Monday, July 6, 2015

Walk the walk, talk the talk- a fashion post

Clients often comment on how colorfully I'm dressed when I show up for a consultation. I wasn't always so bold. When I started working as an architectural color consultant about ten years ago, I felt I should blend in, and not attract attention away from whatever colors my client and I were looking at.

Khaki trousers, muted tops, practical shoes. That was my uniform.  I was even careful not to wear bright nail-polish, not wanting to take the spotlight away from the star of the show, the paint chips.

Then I had my daughter Nina and I changed my tune. Some might call her style, "Toddler Chic". Let's just say that when her pre-school has a special theme, like Wacky Day, I can't tell the difference in her outfits.

Stripes paired with polka dots. Or stripes paired with stripes. Green, orange and pink together in harmony.  Velvet and taffeta for cherry-picking, anyone? There was such freedom in her fashion decisions. And she was/is very strong in her opinions-she's made her own fashion choices since age 2. Which, really, is fine with me, as I find it fascinating to watch her make her selections.

I started thinking about how my clothes reflected what I wanted to say about myself. I know, this is not a startling revelation to those in the know, but for me, it was an awakening. I counsel clients to surround themselves in their homes with colors that make them happy. Hm, could I do the same thing with my work-wear?

Little by little, I've been weeding out the understated, more conservative pieces in my workwear, and replacing them with brightly-colored tunic tops.

On my 40th birthday, I bought myself a pair of fabulous pink and yellow shoes, and I've never looked back!

One of my favorite brands that really says "celebrate color and pattern" is a brand out of Barcelona called Desigual. I wrote about them a few years back, and have been lusting after their clothes and accessories ever since. Incidentally, I often get requests to review products for this blog, and honestly, if it's not something that I absolutely would buy on my own, I say no. So imagine my surprise when Desigual emailed me, asking if I'd like to try out their spring line.  My answer was an enthusiastic, "Yes!" So this is my very first product review and I've been proudly marching around with one of my two new Desigual bags draped artistically over my arm.

Meet the two lovely additions to my work wardrobes. Colors that make me happy, in a portable travel size!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Transforming a shed

Even the most humble of backyard sheds can be elevated to "so cute!" status with a little color upgrade. An important point to note: your backyard structures (detached garage, shed, garden walls, etc) do -not- have to be the same color as the main house. This is a great opportunity to be brave, try something a little out of the box that you might not have imagined for the primary house. In this case, my client just loved gray, white, black and red. We used red as an accent on the house, then had some fun giving it more limelight in the backyard. 

Before: a low-profile extension of the garage, this little shed was screaming out (to me, at least!) for more attention. Look at that lovely trim around the door.

 After: Va va voom! No longer a wee-little add-on. This shed is now a cottage with really amazing potential. Bike storage no more, I see writing studio, potting shed, guest quarters....

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Updating that 90's dark cherry cabinet kitchen

Cherry cabinets were very "in" in the 90's. Dark, sexy, classy; they had that Tuscan/ Italian thing going that everyone wanted. Often paired with said cabinets was a dark green granite or granite-like counter-top. Red and green- how could you go wrong? By the very virtue of trends, eventually they go out of style.

In the past 3 weeks I have had no fewer than 3 projects dealing with the same dark green granite counter-tops. 2 kitchens and 1 bathroom. Those who are opting to paint their cabinets have more flexibility. Those who won't be painting the ubiquitous cherry wood have a little more of a challenge.

I give you some examples of what I'm talking about:

 image source
example B:

Example C:
 Example D

The issue here is the deep, rich value of the counter-tops and the cabinets. Those who want a lighter feeling have a few choices. If you think of more that I don't cover here, please add your suggestions in the comments below.
Some solutions I've offered up to my clients:

image source
 Mid tone beige works by mellowing out all that darkness. It's still super warm, but a softer look that integrates cabinets with walls.

Another option is going with the green.

trying to find a kitchen color. our countertops/cabinets are dark like this
image source
Here, a light minty green ties in the counter-top colors with the walls, contrasting cool against all that warm cabinetry. But important to note that the green will accentuate the red, drawing attention to it.

Trying a metal finish like silver can cool things down, and brighten, too. To modernize the overall feel, I thought a pressed-tin backsplash would be fun and funky

Or a grayish green, either glass tiles,

or paint (maybe a wee bit lighter)

For a bolder look, what about sky blue

 (image adapted from this)
Or bolder, with a deep navy? The navy really tempers all that red by drawing attention to the blue. I think it's a playful solution.

What would you all do?


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Understated gets its day in the sun

Last summer, I was contacted to help a young couple with a major exterior color renovation. This pair had recently purchased a lovely old 1920's house that had been languishing, empty for years. The whole place was getting gutted, and major repairs were needed everywhere. They wanted to revitalize the house, give it a new life, but a stately one. Nothing too dramatic or bold.

After many tests of window sash color (see here for the details), they settled on a purplish gray blue with creamy trim and an understated, but warm buff-colored body. We capped it all off with a nice bright cheery red front door. Now, the architectural features are highlighted, and the house has a presence on the street and in the neighborhood.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Show off your house and plants

I am thinking all the time about blog posts I would like to write, but never seem to have the chance these days to get them typed up. I really wanted to share this quick, but dramatic one.

My clients live in a lovely house perched high on a hill, looking down on the road below. Their design goals were two-fold:
1.) Draw attention to the house
2.) Compliment the plantings

The house started out like this:

The client had selected white because she thought it would stand out the most. Alas, it had become dingy and tired instead. The architectural features were all lost in the sea of white and almond trim. The bright red doors gave me a hint as to the direction she might be inclined to go. Often, I find people will put little splashes of a color they love, perhaps intimidated to take it any further.
The second thing I noticed was how the beautiful slate staircase didn't relate to anything on the house. It definitely seemed out of place. 

Lastly, the lush plantings around the property were not enhanced in the slightest by the competing white concrete retaining wall and staircase.

So, I went out on a limb, and suggested a bold change: red, black, white, and charcoal gray.
The client thought that was a splendid idea.
Here's the mock-up I created for them in Photoshop, to make sure we were all on the same page. 

And here is the final, show-stopper paint job. They are replacing some railings, and are having a new silver front door installed soon, so it's not completely finished, but getting close.

It's so important for all the elements of your house to relate to one another. I like to think about it as a conversation- is everyone included? Now that the slate is reflected in the gray columns, retaining walls and bottom level of the house, it starts to make more sense.

Is there a bold color you would love to paint in your house that you've held off using? Give it a shot- you never know how splendid it just might turn out!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Update that 90's bannister

Plagued by the 90's era in your house? Sometimes, the culprit is something as small and overlooked as your stair bannister. By updating the orangy/yellow honey oak stain that epitomized the 90's look, you can give wood a fresh, updated feel. Those small changes can make a big impact.

Case in point. My client had replaced wall-to-wall carpet with dark hardwood floors and painted out all that beige with a more modern clean warm white (BM Timid White for those who were curious).

But still, something felt out of place. The one element that didn't fit into this current look was that darn staircase. Behold:

Your typical 90's staircase, resplendent with oh so very practical off-white fluffy carpet runner.

I specified a deep brown stain for the bannister railing, and my client replaced the posts with wrought iron. She also found a fabulous wool carpet runner with a tiny scroll pattern to mimick the scrollwork in her hallway runner (you can see a wee bit in the corner of the left "before" shot above.

Ah, so much better, don't you think?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Remember how far you've come with "before" shots

Whenever I finish up a color consultation for a client who is making dramatic color changes to his or her house, I always try to snap some "before" shots in order to chronicle to progress. When I forget to take pictures, I kick myself for not taking them. Once someone has repainted in the new colors, its often very difficult to picture the space anything other than the new colors. They just "fit" better.

I hope to share with you a few recent projects I've completed and show you some great before/after shots.

Here's one I just photographed today.

Here is a client's home in a lovely wooded area. Her design objectives were to give the house an updated look that was cheerful and welcoming. There was a lot going on, in terms of architectural details, that was making the house feel chopped-up and hodge-podge.  With so many different boxy shapes competing with one another, we agreed to simplify.

We also discussed the dingy gray brick terraced garden walls. We matched the color of the fallen leaves that carpet her garden, knowing that if the walls could just recede into the background, they'd look a whole lot better.

Now my client's home is a happy blue, with crisp grey trim and a whimsical peek of red under the eaves. The deep color settles the house down within the landscape. Support beams and much of the trim work is painted out to give the house a more cohesive look.
The garden wall just dissolves into the background, ready for the lush plants the homeowners have planned for their next project.

The homeowners wrote to tell me that they love their "new" house.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

How to test paint colors

In my job as an architectural color consultant, I help take the guesswork out of selecting colors for exteriors and interiors. We start by looking at inspiration images selected by the client.

It could be images pinned on or, snapshots from their phones, or clippings from magazines and catalogs. Heck, I'll even look at photographs from a favorite vacation, or a beloved scarf. Anything to help me gauge a client's taste in colors and combinations.
 image source
Then, working with existing elements, we start looking at color chips. These are printed sheets of paper, usually 4x4" big.

At the end of the consultation, I ask clients to take the last, essential step- brush-outs.
They buy little sample pints (where available) of the colors we have selected, and paint them nice and big on boards (at least 2x2'), or directly on the walls (for exteriors). Without this step, you're taking too much of a gamble. The translation from ink on paper to paint out of a can on a large area can be dramatic. This last step ensures that you really know what you are getting once the painters start lugging gallons of paint out of their truck.

Here are some visuals for you.

How NOT to test colors:

Those are cut-up paint strips, my friends. Could you get an idea of how that color would look? Nope, me neither.

Ah, now I see where the color is going. Much easier to tell.

Here's another great example of how to do brush-outs. This client knew which body and trim colors were perfect, but still needed to see some options for sash colors. By assigning a different window to each of the colors in question, they could really get an idea of how the overall look would differ, depending upon their selection.

Now that's a brush-out! 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Think you know color? Think again.

I am thrilled to announce the launch of a brand new color collaboration between Kelly Berg of Story and Space, and yours truly.

For the past year, we've been scheming, dreaming, and just plain old hard working to turn our brainstorm into an honest to goodness real, live collaboration. We kept going back to our issue about how there is so much mis-information floating around out there about color.

This junk doesn't do anyone any good! (I'll spare you the source for this one)

We'd meet up for lunch and swap horror stories, or email hilariously bad color articles to one another.  So many old wives tales, color recipes, and just plain inaccurate data get perpetuated, and there's no way to stop it. Or is there? We got to talking, and agreed that Everyone deserves the right to solid, accurate, intelligent color information.
image source
Putting out and sharing information comes naturally to both of us. We both have written color and design blogs for years, and we participated in a year's worth of Color Podz podcasts produced by Lori Sawaya.

Getting together to provide a color resource felt like a natural next step. We are color evangelists, spreading the word so that everyone can appreciate how color affects us everyday, in everything we do.

Introducing, Hello My Name Is Color!!!!

Please check out our website, join our twitter feed, follow us on Pinterest , and like us on Facebook.

We'd love to know how you like the new site, any suggestions, improvements, ideas, things you'd like to see, aspects that need clarifying.... this is an evolving, work in progress, and your input means a lot to us.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The elephant in the room

Two clients of mine love their flat screen television.   It takes center stage in their living room where wires were carefully threaded through customized metal pipes so it could be mounted on a brick wall above their fireplace.  But this bulky, unsightly electronic completely dominates the space. As their family room is not exactly a formal media room, it does double duty as a bright, airy hang-out area.  Pale gray, soft creams, and timid taupe is about their comfort level.

Funny thing is, I was not called out to help with this room at all.  But as we were finishing up, I just couldn't hold my tongue.

The guilty wall in question

Here's about how the conversation went:

Me: Ack! What's with the black gaping holes in your wall?

Client: What do you mean, holes?

Me: You've got a two huge black rectangles on a cream-colored brick wall. Holes!

Client: Hm, I never really thought about it that way. Okay, soooo, what do you suggest? (eyeing my chips warily)

Me: We've gotta go dark. Really, really dark.

Client: (eyes widening and sweat breaking out at her hairline, she gulps.) Show me what you mean.

Me: (pointing to a deep gray paint chip) Like this!

Client: THAT dark? That's really dark. Are you sure? Hubbie might not be too keen on that.

Me: Absolutely. We gotta get rid of that contrast. It would be like watching a movie in a theater with white walls and white curtains. Talk about eye strain! Just think of it this way- it will create the optimal viewing experience. No competing distraction from the game.

Client: (mustering courage) Well, I did see a really pretty deep blue in this catalog....

Here's what a tradition media room looks like:
Nice dark walls, low contrast, so that the attention is focused on the screen.

No eye strain. See? Nice and dark and cozy.

After some deliberation, we settled on a deep inky gray blue that worked really nicely with the gray blue furniture they already had. Even her hubbie seemed pleased with the results.

Ahhh, so much better! 
Now, the television and fireplace just blend into the background and don't call attention to themselves quite as much. Balance has been restored to the universe.

Next step, painting the bookshelf backs flanking the fireplace.

(quick and dirty photoshop mock-up)
I've got my eye on a fun ombre wallpaper treatment. And some styling help, for sure.

Okay, okay, once baby step at a time...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

How do you deal with pink bathrooms?

I'm working with a client to tackle her challenging pink-tiled bathroom.

We have the added bonus of matching pink appliances.  In favor of a cheap make-over, we decided to focus exclusively on paint.   As I was putting together some inspirational images for her, I realized that my long-suffering, but oh so patient Hue readers might be interested in these tips, as well.

Save the Pink Bathrooms would be proud.  I like their pledge:
"I hereby pledge to prevent the pulverization of period perfect pink potties and to persevere over pressure to part with my practical pedestal where my pint size prince and princess piddle…I Promise!" 

I created this montage for her of "out of the box" ideas for how to deal with peachy pink bathrooms.  These are successful design solutions because they are strong enough to hold their own against the pink/peach tile. Some examples include: embracing lemon yellow and going hog crazy on the decorative accents, pulling in a fun black and white print wallpaper, or adding strong horizontal mocha-colored stripes.

After dealing with my own pink bathroom, I settled on a purply brown that balanced out all that busy color and pattern down below.  Browns, beiges and grays seem to work well, as do stronger partners like orange or yellow.  If you can't change it, don't fight it- embrace it!

If you've worked with a peach bathroom, what has worked for you?