Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016


A Reader Wrestles with Blue Walls

[Elle Decor, November 2006, design by Miles Redd]

[Design by Miles Redd]

A reader who has always lived with neutral walls recently painted her living room a soft blue similar to the walls in these two interiors below.

[Elle Decor, November 2006, design by Steven Gambrel.]

[ House Beautiful, June 2007, design by Ruthie Sommers.]

She explains, "I've added Samperton-esque navy & beige floral linen curtains and now I'm stumped as to what to do next." Being close-minded is not this reader's problem; she loves all colors -- coral and "almost all reds, orange, zippy greens," and yellow -- as well as florals, graphic striped rugs, chinoiserie, globe-trotter chic and French pieces.

[House & Garden, March 2006, design by Emma Jane Pilkington.]

Unfortunately she feels prisoner to her gorgeous blue walls, but repainting is not an option. Besides, this fan of Schuyler Samperton, Ruthie Sommers and Betsy Burnham is up for a challenge. She wants to problem solve.

[House & Garden, January 2005, design by Emma Jane Pilkington.]

On her to-do list: upholster a sofa like Ruthie's on the cover of domino; paint a large 80-year old rustic cabinet, and bring in tables and lamps. "I'm just petrified," she says, "Can anyone relate to this feeling?"

Do you have any suggestions for this reader on a mission?

[ Cottage Living, December 2006, design by Ruthie Sommers.]

[Restoration of Edith Wharton's home The Mount.]

[Lynn von Kersting's luscious citrus-hued Chinese silk and European pillows as seen in Caroline Clifton-Mogg's Textile Style.

[Jonathan Adler used a Scalamandre linen floral with wild abandon in Jane Wagman's apartment, as seen in Elle Decor, May 2005. I think the walls might be blue.]


kelly robson said...

Do it! Think of your blue walls as a neutral. Reupholster your sofa and paint your cabinet! You can do it and you will love it, I'm sure.

katiedid said...

I just love that Steven Gambrel and Ruthig Sommers room. I am drawing alot of inspiration for my Family Room from the Gambrel version (Love the white sofas, but with a family and dog, a darker sofa was a must!)

I think your reader should just do it too! Upholstery in a camel color for the sofa, with a white slipcover for summer perhaps? Pillows in coral and yellow: maybe in Quadrille Allan Campbell Saya Gata fabric. A throw in a darker blue. Paint the armoire in a muted dark coral perhaps, or black? Hmm, the possibilities are wonderful!

The Peak of Chic said...

I agree with Kelly. That shade of blue is basically a neutral. And I also think Katie's right about adding touches or coral and black (and red too!). That would look fantastic with that shade on the walls and the curtains.

Anonymous said...

Don't be afraid! You're on the right track with the bold fabric, La Fiorentina. Unless you live in a phenom place or have great views, bolder is better to create beauty. "La Fiorentina" will be AMAZING against the pale blue walls. If you do a bold sofa like that, I think everything else will be gravy! Also, if you find images you love, use them to guide you. You can "cut and paste" ideas from images of rooms that are very different from yours. With such a great standout on the couch, go neutral/sisal on floor and classic/symmetrical with lamps and accessories. You'll be great! If you feel disappointed during the process, DON'T PANIC. Keep moving things around until they are pleasing to you.

kelleyp said...

feel her pain as there are so many options and you don't want to make a mistake. i have the same issue with my horrible pine dining room table and chairs. it is truly ugly but it is a big investment piece so i just continue to put it off. seems easier than making the wrong decision. but really it is your enviornment so just go for it! We promise not to judge you. send pics when you get done.

Anonymous said...

Courtney's done such a great job demonstrating ways to go. I have walls that color that I inherited and I find that because they cool things down, I can use much bolder color and still not find it overwhelming. It also pushes the sense of space. So go for all those oranges and accent colors if you crave them. Its really a lovely color once you get used to it...

Style Court said...

Anon, I'm glad you like the images. Everyone has great points!

Style Court said...

BTW, I think the reader meant her sofa is a camel back shape like Ruthie's, not that she planned to copy the fabric. If I understood her correctly :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions. I'm the reader in question.

Courtney, you're correct. My couch is similar in shape to Ruthie's. In fact, if I dare say, it's even cooler looking than hers, because the legs are straight and carved and stained nearly black. I'm not much of a Hicks fan (though I can appreciate the look, it's just not me), plus I couldn't afford that fabric anyway. I do love the blue and white floral in the last pic.

I'm more of a Carolina Irving type in that I just love everything and have a hard time committing to a "color scheme." WIth beige walls and a white couch I could toss anything into the room and it pretty much worked.

I painted my walls this sort of soft turquoise/Tiffany blue because it makes the browns in wood really pop. All the woodwork and doors in the room are faux painted a reddish-dark brown to look like mahogany (original from the 1920s). This color makes all the wood (real and fake) in the room look awesome, so I'm sticking with it.

While this color looks downright timid in photos, it's not in real life. You DO notice it's blue. (In a good way, of course.) I'm freaked out about what else can be friends with it,however. If you place brights right against it, they seem to "vibrate." It's hard to notice the edges of things. (Think reading a red font on a blue background.) This is why I've reconciled myself to bringing in whites and beiges.(And a camel mohair for winter and a white cotton/linen slipcover for summer is just what I was thinking. Though sometimes I fantasize about a beige background leopard print!)

Celerie Kemble has done a lot of press relating to color and I've been reading through it on her website. (Courtney I'm surprised you haven't posted about her. I think you would enjoy a lot of her stuff.)

Bottom line is I have a lot of things to consider, including the room's functionality, my budget and my overall theme (sort of laid-back globe trotter chic). I'm usually the person other people come to for this type of advice, but right now I'm so obsessed with doing things "just so," that I can't see the forest for the trees. It's maddening! And I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one. I remember a long time ago reading an editor's letter in a design magazine where she fessed up to living in a white undecorated box for fear of making the wrong choice.

To make this more than just about me, I'd love to know more about the design decisions that leave the rest of you petrified. And have you noticed yourself wavering or agonizing about what really should be a small decision? (Like a trim for a tiny lampshade.) I also always look for 2-3 ways I can use something or switch it out. Does anyone do the same? I have an antique daybed that I've owned for years yet I've never had a cover made for the cushion and bolsters. I just keep draping different textiles over it!

I started painting the big cabinet cream (it's like bookcase on the top and a dresser on lower half). I'll be lining the inside and shelves with some bright fabric (a yellow print?).

Mélanie said...

Do it !!!
Blue looks so peaceful and chic !! just the perfect color

The Peak of Chic said...

Blue Room- As scary as it seems (and we have ALL been there- afraid of making a mistake), I do think you're on the right track. It sounds like you're drawn to the creams and beiges, so that's probably a good choice for your upholstered pieces. You could then add a leopard pillow, for example, for some pizzazz. A yellow print lining in the bookcase sounds great- that will add some punch. Maybe add your color through accessories and leave the big pieces neutral. Re: Carolina Irving- when I think of her I think of great, eclectic accessories, so you could add some of that exoticism into your room through great accessories. Good luck! We know it's going to look great!!

kelleyp said...

agree you should go with neutrals on the bigger pieces in the room then add color by layering your "global chic" finds. i have a hard time committing as i like so many different styles. love how a ruthie sommers or like desingers just seem to throw it together and it looks so perfect. i cannot even figure out how to make my tablescapes work. always adding and deleting. so frustrating. then i open a mag or see this fabulous blog, and although inspired, it just doesn't seem to work out in reality. maybe my issue is i am overly consumed with design--is that possible??