Jewel Tones

Inspired by our tour of parts east, our love affair with jewel tones has gone from slow burn to colorful blaze.  In the semi-precious stone floors at Cappelle Medicee’s Chapel of the Princes and again in the crimson damask at Windsor Castle, a rich rainbow of tones affirm that great palettes are always in style.  And in humble taverns and cozy teahouses, we were reminded that European design has long celebrated dynamic color. Even in the modern aesthetic, pops of kelly green, coral, and cobalt punctuate spaces designed around light-handed neutrals.

Here is a smattering of the colorful treasures we toured; view more by following our gallery on Instagram here.

prince chapel floor

Ruby and Emerald, Semiprecious Stone Floor, Chapel of Princes, Cappelle Medicee

Sapphire and Gold Heart, Milan

Sapphire and Gold Heart, Milan

Mosaic, St. Peter's Basilica

Vivid Azure, Mosaic, St. Peter’s Basilica

Inner Courtyard Ceiling, Rome

Pungent Yellow, Inner Courtyard Ceiling, Rome

Santa Maria del Popolo, Florence

Sapphire and Crimson Robes, Santa Maria del Popolo, Florence

Heraldry Reds, Fischer's, London (David Collins Studio, Designers)

Heraldry Reds, Fischer’s, London (David Collins Studio, Designers)

Blood Ruby, Renaissance Religious Art, Musee Accademia, Florence

Blood Ruby, Renaissance Religious Art, Musee Accademia, Florence

Sapphire and Terracotta, Pop Art, Murren

Sapphire and Terracotta, Pop Art, Murren

Arrivedarci,  Auf Wiederluege, and Au Revoir!



Sommarstuga Red

We like the tradition of summer houses, a simple dwelling for the warm season, usually built along cool water or under shady trees. They are particularly popular in Sweden, where the term is called ‘sommarstuga’.  We did a little hunting and found an interesting detail common to these dwellings: the color known as ‘Falu rödfärg’, a deep red not unlike the color we see on our American barns. Originating from pigments out of the copper mine at Falun in Dalarna, Swedan, the classic paint uses starch for binding and is considered excellent for preserving wood.


Originally, the color became popular in the 16th century and was painted on modest, wood mansions to imitate the color of brick.  The use was in common practice in many parts of Sweden up through the early 19th century.  Then the trend faded in favor of lighter colors, like white and soft yellow, as stucco became a more popular finish material.  A later serge in popularity among country farm dwellers has kept the color alive and beloved in that part of the world.  A popular Finnish expression is ‘punainen tupa ja perunamaa’, which means ‘a red house and a potato field’, which is meant to indicate an idyllic life in a single family home.


What I’ve Come to Love: Visible Power

There was a time when I would do anything to hide the gritty truth of electricity.  I look back at my early endeavors and cringe at parades of baskets and houseplants I ran along the corners of rooms to hide the lamp cords.  Then I changed and became a person who could embrace it.


Of course, there are still times when hiding a mess of wires is the right choice.  No need to allow a surge protector to peer up at guests from the corner of the sofa like a white rat with a few too many tails.  Yet a vintage wire snaking down from a sconce has a surprising charm to me as I approach forty; it is, after all, the age of forgiving grey hair and crow’s feet with grace.

Maybe, too, I think embracing the forgotten wonder of electricity is a nice, truthy thing to do.  In an era in which we can talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime we ought to do a little less griping when the signals are weak and have a little more zen-like gratitude that we’re able to do something like sending a friend across the globe a snapshot of shoes we’re thinking of buying.  Seriously though, these wingtips look great with this soap box, right?


In conclusion, try letting the works show now and again.  There is more style in honesty than in pretense.  This is something like that breezy, amazing person in your life who can throw a poncho over a t-shirt and somehow look cooler than your mother-in-law who always has the perfect brooch to suit her expensive matched knits.


Graphic Design @ Home

The layers of paint on my living room walls show  my personal evolution: grass, sapphire, gold and now beige. Designers love color but with expertise comes knowing when and how to use it.  I’ve edited my aesthetic a lot over the years.

But I’m not alone.

Today’s design stresses texture and form over intense layers of color.  It’s everywhere: flexible neutrals playing it cool while rustic finishes and boldly graphic prints carry the lion’s share of interest.  Interior design is taking its cues from graphic design.  Function trumps affectation. Details are thoughtfully edited – sometimes witty – and white space is golden.  Although richly detailed, the photo I captured and edited below reflects the aesthetic of now.


The weight of the barn to the right is balanced with the white space or empty mass of the sky. I stripped away the color to better focus on the textures of wood and weed. What comes forward is the composition and the organic atmosphere. It helps that the wild grass yearns toward the open sky and carries our gaze outward with it.

So how does this idea of graphic composition come into play in the home?  Every house is different and everyone has their own threshold for ‘stuff’.  (I’ve heard a lot of husbands muttering darkly about toss pillows.)  Yet there are some general principles to keep in mind:

  • Bare walls and empty corners are the white space of the home landscape.  They provide a rest for the eye between focal points.  The mind digests the information in the space better when emptiness is allowed to punctuate the statements.
  • When it comes to accessories, think tree and not forest.  In other words, if the accent is dynamic enough, it may lose impact if other, lesser objects are clustered around it.  We may feel comfortable in a group, but something like this Stoney Lamar sculpture needs no companions.
  • Clean the shell of your room by painting the walls and trims the same color.  This is particularly effective in older homes where the moldings are traditional but the desired aesthetic is modern and subtle.
  •  When I cut my design teeth, most designs included the magic three: a big gutsy floral, mid-scale plaid and what we called a ‘ditsy’, a sweet little pattern that kept the peace.  Today we see things differently.  Dynamic fabric and wallpaper prints are nicely supported by textures alone.
  • In color, don’t connect all the dots.  Against a pleasing neutral backdrop, one or two vibrant shades become your color pops.  The design doesn’t get better marks because you used all the tones in the rug; the art of color is knowing when to let a hue exist in the room without highlighting it.

This is my first entry on this blog and I’m feeling my way through it.  The goal is to match ideas to photo content whenever possible, to offer how-to tips and to bring a little down-to-earth perspective to design.  Please share your thoughts to help me do good work!