Holy Bat Cave!

"Holy Mother of God! 
You're painting the walls that dark! 
It will look like the Bat Cave in here!"

N.B. dark is personal; for some, if it's not white then it's dark.

Jeffrey Bilhuber Design, William Waldron photography

Anyone else besides me on the receiving end of this reaction? Paint Myth Number Two in action.

Reality: Assuming we have plenty of light, painting a saturated color makes the room look bigger, not small and dark.

Regardless of size, the only thing that will make a dark room lighter is more light, layers of light. As many layers as you can manage. Keep in mind that every room is dark once the sun goes down. 

Recessed light and light hanging from or close to the ceiling.

Wall sconces.
 Windsor Smith
Beautiful tailoring and detail on this corner sofa. The glass table reflects light.
Normally I avoid furnishings that look like they could inflict bodily harm,
but I like this sconce, a lot, which totally surprises me.
  Miguel Double Sconce from Circa Lighting

Floor lamps. 
Peter Frank

Table lamps, mirrors, reflective objects, candles.
I "shopped" the client's home and rounded up these items.
The old mint condition Red Sox convertible is from the client's childhood, a game at Fenway.

Charlotte Moss' living room is a great example of layered light. Ms. Moss' room is steeped in tradition but these lighting concepts should be applied to any style.

Charlotte Moss' living room via New York Social Diary
1. ceiling spot lights highlight the art on either side of the fireplace
2. a picture light for the piece above the fireplace
3. mid-height sconces flank the fireplace and they're not just for looks
4. adjustable height floor lamps with swing arms make reading a pleasure
5. a table lamp on the console
And that's just one end of the room.

With the light review out of the way, the real question is how can a dark or saturated color make a room feel bigger? Some examples.

Garrow Kedigian
Great mix of classic, traditional and tasteful modern.
Painting the bookcase, crown and ceiling beams the same color does two thing: 
it unifies the room, and draws the eye up to the painted ceiling. 
Once the eye is up at ceiling height, the contrast between the yellow and blue makes us appreciate the height which gives the impression or illusion of larger space.

Lindsey Coral Harper
Here the trim paint contrasts with the wall color defining the space, 
and the pass through draws the eye up giving the illusion of more height. 
Using the same color for the trim and cabinets creates unification. 
Looks like this end of the kitchen might not be much wider than 10'. 
Does it look tiny to you? Not to me.

A high ceiling is a huge factor in the spacious feel of a room. What if we have regular height ceilings?

Warm and comfortable, not bat cave-ish at all.
This room might feel claustrophobic were it not for the contrasting white full-length curtains and white arm chairs.
A Northern clime can handle a big dose of hot color.

Lauren Liess
This is a small dining room.
Everything works towards taking the eye up and creating contrast. The full length curtains, the contrasting stem on the light fixture, and the artwork frames contrast with the wall and take the brown of the table and console up higher.

You probably already picked up on an underlying principle, contrast. Contrast gives the eye an anchor, or starting point if you will, to figure out the size of something. And it works both ways, whether your walls are white or the bat cave variety.

I'm not advocating that you paint your walls white or dark. We should paint with the colors that speak to us. And get some more lamps...

Thanks for reading,
Linda Pakravan

Here's the link to Myth Number One.


Tartan's Moment

Warm, beautiful late Summer weather with a fleeting hint of crisp in the morning. It isn't Fall yet but we've been tuning in to Outlander for a real taste of Autumn.

Is Outlander a Scottish Game of Thrones? So far no dragons and far less gratuitous sex. Starz

The Highlands of Scotland. The1700's. Cold enough to see your breath but no snow on the ground. It must be Fall. Outlander's biggest star is Tartan. Kilometers of it. Kilometers.

If you love Outlander's muted color palette you couldn't do better than this: 

Oakley Plaid from Thibaut's Tidewater collection

Before Outlander, I thought tartan was a clan's plaid. Tartan is the cloth, plaid is the design.

I even like the way "tartan" sounds. Especially since Mother had an aversion to it, "ugh, that icky plaid!" But my sentiments were similar after four years incarceration in a Roman Catholic high school wearing a plaid skirt and royal blue blazer. Every day. Day in, day out. The thought of anything plaid or royal blue made me ill. For a long time. Too long. 

By the mid '80's I was over it and tartan entered my life.

What an imaginative use of paisley and plaid, a contrast band on Italian strung curtains.
Alessandra Branca fabrics for Schumacher: L'Indienne in Fuchsia Gray with Alexander Tartan in Fuchsia.
Fuchsia and magenta are sublime with gray.

How long have I been waiting for real trousers to come back?
Neiman Marcus

Let's look at a few authentic tartans woven in Scotland.

Beautiful woven woolens and tartans from Abraham Moon and Sons.

More beautiful tartans and woolens from Abraham Moon and Sons.

I love the fresh feel of Ronda Carman's new collection. A chair upholstered in this pink tartan would make me happy. Very happy.

Another great source, Scotweb. They weave their own tartan and tailor it.  It's a treasure trove of Scottish tartan apparel for all, some really nice hand bags and yardage for home decorating. Scotweb has you covered if you can't find the tartan of your dreams among the thousands on their site, use their design-your-own-tartan feature for a custom weave.

This kid is so adorable. Scotweb Classic Boys' Kilt

Tartan shoulder bag in Scottish deer hide.
Also from Scotweb, I love this skirt. Great jacket. More pink.

I made this wool tartan cape in 1989 or 90. It isn't all that warm but still in fine shape. Come Christmas it gets re-purposed as a tree skirt.

My favorite tartan moment in the movies, Myrna Loy and Cary Grant in Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Scot Meacham Wood.

Scot Meacham Wood Design, photo by Thayer Allison Gowdy for HouseBeautiful

An arbiter of gracious style, richly textured interiors, and all things tartan, his work has been featured in HouseBeautiful, Traditional Home, and many others. His blog, The Adventures of Tartanscot is a must-read in the design world and well beyond.

Any tartans in your closet? Or home? I think I would like to do our family room's two slipper chairs in a tartan. But that little project is down the road. Kilometers down the road.

Thanks for reading,
Linda Pakravan

A public service announcement inspired by designers everywhere: Thanksgiving is a mere 11 weeks hence. If you are thinking about doing a project for Thanksgiving and the holidays, it is by no means too early to start now. Call your designer.