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Category: History of Color & Design

06 Aug

August Book-of-the-Month: Classic Design Styles by Henrietta Spencer-Churchill

When someone says “Victorian design” or “Baroque style” or even “Georgian architecture”, do you wish to instinctively and visually know what each entails? (raising hand) I do! This is why I so appreciate books and workshops to educate me on each style since I do love to learn about design history. Our book selection this month, Classic Design Styles by author Henrietta Spencer-Churchill, outlines the chronology of each period in design and takes us on a tour of houses decorated within each style. She also shows how the reader can achieve the looks by explaining the methods and theories behind each design. Andrew Wood, Ianthe Ruthven and Mick Hales beautifully photographed most of the interiors.

Some of the additional design styles covered are the Renaissance style, the Baroque style and the Federal and Empire styles. In the back of the book, there is a section on details such as walls, ceilings, textiles and paint — and a very nice glossary. Hope you get a chance to check it out!

27 Jul

Three Centuries of Color

Benjamin Moore recently sent me an invite to a complimentary webinar entitled Three Centuries of Color. The one-hour webinar offers a look at “the major influences on color, color selection, and design from 1880 through 2010.” (big grin) They are talking my language!

They go on to say that each webinar will cover “six key colors for each decade and highlight the societal, political, technological, and cultural influences on color, as well as inspire new ideas, fresh perspectives, and insight into future trends.” The next one is scheduled for August 17th (1 – 2 p.m., EDT) and registration will be open about a week or two before that date. They also have others planned after that in case you can’t make that date. Cool, huh? Let me know if you sign up!

23 Jul

Portrait of an Artist: Leonard Greco

A bit ago, I stumbled onto the Babylon Baroque blog, who’s tagline — “snotty opinions and a fondness for excess” — had me at the word go. The blog is written by Los Angeles-based artist Leonard Greco and I found myself fully enjoying his irreverent mix of design history, decorative arts and personal conversations with his readers.


Artist Leonard Greco

Mr. Greco is a one-man studio and has been designing ornamental compositions and murals for the last 20 years.  “I am self-taught and now at 50 years of age, attending school and earning a BFA. It is a humbling and wondrous experience,” Leonard says. “I hope to ultimately switch to large scale studio work outside the design community, in galleries”. His love and knowledge of decorative ornamentation and period aesthetics have garnered him many discriminating and unique clients, including singer Christina Aguilera, whose home was profiled in the October 2009 InStyle issue. I’m very happy that we were able to e-chat recently about his artistry, interests and personal musings.

RG: What is the first work of art you remember creating?
The first painting I ever attempted was on a discarded chunk of sheetrock. My parents had allowed me to claim a corner of our basement for my own personal sanctuary. With that sheetrock I attempted to recreate a Buddhist wall mural, all in shades of jade and gilt. I nailed it to the ceiling. My first, and certainly easiest mural. I was 10.

RG: What are some of your personal favorite design and/or finish styles?
I love all things 19th century, enlightened design to the vulgar, Regency to vaudeville.

RG: What is the best thing that has happened to the art industry in the last five years?
The Green Movement has been a tremendous boon, not only for the obvious reasons. I no longer need to make a case for not using hazardous material. When I started out that was not the case and all “good” designers demanded oil treatments.

RG: Len, I love this! Tell me a bit about it…
The Salome panel is oil on canvas, artist unknown to me. It is early 20th century and it inspired the room and my decoration. I was hoping to capture the bohemian decadent type of interiors favored by Stephen Tennant and his crowd of Bright Young Things in the 20′s.

RG: What magazines do you subscribe to?
There is only one design magazine worth reading, World of Interiors.

RG: What artist would you like to commission to create a painting for your home?
Whistler, he can doodle peacocks on anything he wishes.

RG: What is your greatest talent?
My greatest gift is designing ornament, something I love deeply. With that said, I wish to become a better studio painter.

I admire how artists always strive for that chrysalis, the evolution into something better, different, deeper. I hope you’ve enjoyed the peek into Leonard Greco’s enchanted world. You can see further artistry in his online portfolio. I urge you to also check out his blog, Babylon Baroque — there is always something new to discover about the decorative arts and he delivers it in a witty, amusing way. Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

13 Jul

Blog Nibblers: Carrasco Studio

Carrasco Studio has a blog which blends a love of watercolors, drawing lessons, art history, gardening, mural work and the wonderful musings of artisan Jennifer Carrasco. She recently had a blog post entitled Drawing Lesson 8, Scandalous Profiles and Classical Drawing which had great information on creating a drawn profile, drapery elements as well as a bit of history of the inimitable John Singer Sargent. No more calls, we have a winner.

That is the profile of the eternally beautiful Madame X, which is just a tiny bit of the entire portrait that you can see in Jennifer’s blog post. Click on the link and found out who she was and how her life turned out — as well as how to create a profile and draw drapery. Until tomorrow!

30 Jun

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

I grew up in Miami, Florida. It does bring about all that you think it does: good times in South Beach, perpetual sunny weather, outgoing and vivacious personalities, delicious Latin food and great drinks…to name just a few. However, Miami also has hidden gems that a few of the locals know about. One of these is Vizcaya, the former winter home and garden of James Deering. It is now a public museum that is open year-round and is a must-see visit for anyone in the interior design and decorative painting fields.

Last weekend I had a chance to visit it again. (One of the times I visited was during a junior high fieldtrip. They were holding a Renaissance Fair and I went in a toga. Thanks goodness my clueless self didn’t go into the fashion field.) Every time, I see something I haven’t discovered before.

Last year, a Visions of Vizcaya book was put together and sumptuously photographed by Bill Sumner. Here are some of the interior images found in the book.

By the Spiral Staircase Reception Room

Music Room

East Loggia

The Tea Room


28 Jan


Do you know that effect where the same color will look like two different colors when placed on different walls — even within the same room? Raise your hand if you know what I’m talking about. That effect is called Metamerism. Going even further, those two colors are called a Metameric Pair.

It actually comes about as to how your eyes sense the color rather than the properties of the original color. The human eye detects color through light sensitive cells called “cones”. Said cones have the ability to work together to detect over 7 million colors (some say beyond). The wavelength of light varies within any space and the cones will perceive those separately, producing the metamers.

We’re not the only industry it happens to — different dye lots can affect two pieces of clothing that matched perfectly in the store and separate wallpaper runs can change the final perception of the paper as well. After 11 years in the business (yup, this month!) I let the creativity flow during the sample-making phase and the actual finishing process — everything else follows a careful plan. Included in this plan is to leave sample boards with clients so that they can see the colorations during the day and at night. I also advise them to put them up on different walls so that they can see the color variations and be fine with them. This would be a good rule of thumb for anyone trying out finishes on their own as well.

The good news is — we can all place a name to that phenomena. (Heck, I once went through 13 colors to find the one that our client liked on all walls…phew!) I originally found out that there was actually a name for the effect during the PDRA Faux Finisher Certification course. Please feel free to click on the links below if you’d like to find out more about Metamerism.  I do hope you’ve enjoyed our brief field trip today into the World of Science.  Until next time!

Color Matters

Color Basics


Wise Geek

18 Nov

Elements of Design: The Greek Key

Today, I’m starting a new segment of our blog: Elements of Design. I’ll take a pattern, ornament or any other element of design and share a little info of its history and modern day applications. I love researching the origins of everyday patterns and find it satisfying to have that knowledge when it comes to a particular commission. It’s also cool to see an element of design pop up unexpectedly in everyday life and be aware of its symbolic meaning or special origins. I hope you find enjoyment in these posts as well.

We are starting things off with The Greek Key. It is also called Meandros or the Hellenic Key and has its origins in Ancient Greece. The ancient river Meander was twisty and doubled onto itself, giving a symbolic meaning to the key of “the eternal flow of life”. According to the Dictionary of Ornament, the Greek Key is actually part of a group called the key patterns. The key patterns are variations of a continuous geometric pattern meeting at right angles. The design is sometimes broken up and can also be found with oval forms or rosettes.  During the medieval period, the key form was used primarily due to their interest in labyrinths. This is interesting because the Greek myths claim that there is a connection between the key’s pattern and the Minotaur’s labyrinth.

The design itself is crisply graphic but unobtrusive enough to use in both modern and more formal settings. Today’s design variations give a nod to ancient Greece but have a personality all of their own. As you can see, its use can transcend substrates.


GK Exterior GK Fabric


gk-chair.jpg gk-lounge.jpg







Decorative Painting: As Accent (with tiles) or as a Subject (stripes)


Victorian Key stencil by Royal Design Studio


Artist Heather Jeltes-Davis

There are several stencil companies with wonderful key patterns. You can easily find most of them by using Stencil Search. Royal Design Studio has a nice one called the Victorian Key stencil in their Sophisticated Borders line (in fact, it’s the one used for the key stripes above) and its sister company, Modello, has some under their Ancient Worlds collection. The Stencil Library also has great designs (click here) and Stencil Kingdom has a full line of Greek stencils. I really like the following?one from Stencil Planet but you can see their whole line here as well.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this…until next time, be well!

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