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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Neutralize My World

Yesterday we spoke about color. Today, we focus on neutrals and neutralized color hues. Neutrals are whites, off-whites, grays, black, and off-blacks. Browns and beiges are also considered ‘neutrals’ and used generously as such. I often refer to beige and browns as neutrals but if I wanted to be completely accurate or scientific about it, they are really neutralized color hues. What the heck does that mean? Well, browns and beiges come directly off the color wheel by mixing colors – the other neutrals do not. However, for the purpose of this blog (and almost all my other blogs), we will refer to browns and beiges as neutrals. Let’s first look at rooms using black and whites. We’ll again use Elle Décor / Metropolitan Home – Point Click Home as our resource.

When using whites and off-whites, it visually expands the space. They also make other colors and objects appear clean and crisp. Accents in blacks give an element of richness.

In this Jonathan Alder design, note how spacious, airy, and bright the room appears. The clear Lucite table aids the lightness. His use of texture, pattern, several well-placed objects with curved lines and unusual shape (dogs) and the pop of blue add visual interest. The floor with its dark, rich tone helps to ground the expansive feel. This room makes me feel happy.

In this Scott Slarsky and Katarina Edlund design, note the tribute to the magnificent architecture of the room. The generous molding, fireplace, and curved walls are kept front and center. Even the elegant but simple light fixture does not compete. The boldest black and white pattern is on vintage chairs. The bold pattern remains at one end backed by voluminous windows. The chairs are placed echoing the curved wall and reveal the heirloom clock. Next the contemporary shape and texture of the black hide rug; finishing the room with a white, clean lined, tete a tete. Note the center table is low as to not obstruct the view of the fireplace. The walls accented with tone on tone that marries well with the architecture and pattern selected for the chairs. This entire splendor is grounded by richly toned hardwood floor. The simple mixing of materials and the contemporary with vintage provide the extra creative wow that gives this room such great impact.

In Ron Marvin’s room, again we see simplicity done well. I enjoy the creative use of lines in this design. Lines on the window treatments, rug, the furnishing in the bottom right, and the Grecian design on the throw pillows all make me feel organized and clear. Everything is precise and well proportioned, balanced, crisp, and clean. I feel like I should be in a pencil black skirt, a crisp white blouse, and black stilettos drinking a cosmopolitan. Classic elegance.

Now for the ‘beiges.’ I have chosen two incredible designers to illustrate – Barbara Barry and Vicente Wolf.

First Ms. Barry. Everyone knows she is famous for her pleasing palettes. But what makes ‘beige’ room inviting and interesting. In this room, the immediate warm tones make one feel invited. Second, note the architectural detail on the walls and the varied forms and shapes of the furniture – this adds interest. The seating arrangement in front of the fireplace is symmetrical – this has a formality. Yet, the second seating arrangement is on an angle – a more casual air. It also boasts the unique youthful furniture pieces married with classic wing chairs. The palette, on my monitor, shows fabric with a caramel hue, a tone derived from orange. When orange is neutralized, as it appears to be here, it proclaims wealth, success, and depth. Summary – this room is an unassuming rich, elegant place where people feel comfortable in conversation.

Here’s Mr. Wolf’s design. Comfortable and casual. He is known for his eclectic designs and this one is no different. First look at the architecture. The molding and beams on the ceiling give the room a cozy feel without compromising the airy feeling. The odd chair and sisal rug decreases the formality as does the selection of case goods. Interest abounds with the horizontal use of mirror, aiding the airy feel, the architectural model, mimicking greenery, and unusual accessories. I would love to see what is lying on the table in between the model and greenery. His use of interesting collections always intrigues me. In his designs – spaces are full of interest because of the unusual – but never look cluttered because of careful selection and well one editing.

The beauty about using a neutral palette is the ability to move objects around within the room and into other rooms. This keeps homes fresh. Art is well displayed in these rooms. The art does not need to compete and will look crisp. If a little color is desired the law of chromatic distribution applies – the more neutralized colors of the palette are found in the largest areas with the brighter or more intense chroma in the smaller areas. What that means is that on larger furnishings, walls, and floors – everything remains neutral. The pop color is saved for smaller objects or kept to a particular area or object. Mr.Adler’s design is a good example with the blue. The photo below speaks for itself.

In this Paul Gray design – I immediately say wow. Now the area with the pop is not small but it is confined. Only a smidge of red appears in the painting. All else is neutralized. I enjoy the juxtaposition of the calming color and horizontal line of the furniture grouping with the vertical expanse of red glass and steel on what could have been an eye sore – a support column. Now that is what I call a POP.


  1. Love rooms 01 and 02 - the first is so fresh and looks like it's near the water somewhere. To me, the second looks like a Soho townhome in Manhattan. The actual room itself has such pretty details to work with and from - the light fixture, clock, everything - quite incredible!

  2. I saw room two in a magazine a couple of years ago and have been looking for the large black and white print ever since. I can't get it out of my mind. Would love to have some is it for sale still????????????? Funny the room that I want to use it in has the same lamps as your room three!! E-mail penelopej920@aol.com


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