Color My World
Nothing else unifies a design so well—or brings a vintage property up to date so quickly.
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The plan also included upgrading finishes throughout the public spaces, adding such niceties as crown molding and custom built-in cabinetry for audio-visual equipment. Outdated paneling in a den was replaced with sheet rock. The plain Jane door to the garage was out. In came a door detailed with beadboard, an instant architectural feature.
“Mary and Roy have very distinct ideas and had done a tremendous amount of homework, putting together a book with pictures and images,” Munch recalls. “By changing the colors and finishes, they gave their whole house a fresh new look.”
The largest part of the project was transforming the laundry room into a visually exciting and highly practical patio kitchen. The Ropers are accomplished hosts, so they envisioned a space that would both augment the main kitchen and facilitate outdoor entertaining.
To accomplish the goal, they installed Shaker-style cabinets in a mellow stain that complements the maple cabinetry in the adjoining kitchen. The upper cupboards on one wall are set in steps in both height and depth. The doors were left unstained to contrast with the frames and lower cupboards.
Counters are topped in black granite with a brushed finish and a raw edge reminiscent of a rock face. Rustic rather than polished, the stone enhances the arts-and-craft feel of the space and complements the Ropers’ collection of artisan pottery. There’s a curved stainless steel track overhead, a functional piece of sculpture that provides the infrastructure for a ceramic pendant light over a stainless steel sink.
The washer and dryer are still there, but now hidden behind cabinet doors. A mini fridge is also tucked under the counter, providing ready access to cool drinks for guests on the patio.
As for the existing kitchen, it received a new mosaic tile backsplash, a companion pattern to the running subway tile in the patio kitchen. The pulls on the cabinets, chunky art pieces that might have been inspired by handmade jewelry, were crafted in a deep, rich rubbed oil finish in the patio kitchen and handsome pewter in the main kitchen. Roper further unified the spaces by painting both rooms in a sophisticated honeyed hue, known as “blonde.”
“My sense of color, style and design comes from my mom,” Roper says. She grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, once the furniture-making capital of the United States. “She was in the furniture business all her life, and at the age of 61, she bought the interior design firm she had worked in for years.”
The design principles her mother recommended to her clients are similar to the elements Roper focuses on in her work. Her philosophy emphasizes de-cluttering, balancing the size of room with the size of furniture, and integrating quality details such as lighting, rugs, pillows and hardware.
To choose a wall color, Roper recommends starting with five different colors, hues that might be plucked from a favorite painting or the fringe on a rug.
“Then narrow it down to three and live with those colors for a while,” she says.
An easy way to accomplish that is to tape 8-by-11 inch paint squares to the walls. The squares are available at Sherwin-Williams. (Paint suppliers also offer samples in small jars and pouches.)
“The way light reflects off walls varies quite a bit,” she says. “So I always work in daylight first and then see how artificial light plays off the ceiling.”
Roper painted the walls in her dining room a soft pumpkin, an appetizing shade that visually warms the room on the coldest winter day.
She recently updated the master bedroom with a toasty tan known as bagel. “Years ago, we had someone come in and faux the walls—and I was ready to see the faux go,” she says. “Change is good.”
From a practical perspective, Roper was intent on choosing a color that would visually connect the bedroom with the master bath. It also would compliment the mahogany tones of the furniture and create an aura of peace and serenity.
“I wanted the room to feel warm, elegant and cozy,” she says. “That’s what the right color can do for you.”
GET THE LOOK
- In choosing colors, consider the layout and relationship between rooms. An isolated space can vary dramatically from the rest of a house. But there should be a visual flow between adjoining spaces, such as a family room that opens to a kitchen.
- Sheen also plays a part. Mary Roper is fond of low-luster or eggshell finishes that make walls look soft and velvety. She takes the sheen up a notch on moldings to add contrast and scrubbability.
- Take colors for a test drive. Live with different hues for several days. Evaluate their tones in various lights.
- Embrace color to set the mood. White, pale gray or blue will cool off a space. Red, gold and brown will warm it.
- When switching to a color that is much lighter or darker than the existing hue, prime the walls first. You won’t have to paint as many coats
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