’22 and the Moody Hues

Browns, creams and saturated tints will rule the year.

They are stories in silk, woven with the wondrous, and fantastical, the realistic, and the magical. Of the moment, of the mythical, of the mountain majesties, the desert plains, the soundless ocean floors, and royal castle doors. They are imagination gone wild, splicing worlds together, blending and blurring and ever obscuring boundaries. The thinnest of barriers sit between night and day, childhood and adulthood, between East and West. It’s a cacophony of carefully curated chaos, so artistically and intricately executed that to be lost in it, is to find yourself enchanted.

For those that track color trends, they offer the fullest expression of the hues of twenty-two, with their moody blues, and saturated shades. There are earthy tones, warm creamy neutrals, and muddy greens, browns, and roses. They hint at depth and texture, and detail, all of which will play starring roles in the new year. While they are unadorned, the images they depict are anything but. There are flowers and feathers and fringe and finery. The “more” of the maximalist methodology that will dominate the year. There will be layers of texture and pattern that don’t even try to hide their playful abandon.

Marry the muddy and moody with a the fantastical. Nature will find its way into homes in a big way.

Embrace the contradictions in action. Like the eponymous brand, Hermes was a thief and an athlete, a soul guide and a shepherd. The God of boundaries, music and speed, wit and sleep. He was a protector of travelers, and a source of good luck. His winged feet are emblematic of his role as messenger, which seems fitting for a year that is likely to be filled with Yes-No directives.

Whimsy won’t be outdone, so don’t be afraid to have a little fun. Hermes Tea Time Scarf.

Get lost in the details. Confusion, such as it is, is just another way of letting you know that you can never be wrong for long. Let the experimentation begin.

Color is a Fickle Friend: Choosing Paint

Beige peeked out between the stacked corrugated cardboard moving boxes, penned in red Sharpie. The dim light of a dreary rainy day contributing to the institutional look of the rental unit. The exposed concrete deck, with its polished finish finding favor with the glossy grey cabinetry in the kitchen, completed the totality of color. Neutral, bland, basic.

Troy . The Neutral Zone

While I am sure there are plenty of people that would move right into their rental unit and leave it just that way, adding a splashy pillow or throw to bring a pinched cheek of color to the pallor, I am not them. My feelings surrounding my departure from No. 5 matched the unexceptional setting that I was entering, which wouldn’t do at all. New beginnings should be approached with excitement, anticipation, or at the very least a prickle of uncertainty about what the future will hold. Yes, I wanted that, and though the market has been decidedly bereft of interesting offerings, I was going to plan, as if a property was right around the corner, the tale of which was just waiting to be whispered to me, or posted at an unusual hour – standing by, for me to pounce, and pounce I would with a color palette preplanned, and prepared for painting!

Poor, many pennies less in my purse, me – I had my sample blotched living room wall painted on the Monday after my Wednesday arrival, only to arrive home that evening and decide with a decisiveness that removes any question that there was ever doubt, that “Soft Jazz” would was not going to be a headliner in my club. I hated it. To say that the pictures didn’t tell the tale of the tastelessness of the tint, is an understatement. Picture an 18 year old boys dorm room blue. Image the aroma of sweat, unwashed sheets, and days old pizza fossilizing in cheap cardboard flats on the floor. That’s the color blue that I had splashed on my walls, and it had to go.

More samples, more hand wringing, another late night return to the home two days later, one eye closed in anticipation of a second costly failure. No, I nailed it. I think Heather Blue is going to be the color of 2022. Thank you Ben Moore for delivering a Christmas miracle.

Opposites Attract: the use of black and white in design

Ken Fulk’s Living Room Design . Anchored in Black and White.

Balance in life is something we are ever in pursuit of. One side of the seesaw is tipped too far, and too long, on the side of drama, chaos, endless checklists that can feel as if they add up to nothing of significance, even when the boxes display that emphatic red slash or definitive x. Then it bumps gently down on the side of calm composure, perhaps brought on by a vacation that you never want to leave.

We need both, we need equilibrium, we need that special mental calmness, composure, and even temper when we are faced with the most vexing situations. You know the kind, the ones a design and construction project are always throwing your way. I can hear the yogi Baron Baptiste whispering in his flat affect…”equanimity”, the even tide of his utterance lulling me into a hypnotic state. No time for that now. We must discuss contrast.

Kelly Wearstler’s San Francisco . The Proper Hotel

Contrast – the good and evil, the dark and the light, the total absorption of one, ironically brings about expansiveness. Paint your walls black or install kitchen cabinets of the same color and they seem to recede into the distance making your 100sf feel like two or three. White wash your walls and get ready to reflect the sunlight that pours in through your windows, tricking you once again into thinking the space is larger than it is.

Suzanne Kasler . Just a touch of black inside the fireplace to ground the white room.

Black and white is timeless and chic. It can draw your attention to the one color or object in a room that you want the visitor to appreciate most. It goes with any color combination or design style, making it the single most versatile combo you can choose to use. You never need to be afraid of the dark if you don’t forget to leave the white on.

Paintings: The only palette you’ll ever need

They are so brilliantly expressive, marrying hues that seemingly don’t go together, in a way that is at once natural, and entirely logical. If painting were only based in the world of reality, for which I am ever so grateful, it is not. Frankly I don’t know where I would be without a pink hippopotamus, a blue tree, and a violet sky – well sometimes the sky is violet, but it’s very rare, you have to admit. The beauty of uncommon pairings is itself an artform, and I find it incredibly comforting to know that even if I appear to have made a terrible misjudgment with the colors I selected for one of my flips, I can flip that script with a painting, that makes it alright again.

Just see how many colors you can squeeze out of a single painting. Your furniture will pick it right up.

While I understand not everyone buys, renovates, sells, buys, renovates, sells, buys, renovates, sells – well you get the point, it can be exhausting and exhilarating, and leave you, loyal reader, with the incorrect impression that after a while, I surely get it right. Oh, how I wish that were true, but I often get it wrong. This may lead you to ask yourself, why ever would you listen to a word I have to say, if I am not perfect, not always right, so often get things wrong? I understand your hesitancy, but lean in here while I tell you this secret. Have you leaned in? None of us, not even the people you revere the very most, are perfect. They make mistakes too. It’s called being human. Life is so much softer when you understand and accept that.

A favorite Texas Artist of Mine . a happy mess of colors.

Let’s just assume for the sake of this post that you are pretty perfect, but someone, say your grandmother or aunt, or brother, or old college roommate gave you a sofa or a rug, for instance, and you are not at all like me. YOU ARE sentimental. The not at all like me part comes in here because I am not sentimental at all. I would give that sofa away, leave that rug in my childhood friend’s home, never to return to collect it. I wouldn’t bat and eye or shed a tear, but as I said – in this story, you are not me. You are terribly sentimental, so play that part please. How could you just sell that gifted carpet, that beloved sofa, where so many lovely memories were made? You couldn’t, you wouldn’t even if you were beginning to resent the gift and all of its design havoc wrecking qualities. You had a nearly perfect (really – was it? Be honest) home, until that gift horse arrived in your house.

Even an old master can be made new again with color.

If it’s old and weathered and all your other pieces are new, if it’s a violent blood read, and your were going for serenity in the form of pale grays, embrace the change. Art will make it feel intentional.

Add a black accent and watch it pop.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

The Academy Hotel . London

I had a great uncle that was rather famous in literary circles. A Jesuit Priest at Boston College, Father Francis Sweeney was most notably renowned for starting the Humanities Series there, and for corresponding with, and bringing literary masters to BC. Jack Kerouac, Katherine Anne Porter, Robert Penn Warren, and Thomas Merton – the revered Trappist Monk and author of The Seven Storey Mountain, a spiritual tome, were among those Uncle Francis brought to the college, and helped to promote. My mother was photographed along side Robert Frost, and Father Francis, at one of the regular luncheon celebrations, that were part of his normal existence.

Chairish . Casa Cosima . Desk in Chrome Green.

Poetry, I would not say, is one of my favorite things, but whether it was the connection to Robert Frost, his ability to tether you to the landscape of a New England town, so much a part of my DNA that when my eyes scan the words, they set my cells tingling with sensory memory. I feel at once calm, and at home.

Birdcage Coffee Table – a little bit of sparkle in the space.

Nothing Gold Can Stay . Robert Frost – 1874-1963

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

My beloved Christopher Farr . Carnival

Such a beautiful poem – a departure of sorts from my normal posts, but in my defense I was thinking about gold accents and how important bringing the glint of metallics into a space is to our overall enjoyment. That little bit of sparkle that catches your eye. We are calmed by movement, its hypnotizing effects putting us into a temporary trance-like state, like watching the flickering of the flames alight in a fireplace, or the flutter of a curtain in the breeze, metals seem to invite light and reflection, creating curiosity, interest, an enticing invitation to take a closer look.

I’m awfully fond of curiosities in a home. I welcome the questions that come from the objects – a gold guilted sunburst mirror, a nautically inspired hurricane lantern, a recent gift from a dear friend that knew I would adore it, the bee hive knobs that adorn my wardrobes, the brushed bird cage base of my coffee table, which I spotted, to my delight in The Good Fight sitcom, in Diane Lockhart’s living room.

Robert Frost might have been tickled pink to know that green is the new gold this season. Look for it in fashion and home design. Now that you know, I bet you’ll see it everywhere. After all, Nature’s first green is gold.

Be of Good Cheer: YELL-O – you’ll feel better

1960’s Fiat Jolly – who wouldn’t be hooted with laughter as they tooled around town in that?

I don’t know about you, but all this being inside is making me cranky. I’m more a run around about town kind of gal. You know, the can’t sit still for very long kind, but not the kind that can’t be bothered to listen to you restless kind. I’ve been running up and down my stairs at regular intervals but it hasn’t been entirely effective at shaking the blues, so I thought it was time to bring in the yellow.

Hello Ivy! This retro style kitchen with its cheerful floral paper and sliding cabinet doors is lemony perfection.

Blue is my natural design state, but I have always admired the boldness of yellow. It’s a California blond, and I’m a New England brunette. It’s summertime and lemonade. It’s sand between your bare toes – it’s innocence – it’s the absurdity of a daffodil and the pure happiness of a daisy. It’s a bobbing balloon in a spring breeze. It’s the silly to my far too serious. No wonder I’m attracted to it.

Ah, Kelley Wearstler – you are my design crush. The Viceroy . Palm Springs.

While you won’t catch me wearing a yellow frock – it’s not my best color, and you’re not likely to find my next flip showcasing the sunny hue, I thought just for today, we could celebrate the fact that the color does have a peculiar way of making you smile.

Jay Jeffries designed bath. Good Morning sunshine.

Stay calm, and wash your hands.

Almost time for spring flower planting.

Hush Little Baby: Nurseries that calm

Hidden Falls would provide a wonderful accent on all three of the base wall colors. I would hold it down an inch from the molding, painting a 1 – 1.5″ perimeter strip around the entire room. Great for low ceilinged rooms as it lifts the eye.

We seem to be having a winter baby boom in my industry. The gals are popping up at events with beautiful baby bumps – left and right. A few have already delivered their new year’s baby bundles, and it got me thinking about all those tiny little fingers and toes, and paint colors and furnishings, rugs and lighting, you know, all the normal things someone that is obsessed with design thinks about.

Overland . Long Wool Sheepskin Baby Rug. $79.00

A baby room should be cozy and calming – not for the baby, they are happy in a onesie, snuggled up next to mummy, but mummy – well she needs a space that will making her happy, smooth out the rough edges of motherhood, because what she does is hard.

Given the crib and the bedding from which to launch the plan, I developed a number of different options for the color palette. I have to recommend mineral ice again and again and again. It’s worked in NYC apartments, in Cape Cod Cottages, in ski chalets. It’s so versatile, which is ironic because it reads so wildly differently from location to location, time of day and amount of light the space receives. Still it is beautiful. It is subtle, it is neutral….serene. There isn’t a person or a place that can’t benefit from my very favorite Benjamin Moore color.

Gabrielle selected PB Kids . Ramona Woodland Baby Bedding, which ties all the colors I selected together seamlessly – though it is not my recommendation that they all be used. Rather I would select one of the three: BM’s Bridal Rose, Mineral Ice or Lavender Mist for the base wall color. For a more traditional feel I’d paint the casings, base and molding in BM’s Chantilly Lace, more modern and I would paint the base, case and moldings in the same color but change up the finish – walls in egg shell, wood in high gloss. An option I’d consider creating a faux wainscot by painting up the wall from base to roughly one third of the overall dimension from ground up, in the selected color – again – high gloss finish. These little tricks add visual interest to the room. A note of caution – if the walls are in less than perfect condition, high gloss won’t be your friend. It shows all the imperfections. Want to make it super cozy? Paint the ceiling the same color as the walls or a hue that is slightly darker, and prepare to snuggle in.

Left: Etsy . Little Playhouse $12.41. Middle: Society6 . Here Comes the Sun $21.59 . Right: The Small Art Project . Woodland Animals . $179.99

PB . Dahlia Flushmount $224.

Other touches that make the space feel particularly special include lighting. Ceiling fixtures, and tabletop lamps help to warm up the space – dimmers required.

Yume . Branch Mobile. $68.00

Wall art need not be all about baby, though a little bit of happy, a little bit of silly, soothes the soul. Etsy provides offerings at really affordable prices that allow your taste to evolve as baby grows.

I love soft things. I want a carpet underfoot that I can sink my toes into. If you are not in the market for a rug that is just for baby, consider a tiny sheep skin carpet that you can throw under your tootsies will you rock your screeching child to sleep. You’ll thank me for that tiny bit of comfort you get from the carpet.

Rumor Has It: Lust worthy set design

Even in black and white, the orginal NYC Tiffany is stunning.

When I saw Rumor Wilson’s NYC head knocking, dream of an apartment in the Comedy – Isn’t It Romantic, I gasped. It’s beautiful. Like any good romantic comedy, the protagonist has a fabulous apartment, and what screams romance loader than a jewel box from Tiffany? An NYC apartment designed like one – that’s what.

Anything in the family of blue appeals to me. I often think that Tiffany Blue is more green than blue, and that I wouldn’t like it at all if it were in my home, and then I find myself standing in one of their signature stores or starring up at the ceiling in the Fairmont Copley Plaza – their muraled 5th wall’s base color is in the same iconic hue, and becoming quiet, calm, and filled with a sense of wonder. I adore it.

Crate and Barrel Infiniti Curve Back Sofa $1799.

If you have to live in a box – perhaps one that looked like this wouldn’t be at all bad. Perhaps it might even be good. Perhaps it would be a dream come true.

Production Designers seem, from my distant vantage point, have a pretty cool job. While the facade of the building is used for the shots, I am pretty sure they “build the set” in some low rent district warehouse. Wherever Sharon Seymour created Natalie’s Manhattan Pad, she rocked it. There is something about that magical color that sets the tone for the fantasy. The curved sofa in white makes a two fold statement, first, I have room to spare. You aren’t sticking me into a corner or up against a wall, “you bought me” it seems to say, “to show off my luscious lines to their best advantage” – center of the room please. Second, the impracticality of a white sofa speaks to the single life, which ideally is how a romantic comedy begins. Ah, the perfection of a single gal controlling her environment. No durable Sunbrella’s for her.

The aqua blue accents, throws, vases, trays, give a little punch to the monochromatic palette. I would forgo the portrait of the puppy – as cute as he is, for an abstract of the sea, but that’s just me.

If you spend some time really hunting, most of these items can be found either on sale, or if you are willing to suffer the ramifications of in overflowing in-box – you can sign up for the companies promotional emails to receive 10% – 15% off the purchase price. When you are busy creating your own Hollywood Set of a home, that discount will add up, and dare I say – be worth the aggravation. Happy Hunting.

Second Time Around: new life to tired cabinets

I’m not fanatical about the environment. I don’t come unhinged at the site of a plastic straw or a single use bag, but at the same time, I try to do my part to limit unnecessary waste. That might sound rich coming from someone who is a serial renovator, but it’s true nonetheless.

Factory Finish – nearly indestructable. No. 1

So I am guessing you are wondering what qualifies when it comes to assessing whether it stays or goes? Having good bones is essential to passing that test. I am always going to struggle with getting rid of something that is perfectly good, just because I don’t happen to like aesthetically speaking. When the bones are bad to begin with, you don’t have much of a fighting chance with me. I am unsympathetic as I load you into the landfill.

No. 2 began their life in mahogany. Re-imagined in Benjamin Moore’s Dior Gray.

I got to thinking about kitchens this past weekend. Long weekends that hint of summer beg for a BBQ in the back yard. One can’t help but be in the kitchen, opening and closing cabinets in the quest for a pretty platter or the perfect stemware in which to pour ones pale pink rose. All that opening and closing of cabinet doors brought me back to the hundreds of cabinets I have owned and sold in the kitchens that I been on my journey’s path. The first was so old it could have been in a museum. The cabinets were metal, had been painted many times over, and clipped in place to close. Ba Bye. They were replaced by a traditional white painted cabinet. Factory finished – which means they weren’t likely to chip or peel or look unsightly unless you ran a child’s bike into them. That kitchen was too small to have a child or a bike, in addition to me, so that wasn’t going to happen.

No. 2 Painted off-site in a spray room. Note – no brush strokes.

My next kitchen presented a test. It had been newly renovated. The cabinets were solid wood construction, stained to look like mahogany. They were a simple Shaker style that I quite liked, but the color – no – simply no. This was the first time I embarked on changing my existing cabinet color by painting them. They really were in excellent condition and cabinets are super expensive, so replacing them was out of the question. Now I had my builder take all the door fronts off, remove all the hardware, carefully cover and tape all the surfaces and surrounding area, and then spray the base and hanging cabinets in place. This was done after giving all the base wood a light sanding. The door fronts were taken to an auto shop and sprayed in the paint room (dust free and nail hard). It’s really difficult to sand and clean surfaces, in situ, but if you are going to attempt this on your own, you must ensure all the surface are wiped with a damp cloth to remove any particulate matter. Trust me on this one, it does in fact matter.

Painted in Benjamin Moore’s Thundercloud Gray.

No. 3’s kitchen was perfection, but No. 4 – that kitchen got the same treatment as No.2, perhaps I was influenced by the fact that they were the same unoriginal faux mahogany stain – yuck. I painted these, though this time the door fronts did not leave the site, and the quality wasn’t as good as the first time around. Not my previous warning. The color however was on trend and fabulous.

No. 4. Benjamin Moore. Palladian Blue.

This latest renovation I think even an environmentalist would have forgiven me for throwing out. They were plastic coated MDF. That violates every possible rule of good taste and sustainability, made worse for the fact that their proximity to the stove resulted in the edges melting and curling up at the edges. Just thinking about it again makes gives me the shivers.

No rose while you’re painting!

If you are going to attempt to paint the cabinets on your own – I admire your DIYourselfery, but please remember the following steps:

  • strip and stand doors and base if they have been previously stained, varnished and/or painted before,
  • apply a wood knot and resin blocking primer
  • between coats allow surface to fully dry
  • apply a primer coat and/or two coats of your chosen color allowing a minimum of four hours drying time between coats. Note that different climates and weather conditions will impact drying time.

I am all about giving second life to beautifully made things, and while I promise I am not casting any aspersions on your ability to make your cabinets beautiful in the most important way – which is of course – to your own eye, it is not an easy task. Take your time, do lots of research beforehand, and maybe even conduct a test run on something a tad less precious first. Good luck!

Setting Plaster

Robert A. M. Stern’s Offices . One Park Avenue . NYC

If you think I am going to provide you with a lesson on how to set plaster – you have another thing coming. While I love a beautifully plastered wall, and believe in the fundamentals of a clean space within which to work, I happily leave the execution of that up to the experts. It’s actually the name of a paint color – a showstopper – a mon avis, but the name leaves a lot to be desired. Farrow and Ball could stand to learn from Essie’s in the naming prowess. There Rallings, Down Pipe, and Stiff Key Blue could go from marbles in the mouth to the amuse bouche (a little happy for your mouth 🙂 ) of a Touch of Sugar, Reign Check, or Tiers of Joy, but that’s neither here nor there. A rose by any other name and all that. I will not be dissuaded from my new found adoration of this hue.

One Park Avenue. NYC is the I’ve arrived of all addresses. Originally designed by York and Sawyer, it is home to Robert A. M. Stern Architects. I announced to the Receptionist, in the most uncouth way, that I needed to be shown to my room, I was moving in. Naturally she looked a bit confused, and was decidedly too polite to point out that the Ritz Carlton was down the street. After clearing up my actual reason for being there, I had a tour of this amazing space. From their lighting collection to their carpeting, hardware, tile, urns, and the recent addition of benches and bike racks for their institutional clients, RAMSA leaves nothing to chance. They are my kind of people, even if they don’t know it.

THE Office.

I joked to my colleague, that you could safely say that you were in the big leagues when you were dealing with folks that laugh at the idea of an 8″ base. This seemed to be to be excessive when I was considering it for my modest condo project two months ago. I would have happily settled for 6″ – ha. RAMSA outfitted their lobby with a base that was conservatively 21″ tall, and let me assure you, not only does it work, but I briefly considered ripping out mine and replacing it, and my paint is barely dry.

Model citizens – getting the scale right.

Ah to be in the vicinity of greatness. As I make my way quickly and efficiently through the city today, making decision after decision to accent my new space, and dare to dream, transform it into something that I like…I am ever hopeful, that some of their magic rubbed off onto me.

Towering Heights.