Color - that second thing every room needs

Hi folks. I hope you are in a mellow saturday mood, enjoying the drizzle outside if you are in New York City. Or another fine place where there is drizzle aplenty. So satisfying to sit and write in a lovely room when the weather is less than inviting. If you don’t have this for yourself - a little place to plop down and be indoors - a place that can get a little messy and still hold and inspire you and your wild mind —I hope you’ll contact me sometime, because I want this for you. I want this for everyone, my intrepid small space adventurers.

What I mainly want for you is a feeling. Whether you get that feeling from interiors or some other way. How you get the feeling isn’t all that important. But the feeling itself is. The feeling I am having today is at its core calmness, ease, a little sublime. And there is a little excitement around the edges of the feeling. The room I’m in has such a satisfying mix of colors - blue-grays and purples, and pinks, and blue-greens, that, along with the gray day out the window, I’m feeling how I can only imagine a rich person must feel, somehow content that their needs are well met, that now it is all about simple pleasure of attention and sharing the wealth.

I have a hard time writing about color. To me, a beautifully painted room, ‘decorated’ with care and restraint, and one that makes me slip into a grounded comforted mindset, defies description; it is only really available to the body as lived experience. But I want to try to convey why paint color is what every room and living space needs, even as I accept that this blog post will fall short somehow.

After all, how to talk about color? As soon as I say brown, someone thinks of chocolate ice cream brown, someone else thinks of coca cola brown, someone sees dried soil, a pair of hiking boots, another sees a heavy mahogany dresser, another the UPS truck. One persons sees a cup of black coffee, another mocha with cream. There are thousands of browns.


If I say blue-green, someone sees robin’s egg, another the ocean, and another mallard duck feathers. Words are at best approximations of colors. And what we are labeling in standard ways conjure up vastly different images and experiences and feelings from one person to the next. Sometimes words even pull us out of our experience of color; as if the experience of color and the experience of language occupy parallel nonintersecting neural pathways in the brain. I revere words, but if by some cruel joke of the universe I had to choose between colors or words, personally, in this lifetime, I would choose colors— dreamy, liquid, heart-rending colors.

Are you affected by color in your environment? I think it is possible that some are more affected than others. I’ve worked with the gamut. Some folks love interior color, paint all the time, and like it ‘just so’ - you know who you are. In those instances, the service I’m providing is that of a second pair of eyes to a palette that is already taking shape. Offering fresh insights, tweaks here and there, and getting them out of their particular box of visual experience. Seeing through two sets of eyes can really break open a whole host of new possibilities for an interior. On the other end of the spectrum are people who take a little convincing that painting their place is the way to go. It’s really fun to see people experience a room transformation and be wow’ed by how different it feels (and how different they feel in it). Most folks fall somewhere in the middle - partly enthusiastic and partly hesitant to paint; possessing a discriminating eye to some extent. But regardless, I’m here to tell you, you want to get that paint color right. We all thrive in spaces that pay homage to our uniqueness, relieve stress, and reinforce safety and conjure possibility.

So, in my list of 6 things a room needs, I put color second, after privacy. If you are buying curtains or rugs, obviously color has to be considered before privacy. But I think it is alway possible to get some placeholder curtains in a neutral shade from a store with a lenient return policy, until you’ve figured out your palette. That’s not as easy with rugs; but still doable at a place like ikea for example, who have maybe one of the most generous return policies of any store. So first, get you some privacy, any which way you can, then go straight into considering color.

Here’s why color ranks so high on my to-do list when making or making-over a space. Color touches everything else - everything you are going to need to buy or trade out will be a color; and you will save money, time, and agony considering color right up front. Not a rigid palette necessarily, but ideas as to what might constitute a reasonably edited palette. Sometimes your palette hinges on the colors of the stuff you already own. For example I have a blue-green sofa that has been with me forever. It’s a fairly muted color, and I do love it, but I still have to design my palette around that color every time. I can’t just pretend this big ole sofa is not there. I could slipcover it or replace it, and maybe one day I will, but I haven’t run out of ideas yet for a palette that includes duck egg green; so she persists.

So start thinking about your palette from the get go. And don’t be afraid of paint. But what about white? Or that creamy off white that is already on the walls? What about not painting? Why is color necessary at all? Why can’t I live my life out of a restoration hardware catalog, with deconstructed furniture and narry a color in sight? Because most of us are not that cool. Most of us, and I’m convinced of this, do not thrive in a dull colorless environment with one leather sling chair, taupe bedspread and stark white paint everywhere. We just don’t. We’re not that aloof. The eye wants something to light upon, something to engage it. We are warm people with myriad feelings and urges. We want reverie, variety, stimulus. We want to know we are alive. Color fulfills that desire to some extent. It reflects back the immensity in us.

Theres are such things as too much color, stressful color combinations, and downright bad palettes. So do pick color with care. Or with help. But don’t forego color because you feel you don’t have the daring or the skill or the experience to pick colors that will work for your space. Don’t do that to your body.