I love this article in Home by Design magazine about choosing a paint color!
Written by Maresa Giovanniniin Home by Design Magazine
Selecting the perfect interior paint color can be a lot like choosing a spouse: it should make you feel unreservedly happy. Granted, you can always trade in a can of paint for a new shade if it doesn’t work out, but invest time in identifying the perfect hue, and that won’t be necessary. “When you wake up in the morning, if you can’t just sit down with your coffee or tea and just exhale, then it’s not the color for you,” says designer Natalie Umbert.
Seeking a place and a palette that would make her feel calm and blissful, Umbert moved into this 1,000-square-foot home in Corona del Mar, California, in 2007 with her young daughter. At the time, the interior of the 1940s bungalow was painted entirely off-white—a perfect blank canvas—so the designer and owner of her own firm, atelier natalie umbert, sorted through numerous swatches to find the perfect partner. “I figured I moved to the beach and wanted everything to be calm, . . . so I painted the whole house in shades of gray and blue,” says Umbert. “And it looked depressing.”
With an unexpected derailment in the design process, Umbert was forced back to the drawing board to find an entirely original inspiration. Instead of using color from existing furniture or in a piece of artwork, she perused the paint department for a shade that struck her fancy. “I went to the paint store and I saw this color called Flower Pot and it just made me happy,” says Umbert. “It wasn’t tangerine and it wasn’t rust—it was a calm orange.” With her color selection made and tested, Umbert had the anchor for the decor of the entire bungalow.
Although “calm orange” might sound like a contradiction to some, Umbert explains that the saturation level, not the color base, determines the final effect. In this case, the orange is relatively muted because there isn’t a lot of white in the color, which would produce a brighter shade. “Once I lived in it for a while, it actually became a neutral,” says Umbert; however, she still treated the living room walls as bold and otherwise used the color sparingly. A pair of custom-painted vintage 1940s James Mont–style chairs shine in another shade of orange, but, overall, Umbert focused on introducing complementary colors
Lemon Drops, by Benjamin Moore, proved to be a perfect complement. “The sunroom was really bright, and I wanted a complementary color that was still happy,” says Umbert. So the combination sunroom and dining room, which is visible from the living space, was bathed in this cheery yet subdued yellow. The designer then introduced orange into the sunroom through patterned throw pillows and brought yellow into the living room using the same technique. “Don’t be afraid to mix pattern and color on [furniture] because it can take it,” says Umbert.
Flower Pot and Lemon Drops paired so perfectly that Umbert used them to paint horizontal stripes in her master bedroom. To balance the whimsy of the stripes and the patterned faux headboard—crafted from Schumacher’s Chiang Mai Dragon wall covering and framed by pieces of molding—the rest of the room’s details are simple. The tufted cream-colored French settee, a family heirloom, and a green matelasse quilt both feature solid fabrics to balance the other colors and patterns. “I don’t like ‘cute,’ and I feel like whimsical colors can sometimes be cute,” says Umbert. “So you need some gutsy pieces to give the colors some gravity.” In the rest of her home, Umbert incorporated pieces such as the modern stone coffee table in the living room and a dark wood dining table and chair set to ground the bungalow as a mature space.
As a designer, Umbert says her personal spaces are always evolving. While her relationship with the Flower Pot paint might not last a lifetime, it was exactly what she was looking for to create a cohesive story in this home. “It made me happy, made me smile,” says Umbert of her paint discovery. “And that was the one.”
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