This weekend, I'm heading to the Garden State Home Show to give a series of presentations on color, and the timing couldn't be better. For me, it's right about now, when the excitement of a new year starts to wane and the snow continues to fall, that my mind turns to warmer days—and brighter hues. Of all the elements we use to design our homes, color has such an incredible way of uplifting the spirit. It soothes as much as it stimulates, and on winter nights especially, going through old magazines by the fire, I'm drawn to the lush, warm tones of citrus, dreaming of days—and rooms—yet to come.
The way I see it, color inspiration is everywhere, but sometimes, you have to dig a little deeper. Peel things back—skins, pages, memories—revealing colors and combinations of dazzling beauty. This image from Living has been a favorite of mine for years. The pixie tangerine alone (white flowers, green leaves) could inspire the palette for an entire bedroom: dark wood floors the color of the stem, white wainscoting, tangerine walls, and a linen roman shade in stripes of the two. For the bed, green tufted headboard, tailored box pleat skirt (inner white, outer green), with bedding all in shades of tangerine. Flowers, too, reveal beautiful palettes. Here, zinnias and phlox from last summer's garden inspired fabrics and paint for another cheery bedroom sure to warm up the winter.
Being bold with color takes courage—believe me, I know—but the rewards are many. For a story I did back at Martha, we painted the walls of a loft-like guest room a vivid peony pink, then kept the furniture and fabrics neutral. For a small space, the color feels bright and happy but not overwhelming. To the right, from Southern Accents, tangerine walls are a fitting choice for a Palm Beach residence, but how warm and inviting would it feel to paint a living room in a cold-weather region a similar hue?
Of course, wallpaper is another way to add rich color to a room. Splatter pattern aside, I love using textural solids in unexpected ways. For a bedroom story I did back at Martha, I used a pretty green grasscloth, cut into 24-inch squares and rotated for a more dimensional checkerboard effect. The pale blue ceiling, paired with the periwinkle velvet on the bed, felt calming enough for a bedroom but still with a hint of Hollywood glam. Speaking of, how glamorous would it be to throw open the doors of your closet to reveal a color of surprising beauty? In this image from Domino, a turquoise and cream damask wallpaper feels fun, flirty, and sophisticated.
Anyone who's accompanied me to the flea market knows I love freshening up old furniture with paint. All wood isn't created equal, especially when it's merely the veneer of pieces mass-produced in the 20s and 30s. When in doubt, paint it out! These shield back chairs I found at a Goodwill last year. They were a great size with pretty lines but the finish felt dusty and dated. Inspired by a vintage pair of Tiffany playing cards from the flea market, I painted them a punchy turquoise, then covered them in a woven homespun silk in the same palette as the cards. Now they feel fresh, happy and so much more modern.
A staple of antique stores and Salvation Amries alike, secretaries showing their age can benefit from a splash of color too, whether a crisp, clean white or a more daring hue. In the bedroom of our city apartment shot for Domino (two things I miss terribly), we painted an old secretary white, then replaced the glass with mirror. Later, for a story at Martha on pairing opposing colors and patterns, I painted a similar piece a cheerful yellow, then wallpapered the interior a watermelon faux bois from Alpha Workshops. For the more timid among us, painting or wallpapering the insides of furniture is a fantastic way of adding color without a lot of commitment.
Another great place to add color is the inside backs of bookshelves. Do you remember this living room makeover we did for friends out on Long Island, featured in Country Living?
To update the room with a fresh, more modern look, we whitewashed all the walls, then painted the backs of the built-ins a pretty pale blue for added depth. Another stylist's trick is to remove unsightly jackets, grouping books both vertically and horizontally by color. Accessories in pale colors and natural textures like driftwood and sea glass kept the bookshelves light and airy. Finally, we layered in punchy touches of hot pink in the pillows. On neutral sofas especially, colorful throw pillows are one of my favorite ways to rev up the color in a room, swapping them in and out by season. Speaking of, here's a taste of spring from a story I did for House Beautiful years ago.
After a trip to Braswell's one of my favorite stores for antique furniture and tabletop, I turned inexpensive silk scarves into fun, fashionable pillows. They're a great way of repurposing vintage scarves while adding color to an old sofa. For more inspiration and ideas on enlivening your decor with color, join me in New Jersey at the Garden State Home Show this weekend, then in Richmond for the Home Show later this month. I'd love to see you! And in the meantime, a question: What color combinations are you loving right now?