Bright Color – Classic Roots to Color Trends 2012

Just a note of apology for yesterday’s posting faux pas – somehow a truncated post was sent to all followers, and my original was lost! Let’s try this again….

No, this is NOT the usual article describing tempering strong pops of color with black, white, or gray. No cheating – today we get out of our comfortable design seats consider use of strong color with an emphasis on trends, rooted in classic design.

When you are using strong saturated color, the principles of design become important in carrying off a look that looks adult and offers something unique; not a visual assault.

Let’s begin with some painting 101 – allowing the precepts of art and design to function co-morbidly strengthens your room design. Color in and of itself is unable to stand alone. Composition, or placement, unity and something unexpected can all be found in both great works of art and in great interior design alike.

I learned to use color via oil paintings. Below is a painting I did just out of art school about a millennium ago; a 4′ x 5′ pseudo-realistic painting of carnival glass, a wooden bowl, some fruit, nuts, willow and blackberry branches – the back-drop is a faux azurite dining table I painted. If you click this, you can see it full screen, and see how completely out of perspective the composition is – this was intentional.

and not an original precept. I was fascinated at the time with Gaugin’s play on perspective. Before Gaugin left 5 kids and a banking career to run off to Tahiti and embrace color et al, he was laying the framework that he would later add all that color expansion to, and that stylized figure treatment. Note the painting below – you can see tremors of the color eruption to follow, but check out the perspective.

All the objects in Gaugin’s composition occupy the same table, yet they rest on different planes of perspective. Can’t see it? It’s remarkably subtle in contrast to my behemoth attempt. Cezanne did this as well, albeit a bit more overtly – everything is sitting on a different plane.

Cezanne Still life – image via

If you still can’t see it, take a clock or your watch and eyeball the angle of any object  beside its corresponding angle relative to the angle of the clock hands.

The planes of perspective of the all objects in the painting should conform roughly to angles of the clock, but they don’t – the genius is the the evidence of this forced perspective is most visible when you add the back linear grid (below) to the blue lines of fore-shortened perspective.

So am I suggesting that you prop room furnishings and angle your art to be lop-sided?

No and no  – but keep design tension, the unexpected and forced perspective in mind. Working with bright color is all about expanding what you are more used to seeing within the confines of a one dimensional square, in a larger scale six-sided cube.

Interior Design has its giants as well – and you can’t get much more iconic than Dorothy Draper.

Born to a wealthy and privileged family in 1889, in one of the most exclusive communities in American history, Tuxedo Park, Dorothy Draper was the first to “professionalize” the interior design industry by establishing, in 1923, the first interior design company in the United States, something that until then was unheard of, and also at a time when it was considered daring for a woman to go into business for herself. Dorothy’s style was an eclectic cross between Buckingham palace and up-styled baroque.

As her protege’ Carleton Varney writes in the biography of his mentor, “The Draper Touch, revolutionized the concept of “design” by breaking away from the historical “period room” styles that dominated the work of her predecessors and contemporaries. As an artist she was a modern, one of the first decorators of the breed, and a pioneer. She invented “Modern Baroque”, a style that had particular application to large public spaces and modern architecture.”

Draper died in 1969 but her design aesthetic lives in apogee in Designers from HGTV’s Candice Olson and David Bromstad to the most sought after designers in the most affluent zip codes credit Draper with some influence on their designs.

“Draperism” as it has been term in the trade involves a turning classic traditional on its ear with forced perspective, and….

Intense color.
Forget white or even pastel. Draper went for intense; her living-room walls, seen here, were eggplant, and the lobby of the Hampshire House, left, was turquoise.

Plant life.
Well-maintained plants and flowers were obligatory. “They are as much a part of a decorative scheme as beautiful curtains,” she said.

Dense, textured carpet.
For homier ambiance, Draper laid out thick, tactile rugs whose neutral colors wouldn’t compete with other elements.

Striking details.
Draper preached the value of a few bold accessories—but never clutter.

A roaring fire.
The fireplace “is the heart of any room and should be kindled on the slightest provocation,” Draper said.

Exuberant prints.
Decades before Buatta, Draper championed enormous florals and fringe.

Let’s see some classic Draperism with a modern twist:

Here’s the classic Draper with aqua stripes and unexpected custom clock.

A classic Dorothy Draper with soft aqua stripes – image via greenbrier

The Draper effect is clear in Tobi Fairley’s Hampston Show house 2012 room.

Tobi Fairley – updated Draper Style at Traditional Home Hampton House

Tobi Fairly tips her hat to Draper’s classic console with Asian flair below.

Dorothy Draper via Tobi Farely – image from Tobi Farley’s website

Here’s an updated variation on the Draper theme (below) –

Luscious blues and nature shapes have a Draper flavor – image from shelterness

Draper signature color, mirror and rich tufting support luscious color in this updated design by designer Holly Dyment.

bedroom by Holly Dyment

Vintage Dorothy Draper – image via Baltimore Sun

Color, nor Drapersim for that matter is the exclusive domain of interior designers. You can get the look at home!

image via Better Homes and Gardens

Color, the moldings and the leaf patterned rug with a modern twist, and the chair shape speak to the classic traditional – the Ikat adds the lively pattern – color drenches all elements.

Eddie Ross is well known for taking flea market bones and covering them in color and Draper-esque style.

Flea market with re-do it Draper flair by Eddie Ross – image from

The striped, furnishing and pattern have evolved, but that color soaked allure will always honor its roots to Dorothy.

Try on some color in just one room at home! Expand your view….

image via refresheddesignsblogspot1