It’s spring! Time for a room refresh?

By Caitlin Kelly

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One of our many mirrors…

We’ve just endured the least-sunny, most-gloomy winter in my 25+ years living in downstate New York — day after day after day after day of gray clouds, rain, mist and/or fog.

Soooooo depressing!

If I wanted that climate, I’d move to the Pacific Northwest.

So, after a few years of loving the soft dove gray walls in our small sitting room, I’d had enough.

I couldn’t take one more glimpse of gray.

Back to my favorite paint store, Farrow & Ball, an English company whose paint has, to my formally-trained design eye, the loveliest colors on offer, now 132.

You can test their colors out with $8 sample pots, (a must, painted on a large white card, carefully considered in all kinds of light, from daylight to candlelight, with every adjacent fabric on it.)

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Here’s our new sitting room choice — number 286, name Peignoir. Love it!

It’s the palest warm lavender, like clouds at sunset, its tones ever-changing with the light. That exact tone is in our curtain fabric and also had to relate comfortably to two adjacent wall colors, difficult in an open-plan 1960s-era apartment. (It didn’t hurt that all three colors are Farrow & Ball. Their colors can work beautifully with one another.)

We already had a color scheme, thanks to a rug and curtains.

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I’ll later add some of my own floral images, framed.

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A few quick ways to refresh a room; (you can find low-cost options in thrift stores, flea markets, Ebay and Craigslist):

Paint!

Usually by far the cheapest answer, especially, (if as we do), you do the prep/sanding/spackling/painting yourself. A gallon of paint can cover a lot of wall, (especially over a light color), and a fresh creamy white can punch up dinged/dingy baseboards, (skirting boards to Britons.)

Adding color(s) terrifies many people, and getting it wrong can mean visual misery. No matter what you think you like, when choosing a color, consider:

1) the color of your floor;

2) the color of your current furniture and fabrics;

3) which way the room faces, (e.g. north light is cooler);

4) the mood you want to create.

Read a few smart websites on color and color schemes — then buy a big piece of foam-core and paint a 3 foot square sample, maybe of several colors, or different hues/intensities of the same color.

Then choose.

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The floral is our sitting room curtains

Fabrics

The world is full of amazing fabric, from spendy designer stuff to Ikea to Spoonflower, where you can design and print your own. I love vintage textiles and search them out at antique shows, flea markets and auctions, making them into throw pillows and tablecloths.

Even the simplest sofa can benefit happily from a few fresh pillows in complementary colors; Pier One, in the U.S., is a great/affordable resource as are pricier Horchow, Serena & Lily and Anthropologie.

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Fresh flowers — a must!

Flowers and plants

Our home is never without multiple arrangements of fresh flowers, whether a single lily — brilliant orange, pure white, soft pink — or a bunch of purple or white or red tulips.

I keep Oasis on hand, (the green foam used by florists you can cut and shape to any size), allowing you to make anything non-leaky into a floral container. Floral frogs, of metal and glass, with holes and spikes to hold stems in place, (easiest to find at flea markets) are also helpful.

Rugs

They don’t have to be dark nor boldly patterned nor made of wool!

Too many people just throw down a big pile of red or blue or dark green and get stuck with an ugly color scheme as a result.

I prefer lighter colors and cotton and wool flat-weaves, like kilims. A favorite site of mine is Dash & Albert, with a wide range of colors and sizes.

Here’s our rug…

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Mirrors

A must, especially when they reflect sunlight into and around a room.

Don’t hang them too high.

Our bedroom mirror, from Anthropologie, is this one, $128.00.

Total cost of our sitting room refresh:

1 gallon Farrow & Ball paint        $99

1 quart white semi-gloss paint for baseboards     $12

two vintage (bought in 2010, originally) chairs     $450

new tray                     $56

3 pots Farrow & Ball (color: Churlish Green) to repaint bamboo boxes we owned        $24

$641.00

A former student, now instructor, at The New York School of Interior Design, I can help!

Email me for a consultation, $100 U.S./hour: learntowritebetter@gmail.com.

16 thoughts on “It’s spring! Time for a room refresh?

  1. what a lovely way to return the light to your home. i love the soft lavender, and repainted my laundry room this color, as it is comforting and warm –

      1. Yes -it reminds me of the cole my sister chose for the bedroom we shared. At the time I hated it. I had fought for bright yellow and orange and lost. I wanted to live big and bright, but it probably would have only added to the chaos of our childhoods. I grew to love and appreciate the quiet and calming subtleties in life.

      2. Interesting!

        I used to have a very bright yellow hallway in this apartment (and loved it) but years ago we switched to a F & B (Gervase Yellow, now discontinued) which is soft but not boring. It’s a tricky combo.

  2. Jann Jasper

    Interesting to read of your love of Farrow & Ball paints! I clicked on your link for the color you chose, which took me to a nice large “swatch” of it on F & B’s site – really lovely. I’ve just discovered their paints and plan on using F & B to paint some of my rooms. Color has an enormous effect on my frame of mind, so it’s worth it to pay more for their paint. BTW, I think even their discontinued colors are still actually available.

    1. Cool!

      I’m a huge fan of them, clearly. One word of warning…be sure to buy a test pot…one of the colors (churlish green, for example) is VERY different “in person” than it appears on-screen.

      Yes, luckily they do have access to discontinued colors, as we all need touch-ups years later.

  3. How interesting to come to your site to learn not only about writing, journalism but also interior decorating. And WordPress also suggested several of your other entries about interior decorating too and of course I spent a few minutes going through them too.

      1. Ooh, lovely! That’s Thomas Hardy country. Did you see the 2015 movie adaptation of Far from the Madding Crowd? It was filmed on location in Dorset and the scenery is gorgeous. I enjoyed it so much that I went to see it twice at the cinema. 🙂

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