Global color authority Pantone recently announced Radiant Orchid #18-3224 as Color of the Year 2014. Laying last year’s winner Emerald to rest, Radiant Orchid skips across the color wheel this year from the greens to the purples.
Often described as “magical”, “romantic”, “tender”, “exotic” and “charming”, orchid is also associated with ingenuity. Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, says of Radiant Orchid, it “encourages expanded creativity and originality, which is increasingly valued in today’s society….An enchanting harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones, Radiant Orchid inspires confidence and emanates great joy, love and health.”
While Radiant Orchid is a beautiful color, it is quite feminine and probably not one to garner wide appeal to the general masses. Unlike 2012’s hit Tangerine Tango, I wouldn’t expect to see the design market overly bathed in hues of orchid. Rather, touches of this intense color as within schemes, such as chairs, pillows, rugs, or painted feature walls will be more likely. However, a few bold designers have more readily embraced this deep, sensual color in full force. Check out a few favorites:
With Christmas just around the corner and a craving for gingerbread, I collaborated with my good friend to whip up some decorated gingerbread cookies for the first time. Although they turned out okay, I would characterize them as one would amicably describe an old house in need of work …“charming” or perhaps even “quaint”. Nonetheless, they’re still recognizable as a gingerbread cookies.
The whole experience, with icing in my hair and all, made me appreciate those who have masterfully evolved from simple 2D cookie production to the lofty construction of gingerbread houses. Impressed that they merely remain intact, some are so well-conceived and diverse in design, they can offer a condensed lesson in architectural styles (albeit “sugar-coated”) .
Here’s a light-hearted look at some terrific examples:
Castle: Characterized by turrets, shingled roofs, modest window openings and surrounded by a protective moat.
Federal Style: Exterior is typically brick or clapboard. Design focuses on balanced proportions, including symmetrical window placement. Decorative pediments and quoins (decorative brickwork at corners) are common.
Log Cabin: Construction comprised of whole logs and chinking, or natural insulation between the logs consisting of mud, grass and moss.
Cottage: Cozy abode of Hansel and Gretel, characterized by thatched or shingled roofs, thick walls of straw or wattle and daub, arched doors, shutters, and small multi-pane windows.
Swiss Chalet: Identified by a gabled roof with wide eaves and steep pitches, prominent roof tiles, balconies, wood shutters, decorative carvings and exterior trim, which are often painted.
Tudor Revival: Characterized by half-timber framing filled with wattle and daub, covered by stucco. Steeply pitched roofs and prominent chimneys are typical.
Victorian-Queen Anne: Known to have complicated, asymmetrical shapes with front facing gables, steep roofs, round or square towers, wrap-around porches, ornamental spindles and brackets, and 3-sided projecting bay windows.
Victorian-Second Empire: Features tall, narrow windows, mansard roofs with wrought iron galleries or “crests”.
Greek Revival Row House: Identified by simple and bold architectural elements, some imitating Greek motifs, rectangular front door are often flanked with grand entrance pilasters.
Craftsman: Known to have low-pitched gabled roofs with wide eave overhangs and false brackets, front porches made of stone or wood, exterior chimneys, columnar porch supports, and wood shingle siding.
Modern: Characterized by simplicity in form and function, bold, flat roof lines, and overall strong linear elements.
Tropical Vernacular: Typically utilize simple construction methods made of locally found materials, such as bamboo and palm fronds. Structures are often raised to accommodate for seasonal flooding.
Thank you for viewing and Merry Christmas!
Note: Image sources are identified when known.
Black is a color of contradiction. It’s vast, yet intimate; restrained but cozy. In his book, Black: The History of a Color author Michel Pastoureau writes, “Black – favorite color of priests and penitents, artists and ascetics, fashion designers and fascists — has always stood for powerfully opposed ideas: authority and humility, sin and holiness, rebellion and conformity, wealth and poverty, good and bad.”
No other color creates more drama than black. While not typically appealing to the timid, black shouldn’t be a daunting interior color. Being neutral, any secondary palette easily coordinates with black. A little goes a long way, so incorporating it into a scheme doesn’t necessarily mean covering every surface in inky darkness. Black also blends effortlessly into traditional and contemporary spaces, and anything in between.
As a color, black grounds a space, lending a sense of solidity and heft. Particularly when used in combination with lighter colors, the contrast of a black feature wall enhances the architectural forms surrounding it.
For example, the substantial black wall dividing William Roy Kitchen Design‘s space and the angled black feature wall in Urrutia Design‘s kitchen below would have faded into oblivion had the walls been painted white. The key architectural forms in both would have become lost. Black walls here serve as visual anchors.
Likewise, without the contrast of black on white, the ceiling details of this striking yoga room designed by Jessica Helgerson Interior Design would have been adrift in a sea of white. Helgerson’s use of black on the ceiling structure capitalizes on highlighting the room’s strongest asset.
Dark colors do tend to make spaces appear smaller than they actually are, and that’s perfectly OK. Design in the recent past has placed a (blind) priority on finishing spaces in white to make them appear larger and to “open them up”. It’s not always appropriate, or desired. A dark, cozy library, bedroom, or bath sounds rather appealing.
If black walls, floors or ceilings are too much commitment, consider painting cabinetry or wood trim a dark shade. Particularly in older homes with beefier woodwork, it enhances the linear qualities of a space without being overpowering. Tim Cuppett Architects‘ renovation of a historic farmhouse and a library to house transformation by Jessica Helgerson Interior Design are perfect examples.
Bold, understated, and elegant, black is a timeless color that adds a sense of presence, security and intimacy to a space. True to its contrasting nature, it makes one feel warm in the winter, and cool in the summer. Although true blacks do exist, most black paint incorporates another hue, such as blue, green, brown, or grey to add softness and interest. Consider a color change? Get back in black.
Remember the good ‘ole days, playing endless games of Sorry and Yahtzee in the basement on a rainy day? Bliss as life was, happy memories of my childhood home are overshadowed by recollection of wood paneling…dark and lurking like an older brother taking advantage of my substandard Monopoly skills.
Wood paneling became popular after WWII until the 1970s as an inexpensive alternative to drywall for finishing off living spaces, especially new basements and dens. Aside from being durable, it was easier to install than drywall, which contributed to its popularity. Its drawbacks were many. Paper overlays that mimicked wood grain looked fake, and the funky sheen didn’t help. Its aura? Dreary and unnatural.
Real wood plank wall paneling is another story. Frequently made from solid knotty pine, it usually has a smart, grooved edge. Unfortunately, I’ve never come across it without a cloying, orangey stain and high-gloss finish. It’s also often installed in the whole room – including the ceiling. Wood grain is beautiful, no doubt, but unless you’re going for a super rustic Paul Bunyan cabin aesthetic, it can be too much. (Having said that, my Maine driver’s license will likely be revoked.)
Aside from the lingering stigma of wood paneling, it is back in style, and has thankfully dropped the “dark side” persona. The use and treatment of wood paneling is also different than in previous decades.
Solid wood planks, particularly reclaimed wood, are extremely popular. Designers and architects are using reclaimed planks in their found state to let the natural characteristics of the wood inform the space. Texture, patina and dings and dents from its previous life are sought out. Otherwise, paneling using new wood tends to be made from high-end species, such as the custom-made walnut veneer panels designed by Shari Misturak that create 3-D floating planes.
The feature wall is another change. Wood paneling is focused on a wall or two rather than wrapping the entire room in wood. Emily Jagoda’s Tilden project makes great use of a feature wall – with a portion of the ceiling additionally clad in finished plywood. Searl Lamaster Howe Architects’ reclaimed wood feature wall contrasts with the surrounding white walls and moves the eye upwards to complement the room’s architecture. An entire wall clad in the beautiful, grey wood wouldn’t have the same dramatic effect.
Painting existing wood paneling to lighten a space and create uniformity is common. Fellow blogger Christina Katos commented that her kids were so frightened by the “scary faces” in the dark pine knots of the paneling of their playroom, that they wouldn’t even enter the room again until she painted it white.
Many people disagree about painting wood paneling, but if is hindering use of the space, it’s a worthwhile step. Historical Concepts gave their painted wood paneling in an antique look by using a 50/50 ratio of water to paint. Meanwhile, the white painted shiplap wood paneling by Structures Building Company provides a clean backdrop in its Charleston Cobbage Hall project.
Check out some great examples of updated wood paneling that won’t give you nightmares:
Once coined the “Gap pocket tee” of American interior design, few pieces have retained their stylish stronghold as much as the Parsons table. Its straightforward, boxy design features substantial, square legs with a top of the same thickness. Brutally simple, the Parsons table melds effortlessly into most any aesthetic.
Despite its reference to the iconic American clothing staple, the Parsons table is actually a French creation. Designer Jean-Michel Frank was lecturing in the 1930’s at the Paris branch of Parsons School of Design when he tasked his students to “design a table so basic that it would retain its integrity whether sheathed in gold leaf, mica, parchment, split straw or painted burlap, or even left robustly unvarnished”.
One student, who was never identified, designed the simple table, which was originally called the T-square table. A handyman janitor at Parsons in New York brought the French student’s design to fruition by building the piece. The table was exhibited at a student show and quickly became popular with designers and architects, who had the table custom-made for clients. It wasn’t until the early 1960’s when two furniture companies, Mount Airy and Directional, first manufactured the Parsons table.
Many knock-offs have ensued since, transferring the design to function as desks, dining tables, side tables and console tables. Depending on how they’re finished, matte or glossy, neutral or bright, a Parsons table will either make a punch or serenely blend with other pieces, including antiques. It’s also a great choice for tight spaces.
Check out a few favorites:
Thank you to Mitchell Owens of the New York Times for historical information on the design of the Parsons table from his June 8, 2006 article, “Dying for a Parson’s Table”.
Adding depth and an aqueous sheen, lacquered walls are not for the timid. Bold reds, deep blues and murky blacks are popular. Darker values enhance the luster of the surface in comparison to lighter values. Both contemporary and traditional spaces are complemented by this shiny, happy finish.
Lacquering is actually an old practice dating back to ancient China, Japan and India when it was applied to decorative objects. Organic, or real lacquer, is a reddish secretion from the lac insect or from the T. vernicifluum tree. True lacquer finishes are solvent-based, and have largely been supplanted by oil or water-based, high-gloss paint. Nowadays, the terms “lacquered” and “high-gloss” are often used interchangeably.
Lacquered walls require more wall preparation than traditional matte or eggshell finishes– a lot more. But the hard work pays off in the end. Walls need to be perfectly flat, clean and free of any nail holes or nicks. The paint is usually sprayed on by a well-seasoned professional painter in multiple layers, often with a between-coat sanding. Spraying prevents brush and roller marks.
Akin to a mirror finish, the reflection off of high-gloss surfaces will magnify any imperfection exponentially, which is why adequate wall prep is key. Yet, reflection is also its asset. High-gloss sheens add light to a space.
Wall surfaces and architectural molding are often treated in the same color and finish to create a unified appearance. Ceilings are also candidates for this glorious gloss. However, because light travels more efficiently on horizontal surfaces, seams and scars become even more apparent on ceilings than on walls.
Consider location for lacquered walls carefully. High-gloss finishes are lively, so entertaining spaces like dining rooms, living areas and receptions are ideal. Serene, reflective spaces such as spas are not. Despite their durable finish, lacquered walls do require consistent upkeep to maintain their shine. To keep fingerprints at bay, dust the surface with a feather duster and gently wipe away smudges with warm water on a damp, soft cloth.
Looking to add some shine in your life? Check out some excellent examples:
‘Visionary’, ‘eccentric’ and ‘surreal’ are words often used to describe the unique architecture of Antonio Gaudi.
Volumetric curves paired with unconventional embellishment designed by Gaudi turned the traditional order of architecture in the late 19th and early 20th century on its head. Gaudi’s buildings are a celebration in the Catalan city of Barcelona where seven works were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1984.
Gaudi is widely known for the imaginative use of colorful glazed tile mosaic as well as the simplistic repose of his signature parabolic arches. In mad scientist fashion, Gaudi designed every inch of space in his projects, inside and out – from light fixtures and switches to wrought iron hardware and furniture.
His designs, coined Catalonian Modernism (similar to Art Nouveau) referenced curvilinear shapes found in nature. Bulging, twisting forms exude movement and seem to take on a life of their own, while other works connect to nature literally, such as applied decoration representing foliage or animals.
Although created more than a century ago, Gaudi’s vision still inspires contemporary designers. Today, architectural work and furniture designs pay homage to the great Catalan master, either directly or indirectly through technique and materials. When designing the Topit Chair shown below, designer Onur Cobanli was delighted when he realized that its form resembled that of an Antonio Gaudi chair. Cobanli admitted, “Great minds think alike!”
Check out some contemporary Gaudi-inspired designs:
Mention ‘cork’ and most people think of wine stoppers and lifeless pin boards. Cork has far reaching uses past the ordinary and is infamous for its Superman attributes. Aside from being 100% sustainable, it’s also waterproof, buoyant, fire-resistant, insulating, and resistant to mold and bacterial growth. It also has a warm, pleasant scent.
Cork’s popularity has certainly risen in years past, but it’s not a new building material. Cork flooring was introduced in the late 1800’s and used in a variety of commercial and residential spaces, but its use quickly waned with the invention of vinyl flooring after WWII. The 1960’s and 70’s experienced brief flirtations with cork wall covering.
Lucky for the design industry, recent shift by wine makers from cork to synthetic wine stoppers, as well as a global push for sustainable building materials has caused a resurgence in cork’s popularity as a material of choice for interior applications.
Check out some favorites: