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June 1998 Issue
In Living Color
by Jenny Wojcik
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Ok, we’re friends by now, so I’m gonna put my color where my keyboard is. Try this little experiment at home and see for yourself what color can do. Take a piece of paper - white, by all means - and tape it (gently please) to the front of a book, or anything that will stand up. Next, borrow some construction paper from your kids, taping different colors to the front of more books. (Two or three colors will do the trick.) Find your favorite vase or "what-not" and put it first in front of the white paper. Stand back and take a good long look at it. Turn the light on; now off. Study it really. Now do the same for each of the colored pieces of paper. Notice what happens to that favorite vase? Without even knowing what color your object is, I can assure you that the white paper "fights" the object or at least "adds nothing" to it, while the colored paper warms it, accentuates it, and enhances it. Come on - you can write and let me know how wrong I am if it doesn’t work for you. Try it. It amazed me the first time I saw it, but it’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten. While you’re doing things for me, let me know what craft or decorating ideas you are most interested in - I’d like to include your favorite topics! Write me at .

We talked about the first decorating myth last month - if you missed it, just go to the archives and call it up - you’ll be up to speed and ready to read on!

Decorating Myth # 2: "If your rooms are small, they should be painted or papered in a light color."

Not at all - I’ve had so many arguments about this one, and all I can tell you is that the color you love is probably not white or ecru. Our lives are not white or ecru - our lives are full of vibrant, living color. (Go outside and look around!) An 8’ x 10’ room will be 80 square feet regardless of the color. While I’m not advocating that we paint everything black or navy blue, I do encourage you to use your favorite colors to warm up, or cool down your homes!

While it is true that soft, solid colors tend to make things look "lighter" (less weighty) and visually open up space, there are other things to consider when decorating a small room or space. First - take note of all sources of lighting in the room. Second - notice what, if any room or area the small room adjoins or abuts, and how that area is decorated. You will want to coordinate your color scheme. Third - determine if the room or space is used for a singular purpose, or has many/varied uses. Finally - decide what mood you want to set in this room. (Dramatic, romantic, eclectic, warming, comfortable, cool, et cetera?) Now you’re ready to select paint or wallpaper, as well as accessories and furnishings. Here’s a sample scenario.

  • Room: Powder Room - 6’ x 8’
  • Lighting: Incandescent only - no windows.
  • Adjoins: Entry hall/foyer; décor is traditional.
  • Walls: Celedon green
  • Ceiling: Sand beige
  • Moldings: Cream white.
  • Purpose: Guest powder room and water closet.
  • Mood: Warm and inviting, yet dramatic.
Let’s assume that the powder room has standard off-white fixtures including a cabinet basin and commode, a 5-bulb strip lighting fixture and mirror over the cabinet basin, and a no-wax floor in beige. Because you want this room to be dramatic as well as warm and inviting, and it should lend itself to the traditional side, choose a medium to dark hue of burgundy for the wall color and ceiling. If wallpaper is your preference, choose one with a bold pattern that incorporates burgundy, celedon green and a dark tan. Paint the ceiling celedon green or burgundy. (If you are not a "red" person, substitute navy blue for the burgundy in the same scenario.) The alternative to the bold pattern is an equally bold stripe, but stay bold and keep reading to find out why! Paint any moldings in cream white, warm up the floor with a rug - an oriental style would be great - and add a tall floor vase with organic material such as willow. Add a decorative soap dispenser trimmed in gold, a candlestick lamp if room and electrical outlets permit, or a tall pillar candle in celedon green. Across the back of the toilet tank, tie a bouquet of eucalyptus with a gold cord and tassel. Masterpiece art reproductions are inexpensive and can be framed in gold and added to the wall for extra impact. (Try stacking one above the other for a sophisticated look.) Finish the room with decorative hand towels that coordinate with the room’s colors. Use matching gold cord and tassel on the towel rack. If money is not an object, purchase a large gold-framed mirror to replace the standard one, and switch the faucet hardware to brass. The hardware is the room’s jewelry!

Voila! We’ve just proven that rooms that are small can become luxurious depending on how they are painted and decorated. Need some tricks for other small rooms? Use any rich, deep color with a high contrasting trim color. Paint the ceiling the same rich color. Neutral walls? Paint the ceiling light blue. It gives the illusion of the sky by tricking the eye.

Use lighting creatively; light the area from the bottom up as well as the top down. Want to add impact to a small, multi-use room? Paint the focal point wall of the room a darker color, with surrounding walls a lighter shade of that same color. This look can be achieved by the use of a paint glaze, or by using different paint colors. Visually, the darker wall will "back up" or recede. To add more interest to the wall, try a faux treatment such as ragging, sponging or stenciling. These methods vary in their time and difficulty, but are all relatively easy to accomplish. Mirrors are another option for visually enlarging a room, but should be used to reflect something pleasant, i.e., whatever view is opposite the mirror is visually doubled, so choose carefully.

You trusted me to explain why we should use bold patterns in small rooms, and I will. It’s actually part of decorating myth number three, which we’ll talk about next time. For now, here’s the myth: "Small rooms should be decorated with small things." Think about it, and come back next time - we’ll dispel this one too! In the meantime, create your Home Style in living color - it’ll make your accessories come alive as well!



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