Decorating 101 – A Lesson For Lilly

I like to think that every moment presents us with a chance to learn something – “a teachable moment” to use a catchy, trendy phrase.

So, when dear friend and client, Jennifer McNally asked B&A Interiors, LLC  to redo her daughter, Lilly’s bedroom, Sammi and I took the project on with one stipulation.  Although this was to be considered a birthday present from Jennifer and Sean, we wanted Lilly to be involved in the decision making process.  Jennifer was in!

In particular, I wanted her to understand the use of color, textures and patterns to create a pleasing atmosphere for her.  As side benefits she ended up learning about budget and patience (which she exemplified as she waited and w.a.i.t.e.d for the job to be finished).  Decorating 101 for Lilly!

Here’s what Lilly learned (at least that was the intention):

Color your world

The project started with a simple question I posed for Lilly.

What are your favorite colors?

In grown-up words, I was asking her what colors spoke to her as I think this is first and foremost the question to know the answer to in any new decorating project.  As I said in my post Color Your World, it is vital to your essence to be true to yourself in how you decorate your space.  Your choice of colors must match who you are in order for your soul to be blissful.  Even a young girl like Lilly needs to feel the color and know it matches who she is.  Learning this so young in life is a tremendous step in the right direction of becoming authentically you.  Furthermore, learning to express who you are in any capacity is a lesson in assertiveness.  Letting Lilly be a part of the decision making process taught her to speak her mind.       

Once Lilly expressed to us what her favorite colors were, Jennifer, Sammi and I hit the design showrooms in search of fabrics. Obviously, we wanted to make sure that Lilly was guided in directions where color, texture and pattern were combined to create a beautiful look for her room.  So, we put together three different sets of choices and then let Lilly make the final decision.  It was a win-win for all of us.  Lilly got to choose the color palette, we gently guided her with fabric selections and then she took ownership in the final decision making.

The colors of nature

Another lesson for Lilly to learn was my firm belief that every space should infuse the two basic colors of nature.  In my post, Two Colors Every Homespace Needs, I explain the importance of this.  The two basic colors of nature (green and blue) when used in interior spaces instantaneously connect you with nature.  And, all of us can benefit from this.

Lilly’s treasured vanity from Aunt Liz

Lilly’s treasured vanity from Aunt Liz

Incorporating these two colors into Lilly’s design was super easy.  We needed to work with a piece of furniture in Lilly’s room that was very special to her that just happened to be a beautiful shade of soft green.  This piece of furniture was a sweet vanity table from her Aunt Liz.  We wanted to make this piece a real focal point of the room in honor of her aunt so, we worked with the vanity’s color by accenting it with a skirted chair using blue for the cushion’s seat.  Lilly can now sit at the vanity primping and preening while remembering Aunt Liz.  It just doesn’t get any better that this!

(You can read more about my love of incorporating family treasures in your home in my post, Creating Beauty In Your Homespace With Family Treasures.)

Even the fabrics we chose for all the custom work had nature’s gifts of color in them along with the bold colors Lilly wanted.  Now that the project is complete, the colors of nature flourish throughout the room.

Make sure your space is peripherally pleasing to the eye

Just as I wrote in a recent post, The Peripheral View Of Your Home, I explained to both Lilly and Jennifer that it was important for the entire space to embrace you in a pleasing way.  So, in the design plan I made sure that regardless of where Lilly was standing in her room, out of the corner of her eye (using her peripheral vision) the colors carried throughout the room.  To highlight these colors, I changed the original soft pink of the walls to a neutral off-white from Benjamin Moore called “Monterey White” as this color is a wonderful backdrop when you are using bold fabrics.  This color (or lack thereof) allowed the bold color scheme to carry throughout the room seamlessly without adding extra busyness.

Lilly’s new memo board

Lilly’s new memo board

The main fabrics infused both green and blue along with the colors Lilly wanted to use in her bedroom.  Window Treatments, Bedding , Lilly’s Custom Memo Board and the Vanity Chair all incorporated these colors.  These colors were even continued into her bathroom where the wall color, a soft green (this was the original color and we left it this way)  was perfect to showcase the bold use of color in the shower curtain and the funky artwork on the walls.

Living in perfect harmony

Lilly’s birthday present of a new look for her bedroom turned out to be so much more than just a present.  I believe that by allowing Lilly to be a part of the decision making for the color choices, she was able to give voice to her essence that she is just beginning to understand and be comfortable with.  This allows Lilly to feel that her personal space reflects who she is and what she is about even at this young age.  She is already learning the joy of living in harmony with herself through how she lives in her space.  Thus, she stands to be better prepared to live in harmony with her family, friends, classmates and anyone she interacts with.  I firmly believe it.

Everything begins in the home

Loving quiet time in my new digs

Loving quiet time in my new digs

Lilly is fortunate to know the importance of home and appreciates what her home gives her – a place of safety and an atmosphere to thrive in.  Her “new do” in her most personal space, her bedroom gives her ownership in how she expresses herself.  I chuckle over how much she loves it.  Jennifer has texted me that Lilly loves showing everyone that comes over to her house, regardless of who it is, her bedroom make over.  She even explains the intricacies of the fabric patterns and how her pillows have two usable sides!

Everything really does begin in the home.  What happens in the home from what we smell, what we eat, what we hear, what we see, what we feel and what we are surrounded with carries over into adulthood and forms us in ways that are incredibly complex.  Starting life in a positive atmosphere full of beauty can make all the difference.

I am deeply grateful to have been part of creating such a wonderful space for Lilly to blossom in. Plus, I am grateful for the opportunity to have been able to teach Lilly and not just present Lilly with a finished project.  Several years ago, I decided I could better serve my clients by teaching them “how to fish” instead of “feeding them the fish”.  It might make for less clients overtime but, I think it is important to empower people to embrace their space themselves once they learn some basics.  For me, Lilly was no exception.

I know Lilly loves her new space and will always remember this first lesson in decorating – what I call “Decorating 101”.  Next on the list for this class of instruction is my dear step-granddaughter, Addison.  Watch out Addison!

Decorate your life not just with color but also with love, Lilly…

Always express your true self through your space! To see a full album of Lilly’s decorating project check it out on my Facebook Fanpage, livinginperfectharmony.  By the way, can you guess what colors that Lilly loves?

The Power of Color

The beauty of color

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Ever wonder why certain colors become the latest trend?  For instance, the trendy colors as I write are gray and yellow.  Just look closely at the backgrounds of magazine covers, the words on magazine covers, the wall colors on top-rated TV shows, commercials, movie-set décor, clothing worn by models, actresses and actors- the list goes on… right now those in the know use the color gray accented with varying tinges of yellow.  Just pay attention to a Sprint commercial on TV next time you see one.  Everything you see is gray and yellow.

Why these colors?  Why now?

The psychology of color

The use of color is a form of non-verbal communication.  It communicates meaning.  Consider these examples of the psychological power of color:

  • The impact of color is direct.
  • The impact of color is instantaneous.
  • The impact of color is emotional.
  • The impact of color can alter moods and behavior.
  • The impact of color often determines the choices you make.
  • The impact of color is much like the impact of smell- it stirs up memories.

Back to gray and yellow

So, I cannot help but try to psychoanalyze why these two colors are the latest trend.  Consider what they symbolize:

  • Gray symbolizes security, stability and conservatism.  It is a balanced and neutral color that doesn’t evoke strong emotion.  A great example of this is the traditional gray suit for men- practical and timeless.
  • Yellow symbolizes joy, happiness and optimism.  It is the color of sunshine so it makes you feel warmth.  A great example of this is radio talk show host and Oprah B.F.F., Gayle King.  She has decorated her home in yellow and look at how we listeners of her show perceive her as upbeat and full of life!

Put the two colors of gray and yellow together and what do you get?  Perhaps you get a combined feeling of optimistic conservatism and stability?  Is this an indication of our economy and the government wanting us to feel secure, stabile, happy and conservative?  Makes you wonder…

Golden mushroom

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Remember when the trendy colors were chocolate brown and blue?  (This went on way too long if you ask me!)  Now, I don’t know for sure but I was told from reliable sources in my industry that the chocolate brown craze was because of Starbucks coffee.  Can you imagine?  If this is true, isn’t the power of persuasion (and marketing) fascinating?  Did we all go out and buy more coffee from Starbucks?  Were chocolate brown and blue truly our favorite colors to decorate our homes with or were we caught up in thinking we liked them?   I can tell you I really, really tired of doing chocolate brown and blue in home after home.  I wanted extraordinary, not ordinary.  See what I mean?  Don’t you want to be extraordinary?  More you?  Unique?  True to your essence?

Think about it.  Really begin to understand what color speaks to you the most and then ask yourself why this particular color or colors do.   And while you do, I will give you a short lesson on other colors, the feelings they evoke and what they have come to symbolize.

The colors of the rainbow

Red ~ Passion, Energy, Excitement, Impulsiveness

Pink ~ Love, Beauty, Healing, Passion

Green ~ Health, Well-being, Prosperity, Nature

Purple ~ Royalty, Richness, Power, Ambition

Orange ~ Encouragement, Stimulation, Courage, Strength

Blue ~ Patience, Tranquility, Wisdom, Youth

Dainty yellow flower

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

I have to mention these colors as well although they are not colors of the rainbow:

White (Absence of color) ~ Purity, Truth, Peace, Spiritual strength

Black ~ Power, Sophistication, Depth, Formality

In an earlier blog post, Color Your World I talk about the importance of being true to yourself through the colors you use in your homespace. So, what color(s) do you use?  Why?  Do you honor yourself by using the color(s) that accurately match who you are?

Manipulating your energy with color

Advertisers, retailers and corporate America all take advantage of the subliminal manipulations color can achieve in us humans.  Think about the colors you usually see in hospitals, doctor’s offices and other health care providers.  The color palette used is most often soft blues, greens and grays. Colors to soothe, calm and center you.  No coincidence there!  By using these colors throughout these buildings, moods and behaviors are altered.

Power of color

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

This holds true for your personal homespace as well.  Just as important as using colors that are true to your essence is understanding that infusing other colors in subtle ways in your homespace can actually help balance you.

So why not start allowing color to influence your homespace and balance the energy?   A little bit goes a long way.  It won’t infringe on your décor scheme either.  Just be sensitive to adding color in simple ways such as with throw pillows, accessories and artwork.

Is your personality a tad on the high-strung side?  If so, add small touches of calming colors such as soft blues and greens in your homespace.   (Do the same for your wardrobe, too!)

Are you meek and mild and want to project more gumption?  Infuse bold colors such as red and orange in both your homespace and clothing choices.  It is amazing what a pair of red boots or a bold tie does to a simple black ensemble.

I read somewhere once about the impact of color on men and women.  I wish I could remember where it was but I do remember being fascinated by the psychologist’s theory that perhaps women live longer than men because women routinely wear more colors to brighten their appearance, which in turn brightens their moods.  Ever since then I have become an advocate of my David wearing really, really colorful ties with his suits each day!  I’ve gotta do everything I can to keep the man around for a long time!  And, I obsess over the news anchors on the TV each morning critiquing their ties and paying attention to their choices.  George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America sure wears some great ones!

What color choices say about you

Color of passion

Photo credit: Krisitn Vining Photography

I would love to hear from you about what colors you use in your homespace and why.  Undoubtedly, unless you are following the latest trends, there is a reason you use the colors you do.  Do these colors match your personality?  How?

Also, just for fun I will follow up this post with a few  more posts on specific colors expressed in homes of friends and family.  I love knowing people that live and breathe their true essence through their homespace décor and I want to share their stories.  Once I tell you a little about the personalities of these people and their color schemes, you will begin to understand how harmoniously they fit each other.  Take Lisa, aka “The Purple Lady”.  What a hoot.  She’s a woman totally in touch with her inner self!

Be on the lookout for these upcoming posts.  I think you’ll enjoy getting a glimpse into other people’s lives.  And, you never know, you might decide a color change is in order for you!  If so, I say go for it!  Life is short so color it in style.  Your style, of course!

Think color…

Two Colors Every Homespace Needs

There is a school of thought called ecopsychology that is very intriguing. One renowned expert in the field, Dr. Michael Cohen has written a book titled, “The Web of Life Imperative”.

colors of nature

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

It fascinates me. To paraphrase what Dr. Cohen believes, he says that nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and spiritual satisfaction. In other words, nature-connected people enjoy greater health and more peaceful relationships.

Makes sense to me. How can we remove ourselves from nature when we are part of it ourselves?

But, we have. We have all gotten so busy in our lives with work and obligations that we don’t take the time to immerse ourselves in nature. When we do take the time to relax, it is often by taking part in man-made entertainment. (As discussed in Lindsay Torry’s blog post, “Over-consumption”.) It is time to wake up and get back to the basics. Or at least find ways to bring nature inside.

If you haven’t started to return to nature, start now. Take baby steps at the least. The feel good rewards will soon follow.

My own story of color

Years ago while in college (Go Hokies!!) my summer job was with the Parks and Recreation Department in my hometown – Roanoke, VA.  Throughout the county we had free summer camps set up for neighborhood kids to attend every day.  I was a camp counselor at one of the schools.  If you ask me it was a great set-up for parents.  We opened camp around nine in the morning and closed at five.  It was free babysitting for the parents and built-in fun for the kids.  We took field trips, did arts and crafts and played all sorts of games both inside the school gym as well as on the playing fields.  (It was even with a busload of camp kids that I first saw the movie, Jaws.)

One summer as head counselor, I came up with a great idea for an art project.  I decided we should paint all the picnic tables as they were in terrible shape.  Now mind you, this was in the 70’s.   It wouldn’t happen today- too much red tape I’m sure or worse yet, someone might be allergic to the paint!  So, at a time before rules and regulations were extreme, I took it upon myself to spiff up the picnic tables.  The kids loved the idea.

What color to paint them became the tough decision to make.  The school colors?  The colors of the rainbow?  Psychedelic?  Everyone had an opinion.  So, after a few hours of open debate I made the executive decision to choose the colors myself.

greens of nature

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

The colors of nature

I looked up at the sky.  I saw a beautiful blue.  I looked down at my feet.  I saw lush green grass.  Blue.  Green.  The basic colors of nature.  Perfect!

The next day we started.  Painting the tables outdoors was easy peasy, too.  No mess to worry about as nature would eventually wash it away!

I have to admit at first some of the kids were unhappy.  They were hoping for something far more creative.  But, I had previously explained to them the reasons why these colors would work and once the job was completed, they agreed.

We had brought nature harmoniously together.

Every day that we sat at the tables for lunch, arts & crafts or just to hang out, we connected with the colors of nature.

Bring the colors of nature in to your space

So, my “Helpful Hannah Tip” for you is to bring nature inside by adding splashes of blue and green throughout your homespace.

Regardless of décor, style or taste every homespace should infuse these basic colors of nature.

Kankakee State Park

Photo credit: David Solganik

Have a modern style with a monochromatic theme?  No problem, simply decorate with live green plants in your homespace.  Or add fresh flowers to your homespace like hydrangeas or plants such as  African Violets with shades of blue flowers.

Use only black and white for your colors?  Why not add splashes of green and blue in accent pillows or sofa throws?

Like sticking to a neutral scheme such as varying shades of taupe?  Why not accent with artwork depicting scenes of nature?

Every homespace décor can find some way to infuse these primary colors of nature.  Just look around you, I bet you have more ways in your home than you realize.

Ways to bring nature’s colors inside

If you are looking for suggestions, here are few ways to add  colors of nature into your space:

  • Collectibles such as glassware
  • Framed photographs of family in nature
  • Fresh flowers
  • Coffee table books
  • Baskets to store things in
  • Throw pillows
  • Dishware
  • Candles

As the saying goes, “The sky’s the limit”!  Get busy and bring nature inside!

Happy decorating…