Diane Meier

Diane Meier

Welcome to Diane’s Blog!

I’ll use this spot to chart what I enjoy and endorse, as we attempt to live a life of style in a culture of business and writing and art. And I hope you join me; share your own stories, insights and ideas about living a creatively expressive life.

Restoration of Joy #3

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Color: In The Season of Second Chances, people keep reminding our main character, Joy Harkness, of her ‘colors’. She’s bewildered at the concept; in keeping with the fact that she is clueless about so much that is personal or style related, including the colors that flatter her. But when Teddy creates a palette for Joy’s house, he lets us see her. And I know I’m not the only one to suspect that her hair is auburn and her eyes are green, without ever being told so on the pages of the book.

The Farrow and Ball colors Teddy chooses for Joy are: Dorset Cream, Farrow’s Cream, Hay, Pale Hound, Cooking Apple Green, Folly Green. Teddy paints Joy’s ceilings in Borrowed Light, but only I know that. If he mentions the color, we don’t hear it.

It’s no coincidence, I suppose, that the colors of Joy’s house are the colors I first used in my house in Connecticut. I had, so carefully, chosen those colors a little more than ten years ago, when I first bought the place. And -- much of SoSC was written on the laptop in the guest room, surrounded as I was, with Farrow’s Cream. We were amazed to discover that the colors were almost identical to those Frank had used in his own house in Somerset, an ocean away.

But as a marketer, I know that the “eye” wants change and stimulation. I don’t believe that for most of us, taste changes much, but I do believe that we can experiment with color in ways that make our taste – the embodiment of our personality – feel fresh and vital. So it didn’t really surprise me that when we began to talk about the renovation of the house, we realized we wanted to update the colors.

Our first inclination was to use strong, fresh color. But a look at our references suggested that we were gravitating to almost no-color-colors. The kind of background neutrals that set the stage for a burst of something daring. Perhaps that bold use of color didn’t need to be fixed; like using a raspberry tablecloth in a soft gray room one week, and changing it to leaf green, or sky blue, for another day or another table-setting. Suddenly that kind of flexibility looked creative to us. And knowing that we wanted this approach to color was the insight that helped to determine the palette.

So, that’s the inspiration. Now for the cold reality. The house is dark. Upstairs, especially, the windows are small and low. We’re surrounded by grand old 200 year old maples that keep the rooms shaded and cool in all but the worst summers. But they also keep it dim. We knew that we wanted to treat the house as a unit, with colors and a coordinated palette blending from room to room. But the idea of gray or taupe on the walls upstairs stretching through the long, dark days of our New England winters, suggested a set from The Seventh Seal.

Years ago, all of the rooms upstairs had been coated with Farrow’s Cream as a place holder until I could get around to dealing with proper decorating. It’s soft, warm color was never depressing, it seemed to seek out the sunlight and expand it. Even though it had been intended as a stop-gap, it had been neutral enough to work in every room. And there was our idea: Use yellow as a neutral and mix it with a lot of white and cream, stirring in bits of grays and taupe to coordinate it with the rooms downstairs. Additionally, we made a mental note to use dollops of yellow downstairs, which wouldn’t be difficult. From our collection of yellow-ware bowls to yellow gingham, it’s always been a favorite.

Here is the palette of the house. It began a bit more simply, two whites, not three. One taupe, not two. One gray. A blue for the ceiling. But it’s an old house, and we didn’t want it to look too coordinated and too matched. We wanted the play of change off the surfaces. And the surfaces themselves determined so many of the choices. But that’s another conversation. So -- tune in again, as they say, for the next adventure --

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