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Thursday, March 1, 2012


(with obvious debt to James Andrew & his must-read blog What is James Wearing?)

What is Bart wearing? Well, it sure as hell isn't (the liturgical calendar notwithstanding) sackcloth & ashes. That is, it isn't gray--or heaven forbid--greige. I don't do drab, not in clothes, not in rooms.

Debra  (and that's Debra Phillips, the owner of SG Grand and the blogger behind 5thandState, for anybody new to the blog)--wrote a great post the other day in which she used the word "dour" to describe the color-deprived Belgian look that, in the last few seasons, has washed across the decorating landscape like dirty water from an overturned mop bucket. After a decade of allegedly Tuscan reds & golds, the pale, all-gray look looked fresh when it was new--well, at least, as fresh as something inherently dingy can be--but enough's enough, you know?

Depending on who you listen to, the human eye can see somewhere between 7,000,000 colors and 90,000,000. Either way, that's a lot of colors, so why, all of a sudden, did so many people gravitate to the neutrality of gray? Was just because gray seemed to be an easy choice? After all, everybody knows what happens if you toss a jumbo-size box of crayons into a blender. No? Well, I'll tell you what happens: all the pretty colors cancel each other out & you end up with big glob of dark, dry sludge, sort of like oily gray cookie dough, or damp, ground-up shale. If you were like me, you also ended up with a wrecked blender, a trip to your room with no supper & all your paper route tips confiscated for a month, but that's another post. This post is about color, not science experiments gone wrong. The take-away lesson, however, is the same: that all colors mixed together blend to make gray. Remember that: it will be on the quiz.

Anyway, after Debra's post about color and about how ready she is for a little levity, I figure it's safe for me to come out as a closet colorist, too--not that some people haven't always suspected as much, especially if they've ever snooped in my sock drawer.

When it comes to argyles, the more lurid their colors, and the more strident their combinations, the better I like 'em. Not, of course, that argyles the only kind of socks I own: I also have a pair of solid black ones, in case of emergency. I wasn't a Boy Scout for nothing, you know.

Anyway, color is good, and if you're as bored with the lack of color in current interiors as Debra & I are, but from lack of experience, you don't know where to find ideas on how to combine old colors in a fresh way (and, despite what the Pantone people will tell you, there are no new colors) all you have to do is take a good look around. In the real world, I mean, not online. Or not only online. Sure, there are countless blogs full of pretty pictures of rooms that you could copy, but why restrict yourself to hand-me-down notions of beauty? Don't get me wrong: Canadian sunsets & Indian spice markets & gardens in the tropics are great, but you can find color inspiration a lot closer than that, and in places you might not expect. How about the parking garage at the mall?

But you don't have to drive. Color ideas are everywhere--even in your neglected yard.
In fact, you don't even need to get dressed--just look in your closet. Remember that bit about how all colors blend to make gray? Well, here's proof:-a closeup of the vintage jacket I'm wearing in the top photo. In this optically-blended mix--think Pointillism--dozens of colors mix to create a neutral fabric that has a vibrancy & liveliness that no solid gray fabric could ever approach. The fabric was hand-woven by P. Carr for Magee of Donegal, and no matter what else I've got on, if I wear this, everything else falls into place.

This fabric is also a good example of a useful approach for those venturing out of neutral territory for the first time: the more colors a room already contains, the more colors it can accept, whereas a narrow, too-thought-out scheme doesn't allow much leeway if you should stumble--and you will--across an unexpected find that you love, but that doesn't, you know, match. It's a big, wide wonderful world of color out there. Don't box yourself in with an overly constrictive color scheme.
So far, even though we're planning on moving the shop in a more colorful direction, Debra's still forbidding me to recover the handsome settee at the top in heavy watermelon-pink linen, but that's OK: I have a Plan B. Meanwhile, watch this space.