Building a Color Story

Story & Photos By Elisabeth Lanier

As an interior designer, one of the things that I am consistently called upon to furnish for my clients is a color story. The color choices with which we surround ourselves reflect a truly personal and unique selection because it is in the choice of these colors that we make a statement about what we cherish and hold dear – even if it is abstracted into a paint color or the shade of the rug under our feet. For this reason, when asked to help a client, I usually ask them how they would like their space to feel – because I’ve found that folks are better able to describe feelings better than color. Or, I’ll ask if they have something – an old quilt or a postcard of a beloved painting or a photograph – that they care deeply about and wish their space to mimic.

So, how does one build a color story? For the sake of this article, let’s say that you are my client, and that you’ve recently returned from a trip all the way across the great state of Texas. You’ve taken lots of pictures of that vast plain, that immense and windswept landscape, and you’d like your home to reflect that feeling; wide open and spare, like a great exhalation.
Look closely at all the colors in your photo (or quilt or postcard). In this photo, you will see hues of sand, taupe, straw, fawn, greige — sort of a concrete gray, kind of a lavender gray — tan, greens — both dark evergreen and new green – and, occasionally, a hit of yellow-green.
In building a color story from this photograph, my first pick would be a large element, one that has the fewest choices available – in this case, the wall-to-wall carpet – because other elements, especially paint colors, offer far greater selection. Here, I’ve selected a sand color for the carpet, while for the kitchen floor I’ve chosen a gray quarry tile, and a natural travertine (straw-colored) tile for the bathroom floor.
Next we work on other elements that have slightly more choices available. Here, I’ve chosen sand-blasted glass tiles – a gentle fawn for the kitchen backsplash and a soft dove-gray for the bathroom tub surround and, for the kitchen countertops, a Delicatus White granite.

The wall paint colors that I’ve selected are subtle shades of gray, from warm to cool, while a deep olive green serves as an accent wall in the great room. A wonderful way to unify the disparate parts of a color scheme is to use a single color for all the trim pieces. In this instance, I’m using a white tinged with just a hint of straw.
Lastly, I’m showing a few examples of upholstery fabric to tie into the overall color scheme: a sturdy gray and taupe tweed, perfect for the big sectional or sofa, with an evergreen ultra-suede for the side chairs, and a deep olive, again for accent, perhaps as toss pillows.
The result is a harmonious, simple and expansive color scheme that will inspire you to breathe as deeply as you did when overlooking that vast Texas landscape.
It’s easy to embrace color in your home, especially if you have an inspiration piece – just remember that building a color scheme is as easy as looking around.
Elisabeth Lanier is an interior designer and space planner who, with her husband, is co-owner of DesignWorks, gallery and interior design studio, at 2119A Postoffice Street in historic downtown Galveston. She can be reached at 409-766-7599.

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