Tired of Neutral Colors, Mixing French with Traditional

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Tired of Neutral Colors

Q. This spring, I am having all the rooms in my home painted. I’m tired of the neutral color that runs through my house. I love fabrics, so I have lots of patterns and colors. When I try to pick a color in the fabric to paint the walls, it seems too outrageous.

I know this would be easier if I started from scratch, but I can’t. The rooms aren’t very open to each other, so I feel like it shouldn’t be all that hard. What do you suggest?—S.J.

A. It is always possible to paint a wall a color rather than a neutral; and with a little skill it is always possible to select a color not in the room’s textiles. Fibers have variety and depth, providing a range of color. Complementing a range is always easier than complimenting a specific color.

First, notice the overall clarity of the colors in play. If they are foggy or dusty, look for milky and smoky tones in the paints. This provides a safety net to start. For my examples, I’m using only easy-going colors since you are leaving an all neutral palette. (These are Benjamin Moore color names). To select the color family, try any of these three methods:

1. Use a complimentary color (one that is opposite your textile color on the color wheel), keeping the clarity similar to the colors of the textiles (example Salmon Mousse with powder blue rug. Also Organdy with yellow green bedding).

ask a designer Dried Parsley2. Work with an analogous color (neighboring on the color wheel) such as yellow-green with blue. The paint color could be a blending of two textile colors.

ask a designer sweet Pear3. Notice an undertone or top note in one of the textiles. For instance, this black and camel gold bedding is accompanied by clean white. The camel has a sheen which comes off rather green, so I chose a color called “Sweet Pear” for a mood that matches the cheerfulness of the bedding. This technique is also used in the ask a designer Ashley Gray Ashley Gray example. While many consider gray a neutral, look at how it enhances the colors of the items I chose. In the case of the painted chest, the gray is similar in mood and tinting of the champagne. With the bedding, the gray is the depth and mood of the green. The gray works rather like a blue (an analogous color) with the green. Notice the photograph of the bed actually includes a blue wall which is even more daring than the gray.

To plan the flow of the rooms, first choose paint for the rooms needing the most impact from wall color, then select colors for adjacent rooms adjusting until a color is found that works well with the key color. This is really a lot of fun once you begin to see good options. Enjoy working with undertones and shimmering top notes. The best thing you can do to avoid costly do overs is to paint a 2 ft. square sample. Paint it thoroughly to the edge. Hold the sample near floor, furniture, and trim. Do not hold the sample in the middle of the existing wall. If you are satisfied with the color in all areas of the room, you will like the finished result!

Mixing French Style with Traditional Looks

Q. I’ve been admiring fabrics and lighting that are French and very light in color. Our house is thoroughly decorated with formal, traditional furniture, but I’m changing the dining room to freshen up for my daughter’s upcoming wedding and related events. What can I do that feels a little French but still ties into what we have?  To make it even harder, my husband is from Texas and doesn’t like the idea at all.—A.V.

Ask a designer coffer ceilingA. The French are regarded throughout the world as style setters and experts in dining, so it is appropriate for any room, especially a dining room, to be appointed  with French things. While restraining yourself from decorating in grey and natural linen with French script is uncomfortable now, having a broader range of style that feels a bit more timeless will be comfortable for many years.

Here is an example of a beautiful room from a recent Parade Home which blends styles successfully. Tudor/French furniture  and coffered ceilings have enough mass to please any Texan. Stained finish and brown within the ceiling are key to linking your existing decor. The graceful light fixture is as trendy as can be yet at home surrounded by rich color. Antique white contrast paint on  the ceiling links the light fixture to the room as a whole.

A serving tray speaks to French hospitality and your upcoming events. Red silk and tribal rugs are not French at all, but look how pretty they are here! As an exhibitor in dozens of trade shows, I have noticed that a cheery red is the color most likely to please both men and women in this region of the country. The rug is softer and more limited in color than most tribal rugs making it a beautiful choice here which is sure to please your husband. However, an Aubusson or Oriental with paisley or floral would be an appropriate elegant finish as well.

Editor’s Note: We welcome all questions related to home design—ask us about color, room arrangement, planning for a new home, selecting furnishings, lighting, flooring, and more. Questions are answered by Tanna Miller, allied member ASID, a well respected designer who has operated her award winning interior design practice, Trends & Traditions, in Nashville for 18 years. Contact Tanna at www.shopdesignnashville.com or call 615-601-0552.

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