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DESCRIPTIONThe unmistakable wow-factor of color can’t be beat when it comes to invigorating interiors. Spices, flowers, the ocean, the sky, lush greenery, fruity drinks—all of these attract ourattention because of their appealing colors. Your home is just that, your home. It should represent what inspires and excites you.
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The unmistakable wow-factorof color can’t be beat when it comesto invigorating interiors. Spices, flow-ers, the ocean, the sky, lush greenery,fruity drinks—all of these attract ourattention because of their appealingcolors. Your home is just that, yourhome. It should represent what inspiresand excites you.
We talked to design blogger and book authorJanet Lee about decorating with color, and specifi-cally how to take those first steps. Lee’s book,Living in a Nutshell: Posh and Portable DecoratingIdeas for Small Spaces was published this spring byHarperCollins. Her remarkable book is filled withclever and colorful ideas to a burst of sunshine tovirtually any space.
ABOVE: Exquisite die-cut paper panels provide shadowy texture on a white wall, while amix of colorful pillows and an amber-hued lampshade spice up this bedroom.OPPOSITE PAGE: Bright-on-white geometric patterns set a lively tone in this seatingarea. The sofa's seat cover is simply an orange-printed Jonathan Adler throw tucked into place.
COLORPhotography by AIMEE HERRING© Janet Lee
1. In your book, you encourage readersto express their creativity in their smallliving spaces. How did you take that firstbold leap?
Growing up in a family with six kids, I alwayshad to share a room with one sister or the otherand self-expression was not encouraged. Fightingover borders did not allow for my inner decora-tor to blossom until graduate school in Boston.In Boston I shared a two-bedroom apartmentand it was the first time in my life I actually hada room of my own. I stretched my student budg-et and bought a Laura Ashley fitted sheet, cut itin half and made two balloon shades for my win-dows. They were totally functioning withattached ribbons and it was an idea I updatedand included in my book so many years later.I’ve sewn my own clothes since I was eight andnow I found myself making duvet covers out ofsheets with pillows to match.
Right after graduate school, I got a job pro-ducing a local TV talk show and bookeddecoupage artist, John Derian, as a guest. I washooked. Paper became my medium of choice. Idecoupaged plates and transformed old dresserswith vintage wallpaper.
2. Many of your projects involve brightcolors and vivid patterns. How can home-owners determine how much color orpattern will work in their rooms?
Take baby steps with fabric and accessoriesthat involve a small color commitment. Build acolor wardrobe for your room like you do youroutfits—one accessory at a time. A bright pinkpillow mixed with a chartreuse yellow cashmerethrow might inspire you to take the next step.Cover the entire seat of a sofa with a tucked-inpiece of designer fabric. T-pins can help keep thefabric from shifting, strategically pinned under-neath the cushion. I do this with my JonathanAdler orange geometric throw over my linen sofa(see book cover image, page 41).
Then think about adding a bold, patternedwallpaper to line the backs of bookcases. Keepthe look flexible and use removable mountingsquares to hold the paper in place. Anotheroption is to hang the wallpaper on a feature wall,like you would a large art print, and cover theedges with decorative polyurethane molding tocreate a jumbo-sized frame. The molding can
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Balance out color statements, such as this rosy pink wall, with plenty of pure whiteand earthy neutrals.
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be held in place with removable picture hanging strips.This way if you don’t like the way it looks, just take itdown and try something else.
The next level of color commitment is with paint.That scares people but bad paint can always be correct-ed. There’s not one designer or decorator who has notmade a paint color mistake so give it a whirl. You canrescue a flea market chair and paint it an outrageouscolor in a high-gloss finish and use it as a statementpiece in your room. Instead of painting an entire wall abold color, mix in an exciting hue by stenciling it in apattern on a white wall. That way it won’t seem sointense. A Kelly Wearstler-inspired lattice stencil recent-ly caught my eye on etsy.com. I am dying to use it. Mygo-to is always stripes. That way you can introduce asaturated color without being bombarded by it.
In my friend’s bright white foyer, I taped off a chairrail border about 40 inches up from the bottom andpainted it a rich Kelly green. Right on top of thekitchen doorway, I repeated the color in a two-foot sec-tion, which stands-in for molding over the door. It’sjust enough color to make a ho-hum hallway pop.
Square lacquer trays from West Elm are an easy way to add color and functionindoors or out. Photo courtesy of West Elm.
3. What’s your advice for selecting colors for aroom? Is there a formula for combining various col-ors in one space?
What guides me around a color palette, from room toroom, is determining what mood I want to evoke in the space.Do I want to feel cozy, romantic, serene, or social? Do I needit to be all business? Cozy colors I’ve used are a deep gray(yes, gray can feel warm in the right tone), lavender, and avintagey avocado green that makes me feel the comfort ofhome. In my home “office,” which is a corner of my livingroom, I painted the closets chartreuse yellow. It gives theroom energy when I need to brainstorm ideas and meet dead-lines.
4. Do you have advice for painting with bright col-ors and rich hues?
I spend a lot of time sitting at my local paint storeresearching color options. I watch people rush in and committo a full gallon of a bold color without buying a sample first. Iwould never put paint brush to wall without using a paintsample board and studying how light changes the hue duringthe day and night. For rich and bright colors, you need to usea tinted primer as a base coat first or your colors won’t be assaturated as they need to be. I’ve gotten great tips from mypaint store experts who are always happy to help.
Comapny C’s Hyannisport rug in Aqua makes a bold statement and it’s suit-able for indoor or outdoor use. Photo courtesy of Company C.
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5. How can homeowners tell if a drab space can betransformed with lighting? What are some strategiesthat work?
I always thought because I lived in small, postage-sized spacesthat one main light source would do the trick. But every spaceneeds a three-pronged (pardon the pun) approach: First, bouncemain light sources off walls and ceilings to softly fill the spacewith ambient light. Second, task lighting like reading lampshelp to define work, play and rest zones and add depth and def-inition to a space. Then, there is the last layer I call the “glow”factor—mirrors, glass, crystal, and candlelight that radiate andreflect a little shimmer and glamour into a space.
Sometimes living in a rental or an older home, the outlets arein the wrong place and you might not want to commit to a fullelectrical installation of overhead lighting. My mini-chandeliersand pendant lamps are all retrofitted with a plug-in lamp cordso that way I can hang the lights anywhere and take them withme to my next space. I embrace the look of lamp cords on thewall. In some cases, I’ve used red, yellow or turquoise lampcords and featured them in loops down a wall.
Keep every light source on dimmers so you can create a differentmood at a moment’s notice.
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My last tip is to change out the light bulbs to soft pink ones inyour bedroom reading lamps. It’s a flattering glow on the complexionand so easy on the eyes when you’re trying to unwind.
6. Can you share some of your tricks for decorating with mirrors?
Bigger is better. Get glass mirrors cut to fit the back of bookcaseshelves or lean a collection of flea market mirrors on a shelf for thesame effect. One of my favorite projects is to use industrial convexparking mirrors on a wall. They’re great in kids’ rooms but I’ve useda collection of small security mirrors in my friend’s decidedly femi-nine living room and the more masculine mix of these mirrors cre-ates an exciting contrast.
I also love using chalk ink pens on mirrors, the same kind used inbistros and cafes. Writing out a dream meal you had in Paris or Italyon a kitchen mirror adds personality and heart to a space. I’ve writ-ten a list of humorous daily affirmations on a tall standing mirror inmy bedroom and it makes me smile every time.
If you’re really in a DIY mood, try using a spray that turns anypiece of glass into a reflective mirror. The effect is more like a smokyantique mirror finish but I’ve used it to transform a boring café tableand a glass frame with great success.
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