“Color is fundamental to our experience of the world around us,” writes Kassia St. Clair in her book The Secret Lives of Color, a fascinating in-depth exploration of the histories behind 75 intriguing shades, including imperial yellow, vermillion and cerulean blue, to name a few.
In some cases, these stunning pigments have ignited political intrigue and defined famous works of art, from the dramatic umber shadows of Rembrandt’s paintings to all of Picasso’s Blue Period. At the very least, color stimulates the senses and provides a feast for the eyes. While subdued neutrals will always convey restrained elegance in well-appointed spaces, there’s no denying the impact of a vividly hued room.
On the following pages, fearless color impresarios such as Katie Ridder and Greg Natale prove that when it comes to interior design, living with daring choices has never looked better.
It takes a stroke of pure color mastery to cover walls in notoriously tricky bright yellow, but leave it to designer Katie Ridder to pull it off with panache in this New York City apartment by architectural firm Lichten Craig. Even on gray afternoons, this space remains bright and cheerful, thanks to its golden hue–Farrow & Ball‘s Babouche, to be exact. “One of the challenges of this project was bringing more light into this northern-facing apartment, which is why we stuck to a warm palette,” says Ridder. “The owners have small children, so we made the colors of the walls and upholstery especially vibrant to reflect their youthful energy.”
PHOTO: ERIC PIASECKI/OTTO
While paint is surely one impactful way to introduce a brilliant hue to a space, another is to incorporate an eye-catching piece of furniture. This credenza by ModShop, which comes in eight high-gloss colors (Hunter Green is shown here), provides a bright spot against any wall. A graceful wave motif imparts an Art Deco sensibility, while Lucite legs nod to classic Hollywood Regency style.
PHOTO: COURTESY MODSHOP
For this living room in a London town house, interior designer Rachel Chudley layered autumnal tones to luxurious effect. “Focusing on a beautiful, mature garden at the back of the house, I drew heavily on nature for the palette,” says Chudley. Melissa White’s Verdure wallpaper for Zoffany brings the outdoors in and establishes the rich color scheme. Hand-dyed, berry-colored curtains by Lucy Bathurst of Nest Design and light-reflecting paint by Donald Kaufman add texture and interest to the space, which manages to be cozy and elegant.
PHOTO: SEAN MYERS
For the grand drawing room in this Palladian-inspired Irish villa, the late designer John Coote used subtle color to let the impressive architectural details speak for themselves. A pale wash of pink on the walls offers just the right amount of contrast, complementing the ornate coffered ceiling without competing with it. Simple, white slipcovered furniture of Coote’s own design and an ogee-patterned orange rug keeps the edited palette feeling fresh and sophisticated.
PHOTO: LUKE WHITE/THE INTERIOR ARCHIVE
With handblown glass tubular shades in muted aqua, this sconce imparts a hint of color. Part of Avram Rusu Studio‘s Continuum collection, the freeform twisting shape of the light’s brass body is meant to pay homage to New York street art, most notably the loops and squiggles of graffiti tags.
PHOTO: COURTESY AVRAM RUSU
Ancient Egypt and Lake Powell, which straddles Arizona and Utah, may not have much in common besides desert landscapes, but Washington, D.C.-based designer Caryn Cramer drew on both to inspire this colorful guest bedroom. The textiles that drape the walls and upholstery are Cramer’s own abstract interpretations of Egyptian shendyts, a kilt-like garment favored by soldiers and pharaohs. For the palette, she drew on painted-desert hues. “The red-orange earth and teal-aqua waters of the Southwest informed the colorway,” she says. “Contrasting textures, including horsehair, linen, wool and raw-edge slabs, provide a bohemian mix that juxtaposes with the traditional millwork of the space.”
PHOTO: ANGIE SECKINGER
For this colorful study, Connecticut-based designer Suzanne Eason found inspiration in an unusual place–the garden of good and evil. A panel of Trove‘s Chroma double-helix wallpaper provides a focal point behind the desk, while a sapphire blue ceiling and a pair of Lorin Marsh green-glass lamps offer vibrant moments. As for the greatest temptation of all? Says Eason, “A luxurious deep-green silk rug featuring a snake-in-the-grass motif makes for a sinfully fun room!”
PHOTO: MARCO RICCA
Shades of indigo punctuated by warm metallic tones toe the line between edgy and glam in this New York apartment by Australian designer Greg Natale. “Navy is neutral, but dramatic, and it can stand the test of time,” says Natale. The deep-blue color story is furthered by the use of pattern play from the snakeskin-look carpet underfoot to the marbleized wallpaper on the ceiling. “I always try to ensure there’s a graphic dialogue in the room–the visual tension created by mixing organic patterns against geometric ones makes for dynamic spaces,” he says.
PHOTO: ANSON SMART
Part of a joint collaboration between Roman architectural firm Lazzarini and Pickering and Italian architect Marta Sala, the Dudina chair is both modernist sculpture and practical seating solution. Its simple, strong geometry is the perfect vehicle for Pierre Frey‘s Duke mohair-velvet in ochre, one of the hottest shades of the season.