If a design-conscious Paul Revere (he did craft all those marvelous silver pieces, you know) were to make his famous ride today, instead of warning “The British are coming! The British are coming!,” he might have hollered, “The neutrals are here! The neutrals are here!”
Neutrals are a trend that’s tough to miss on today’s home scene. From paint colors to fabrics to furniture upholstery, neutrals running to the most muted of pastels, coffee shades and all those tones of white are more dominant than ever before.
It’s color, though, that gives a room its personality and individuality. And the dominance of neutrals provides the perfect atmosphere and background for experimenting in accessorizing with color.
There’s one word, however, that can stand in the way of doing fun, interesting things with color. That word is “fear.”
Some people are afraid of doing major things with color (painted walls, statement window coverings, punchy upholsteries) because they are afraid of the commitment, said Susan E. White of White Design in Corona del Mar, Calif. “Most people have a need to want to be safe.”
Model homes also can play a part in our tendency to shy away from major swaths of color. “White walls are so generic in models,” said Janette Dooley of Granville Interiors in Laguna Niguel, Calif. “People troop through to get ideas from models. It’s a subliminal thing. We have to see things (in this case, use of color) done before we’re not fearful of them, and we don’t see it in models.”
That’s where accessories come in. Accessorizing with color doesn’t have to be expensive. Because we’re not talking large outlays of cash, if something doesn’t work, you can change it without going into currency shock.
Mary Swift of Mary Swift Interiors in Laguna Hills, likes to start color accessorizing with sofa throw pillows. “Get lots of them,” she advises, “and if you don’t like them, they’re not that expensive. They will give you an idea of what the color can do and how much impact you can get (from the color).”
Something as simple as a folk art or decorative mask can make a defining statement and create a colorful focal point. The obvious ploy is to hang a small collection of them on a wall.
But White likes to take the concept a step further. “Look at an object as something other than it was intended for,” she said. A mask, for example, can be converted to a conversation-piece lamp by mounting the mask on a piece of metal pole (to hold the wiring) set in a clear acrylic base.
Dooley points to painted furniture, personal collections and simple place mats and napkins as ways to introduce color touches without creating a scene.
On the painted furniture front, most people immediately think country, cottage, lodge or Southwestern. But that’s not necessarily so, Dooley said. Treated as a piece of art that happens to be a piece of furniture, a painted piece can fit well into a contemporary design.
Most people collect something, and Dooley says those collections can be transformed to colorful room accessories. “I sometimes ask people if they have any interesting collections,” Dooley said. “They say ‘yes,’ but they’re tucked away in a cupboard because they don’t think they match (the existing decor). I bring them out and give them tips on how they can be displayed.”
One of the more versatile color accessory pieces is a quilt. “Machine-made quilts are very popular right now,” Swift said, “and are relatively inexpensive compared to handmade quilts. They can set a design theme as well as a color theme.”
The obvious use of a quilt is as a bed covering. Nothing wrong with that. But where quilts really show their potential as eye-catching accessories is as wall hangings or throws.
As wall hangings, they are an attractive answer to what to do with high-volume walls that soar to cathedral ceilings.
Be careful about how you mount quilts on a wall. Old, handmade collector’s quilts should be draped over a rod. For newer, machine-made quilts, a wide sleeve can be sewn at the top back to slide the mounting pole through. Curtain rings are an alternative.
xxxx Color shopping Here’s quickie listing of some of the places designers Janette Dooley, Mary Swift and Susan White like to look when they’re on the hunt for colorful accessories. Museum stores are great places to find the hand-crafted look. Import stores offer color, color, color. Exotic, too. Mass merchandisers (Target, Kmart, Wal-Mart). They’re paying more attention to home interiors than in the past. Consignment and antique stores. Good for hidden treasures and items that can be made into more than what they appear to be. Discounters such as TJ Maxx, Ross Dress for Less and Marshall’s for less expensive accessory pieces.