Design elements can inspire a color scheme

December 26, 2005|by ROSE BENNETT GILBERT

Q: We are soon to move into a newly built home and I am like a deer caught in the headlights! I don't know where to begin decorating. Sure, we have some of our old furniture, but this will most likely be our retirement home, our last move, so we didn't keep a lot, just a few special pieces, like the paintings and my husband's favorite club chair. Please, have you anything to suggest that will help me out?

A: Two quick suggestions that may unfreeze your imagination:

Consult a professional interior designer. This is a major move you're making, and it sounds as if you'll be living with your decisions for a while (although it pays to relax and remember that no design decision is fixed in amber forever and ever, amen). Arrange to buy just a morning's consultation with a professional designer, and he or she can lay out the guidelines you need to get going: color schemes, furniture needs, local resources, like that.


Take another good look at one of your favorite paintings, say, the one you plan to hang over the fireplace. Although I really, really don't believe in "decorator-correct art," that is, art bought to fit a room's color scheme, I do think you can make the process work the other way around. Let the colors in the painting inspire the color scheme in the room. After all, the color harmonies in the painting have already been worked out for you by an artist whose taste you admire, yes?

In the handsome, "cognac-colored" living room/library we show here, New York mega-designer Jamie Drake found his color inspiration in one of the clients' prized possessions, the l7th century Pietra Dura marble tabletop. Inlaid with a medley of stones, all in harmonious browns, beiges and honey colors, the tabletop's colors translated smoothly to the walls, woodwork and furniture in this relaxed, yet formal, room. The walls are finished with a double strie glaze rubbed soft with steel wool to look like "old Venetian velvet," as Drake writes in his elegant new book, "Jamie Drake's New American Glamour" (Bulfinch Press). He also added the wide ceiling moldings and the dado, which have been marbleized in homage to the table.

In this setting, the choice of furniture colors followed naturally, no pun intended - the fun of faux fur: a typical Jamie Drake touch.


The word is "texture." Color and pattern still scare many home decorators, who aren't brave enough to lavish it wall-to-wall in the living areas of the house. Much of the wallcovering sold today - and it's precious little compared to paint - goes into kitchens and baths, with children's rooms a distant third.

However, the popularity of the Victorian style and the resurgence of Arts & Crafts are conspiring to ease wallpapers back into the public eye in what seems to be its most vigorous renaissance since the International Style declared wallpaper outre half-a-century or more ago.

Much of the credit goes to wallcoverings manufacturers who are offering a wide choice of interesting textured wallpapers, everything from grass cloth in many colors to faux wood, stone, burlap, and bamboo. It's an easy way to dress the largest surfaces in your home - the walls - without committing to an overdose of pattern.

The Victorians, who famously abhorred a void, and believed that paint was only the prep coat for wallpapers - as many as five (including the ceiling) in every room - would no doubt be very pleased.

Two new texture collections to check out are from Brewster: "Techniques & Finishes Vol. 11," and Kenneth James "Grasscloth Collection" (

Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Hampton Style" and associate editor of Country Decorating Ideas. Please send your questions to her at Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112-0190, or online at

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