Finding the Perfect Palette
New home or first home – it doesn’t matter. Decorating can be a challenge for us all, even the professionals. One technique I have appropriated in my nearly 20 years in real estate and construction is to find something you love and let it inspire you. I’m not sure if I learned it from a designer, architect, or a combination of perspectives, but it helps me refine my thinking when it comes to every design choice.
Perhaps you have a blouse with colors that speak to you. Maybe it’s a rug you found with a unique design that is the epitome of “your style.” In my current home, I took inspiration from a silk batik banner adorned with comical fish. Years ago, I admired it in a small art gallery on Martha’s Vineyard where I once lived. I have always been drawn to textile art and I loved the colors and the humor. My husband remembered that I liked it and bought it for me for Christmas.
When we moved to Charleston 14 years ago, I decided that banner had the perfect tropical vibe for my new home in the south and that it would be the inspiration for transforming my “stuff” from my New England saltbox to suit my contemporary home on Johns Island.
My new living room was cavernous with 18 foot ceilings and low light. I chose a shade of yellow from the fish body somewhere between Citrine and old gold for the living room, dining room, and hallways. It was warm and bright without adding “heat” as it is at the “cooler” end of the color wheel’s warmest tones.
All the wet areas – kitchen and bathrooms are the same turquoise on the lightest shade of the fish gills. Tropical and fun, the turquoise shade worked well with the cabinets in those rooms because they were all the same wood and they had an orange undertone. Bedrooms and my very bright Four Seasons room are a dark stone grey with a lot of blue from the darkest part of the fish. It’s cool and restful in rooms with lots of light or bright white plantation shutters.
My favorite fish have giant orangey-red kissy lips and I generously sprinkle oranges and reds around the house in accents. I chose wooden fish decorated with red and gold mirror tiles for the mantle in the gold living room and added a turquoise throw on the gold sofa. There’s a small red cabinet for the dog’s leash and toys next to the front door with a turquoise shell plate for keys and such. The area rugs are all in different patterns but in the same family of turquoise, orangey reds, and golds. Because I loved the tropical theme, I have also collected artwork with palm trees and sea life.
I did not go and buy all new things. The “beige-ish” sofa in the sunroom in bad need of recovering after 20 years came from Massachusetts but the beige color is accented with nubs of reds and blues that work fine with the grey walls. The rug that came with it, and would not work anywhere else in this house, remains with the sofa. The print of Vineyard Haven Harbor, classically New England, is not tropical, but I love it and it still feels coastal. I kept the down comforter covered in hydrangeas (I bought it in the 90’s and it was cute then) and have since recovered it with a grey and gold duvet.
When showing homes, clients frequently comment that the decorating is all over the place. Too many different colors and accents in different rooms that are not harmonious can make a house feel disjointed. One purple bedroom, one pink, one green and not in the same hue or intensity can make it hard to envision “your stuff” in the space. Over 11 years some things were retired and replaced, but having a concept helped me wade through the gazillions of choices and gives the house a certain continuity. Having an inspiration helps me focus on the choices, but it never prevents me from finding a treasure that deviates from the palette but gives me joy.