the effect of so much colour.
Consistency in accessories also helps. Notice how well Cleo blends with the decor....no accident.
I know not everyone wants to live in a madhouse riot of colour, but I just wanted to let you know that it is possible to paint every room (well almost every room) a different colour and still achieve flow and consistency. And by the way, I do appreciate the irony that even though white paint is in my blog title there is not a single white wall in the house. Now go out there and bury the beige!


Christmas Crush: Flexible furniture plan for extra guests

When you live in a city like New Orleans, especially if you live close to the route of a major Mardi Gras parade, you tend to get guests. Lots of guests. Lots of guests at the same time. While I love having a houseful of people to feed and entertain, it can sometimes be a challange to find a bed for all in a smallish home. One thing I did do was use a furniture plan that was popular in the 1950s (I first saw it used in the bedroom of a couple of career gals in "That Touch of Mink"). I placed two twin beds in a corner to use as an ad hoc sectional in our upstairs den/tv room--(I don't think its quite grand enough to quailify as a media room--if I had more room, I'd place a large square table in the corner to serve both beds. I then dressed them as a large divan with lots of cushions and pillows. Of course, our den is decked out in a high Victorian Orientalist fantasy theme with lots of stenciling and jewel tones, but the same idea could be adopted to a wide variety of styles. Using the sleek simple frames from west elm or ikea and a bunkie board instead of a bos spring could easily take this look to a contemporary style.
With the cushions and an ottoman used as cocktail table (the burlap on the sides hides the evidence of my cat George's unhappiness) and the curtains drawn, it's a perfect and cozy place to lounge around and watch a movie.

Our staff on quaility control duty.
But when it's needed to serve as a bedroom, within 15 minutes, it can be arranged into a room for two, with floor cushions serving as headboards.

The end table is large enough to service both beds as a nightstand.
This arrangement offers a ton of flexibilty and would be great for a kid's room, or a small apartment. For a more tailored look, you could order a custom slipcover or a mattress cover. These are available on line. Even with mattresses, frames, and covers, it would still cost less and be more comfortable than most sleeper sectionals.


Bedroom Redo Part Deux: Cleopatra approves

Off to function at the inlaws, so no time for much text, but here are some photos of the bedroom about 75% done.
For review, before:

And after:


Design Resolutions: Bedroom redo update

Last thursday, I decided to get a head start on my design resolution # 1 (trying to make my house as magazine worthy as possible on an extremely tight budget by working on some problem areas) by embarking on a cosmetic redo of the bedrooom. Some reader seemed surprised that I was aiming for a Dec. 20th deadline. They should have been surprised. Apparently I was smoking crack to think I could churn out a redo that quick. Since then, I've experienced some unexpected work issues, some forgotten social obligations, and extreme forces of nature (parts of New Orleans experienced flash floods). And laziness....I didn't mention the bouts of pure laziness. However, there has been some progress: the painting is almost complete, and I love the new color, Riverway from Sherwin Williams: it's a beautiful, deep, blue-green teal with a lot of gray undertones (it may not be apparent from the pictures, but it's much darker than the original aqua paint). *Note: this is why one should pay some attention to paint names---the original paint was named Vintage Kitchen---and that's what it looked like. It would have been great and cheery in a 30s style kitchen, but it was a little too bright and perky for a non-morning person's bedroom. Years ago, I had a similiar situation where, only after painting a large portion of a friend's den did I notice that the beige I thought I had chosen from a small swatch was acutally a pale lavender--I rushed to the paint can to see that lavender was actually in the name....I hadn't noticed--luckily the friend was female and okay with the lavender).

I've also had the headboard (from a salvaged door) hung, and the sconces remounted. I love it. Unfortunately the free bed frame I had been gifted was for a full size and not queen, so I have to hunt another one down...I may not make the deadline, but I'm on the way.

And frankly, the deadline was somewhat artifical. I just know that I can never get off my can unless I have some sort of ending date in mind.


Comfort(able) Eating

Tonight, we were having friends for dinner. It's been grey, chilly, and wet for the past week, so my focus was on warmth, cheer and comfort. Simple menu--slow cooked mustard/brown sugar glazed pork roast, baked pasta with cheese, roasted asparagus, homemade biscuits with herb butter--plain, hearty food, my favorite. (Who am I kidding? All food is my favorite, from pate de foie gras to bologna. Maybe that's why I've gone from being told, "you remind me a little of Jude Law" to you look like that chubby guy from "Knocked Up.) I also wanted to room to be warm, cozy and welcoming. However, I needed to spruce up on a budget.
For the runner, I took inspiration from all of the bistros in town that top their white tablecloths with white paper. I topped my wood (all right, I'll tell the truth--it's 70s formica---unfortunately in such pristine condition that I can't convince Thomas to let me paint it) with brown kraft paper that I already had. In fact, brown kraft paper is one of my staples---it looks great for presents tied with anything from twine to silk ribbon, it can wrap cut flowers from the garden, it makes great dust covers for books with too colorful jackets...I could go on, but you get the point. If you don't have a roll, go buy one--trust me you'll be glad.

I used a mix and match collection of hefty, rustic plates, stainless, and wood handled flatwear.

I pulled the centerpiece from things I already had: a tray to unify the disparate elements and some paperwhites i bought at the beginning of the holiday season. I originally intended to cover the plastic pots with moss, but never got around to it. That's okay: my trusty kraft paper came to the rescue.

I tucked in some herbs I haven't planted yet, and later added some satsuma oranges for color.

I used a mix of glasswear--crystal bubbles for the red wine, and thick amber hued glass for water. I like the look of mixing, but honestly it's a necessity. 3 moves, 1 porcelian farm sink, two cats, 1 hurricane, and 1 fanatical glass washing partner later, my stemware collection contains lots of sets of 3, 5, and 2.

Finally, glowing warmly and ready for guests.

It was a dark and stormy night; alas too stormy. A torrential downpour on top of several days of rain produced flash flooding and overall horrible conditions. In fact, conditions were so bad that our dinner guests cancelled (their own street had flooded). Still, I was glad that I had a warm and cozy (and cleaned up for company) dining room to enjoy. I was also glad that I had not spent any money on the table. While I was disappointed that my friends couldn't come, once I realized how much further 2 bottles of wine would go split between 2 instead of 4, I cheered up. After all, my wine glass wasn't half-empty. It wasn't even half-full. I filled that sucker up to the rim.