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Color Tips from Designer Jennifer Flanders
New York City designer Jennifer Flanders is known for deploying attention-grabbing colors
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New York City designer Jennifer Flanders is known for deploying attention-grabbing colors and irresistible patterns, grounded in everyday comfort, a convenient layout, and a strong architectural presence. Flanders is a mom of two and TV personality on HGTV’s documentary-style show Real Designing Women.
She cultivated her design skills and style with Ellie Cullman at Cullman & Kravis before establishing her own firm in 2002. Her interests in art, color, texture, and architecture are evident in her designs in Manhattan, the Hamptons, Greenwich, Connecticut, and elsewhere. Her style is timelessly sophisticated with a youthful flair.
Get Over Your Color Phobias
While it’s fine for a designer to say to a client “Just trust me, you’ll love it!”, many people have an aversion to strong colors on their walls. A great way to overcome your color-commitment issues is to try using color in strategic locations, spaces where you don’t spend a great deal of time—like the entry foyer or the powder room. When used in these spaces, you get the impact and drama of a deep color on the wall without having to really live inside of it for any long period of time. These rooms are also perfect spaces for setting up that “wow” factor which can be so easily achieved with a rich wall color.
Highlight With Contrast
If you want to showcase a particular piece of furniture or artwork, strong contrast is key. A light colored piece of furniture pops beautifully off a much darker wall color, in the same way that a darker piece stands out against a light colored wall. You can “see” a piece better when there is contrast with the surface it rests on.
Books as Décor
In this day and age of the e-reader, people aren’t buying as many real books as they used to. But there is no easier way to add color and personality to any surface than with a strategically placed stack of books. Books add warmth and life to a room, and also reveal the homeowner’s personality. And while I may be in the minority in saying this, there is nothing wrong with specifically buying books to be used as décor—you can always get around to reading them later on!
Live a Balanced Life
When using multiple colors within a room, particularly strong colors, it is important to distribute them evenly in a well-thought out plan. You don’t want the room to feel imbalanced by making one side of the room very heavy with one color—repeating that color on the other side of the room, even in small doses, brings balance to the overall space.
Colorful doesn’t have to mean a whole rainbow of colors within a single space. I love a room that incorporates only two colors in its palette. Mixing one neutral with one bolder color is a great way to introduce both peace and vibrancy within the same room.
In any well-designed residential space, longevity always overrides trendiness. This is particularly true in the kitchen, which is a room few people re-design on a regular basis, if ever. While bold colors work in most rooms, a more neutral approach is best when it comes to selecting color for the kitchen cabinets. White, gray, and even black, are solid, long-lasting choices that can be combined with a more colorful wall finish (which is somewhat easy to change) or fabulous counter-top material for added interest.
The powder room as a “jewel box” is an overplayed saying, but the concept still rings true. Using dark colors on the floor, walls and even the ceiling creates a feeling of luxury that your guests will appreciate. Make sure to keep the lighting on the moody side too – guests will also appreciate not being blinded by their own reflections during a dinner party (especially one with lots of wine flowing!).
Placing a vase of flowers on a table is always a beautiful way to add color to a room. I am a stickler for matching the color of my flowers to my décor. Their short lifespans give us an opportunity to play around a little with different colors in our rooms. A container of blue hydrangeas could be the start of a whole new accent color for your room that will continue in a more lasting way.
Artwork is an obvious choice as a vehicle for adding color to a room. Admittedly it took some time for my art advisor to convince me that the color of the artwork doesn’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) match the décor. But at the same time, it’s important that the artwork not clash with the environment. And in the end, like anything else going in the room, artwork evokes a feeling, and that feeling should mesh with the way you want to feel within a particular room.
When using dark colors on the walls, create a feeling of cohesiveness by painting all of the trim and doors in the same color as the walls. Change the finish on the paint for some definition (flat on the walls and semi-gloss on the trim, as an example). The strong color will feel less jarring when you eliminate the contrast of the trim against the walls.