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  • Writer's pictureWendy Elizabeth

Shades of Gray

Yesterday I stopped the car to watch a tree that was covered with blooms. It had rained a few hours earlier and the blooms had held onto the water; every few seconds the bloom gave way and a gigantic drop of water fell, creating a small puddle below it. It was so heavy that it fell quite deeply and rippled outward for a while each time that it happened. I only stopped for a minute or two but it was a lovely thing to watch. Whenever my life becomes too busy I find myself not seeing what is right in front of me. When I forget to notice the dogwood flowers or the clutter on the table, I know I need to take a deep breath and pay attention. I am happier when I notice, and appreciate, the details.

I mention this because I think most of what we enjoy in life, decorating included, is in the details. Designers that I admire are always the ones that take their time with a design, they allow their own ideas to mesh with the wishes of the client. Attention to detail is what takes an ordinary room and makes it spectacular.

By details I don’t mean that we have to inject personality at every turn, that we have to cover every wall with items that declare who we are. What I mean is taking a bit of time to really notice what we already have, to think about what we need and how we plan to make it happen. I know that this is more difficult when we have lived in a home for a while, but one easy way to begin is to write a list of things you like and don’t like about your home. Getting it down on paper doesn’t mean you have to do anything about it, it just means you have it there for whenever you would like to visit it. Take it a step further and write down your decorating dreams, also any repairs that need to be done. Writing it down may be just the nudge you need to move forward with some of these things.

When I started writing this week my idea was to talk about decorating with a monochromatic scheme. My inspiration was an article written in 2005 about Colin Cowie’s home in NYC. I have never quite liked monochromatic rooms, but after seeing the photographs of his home I realised that single color rooms can be beautiful, if you pay attention to the details within them. His home is breathtaking (and it is all one color).

Well, as you can see I got sidetracked with raindrops and lists, and before I knew it I was in the middle of my blog with no mention of Mr. Cowie. Back on track, I decided to leave my poetic raindrops in and went on to finish my story about Mr. Cowie and his use of a single color. In my haste, I pressed a button somewhere and I accidentally deleted the post from this sentence down. So, this is my second writing of this and I do apologize if it seems a bit scattered.

Anyway, what struck me about his home was that the entire place was decorated in gray. He only used two shades throughout the entire home. To use gray seems both unusual and brave. I don’t think it would ever be my first color choice for a home. But when you see the pictures (I wish I could show them to you) it is a study in contrast. He has managed to create a beautiful and serene home from what we would normally assume to be a very harsh color to decorate with. What also surprised me was how many things coordinate really well with gray. It is so neutral that it adapts itself quite easily, and the more you look at it the more soothing it becomes.

The living room is gorgeous; soft, comfortable sofas surrounded by lots of windows, mirrors and plexiglas. The contrasting textures balance the room, and the varying heights and scale of the accessories create a place that is both stylish and welcoming. Each room is slightly different. Because of the clever use of mirrors and plexiglas it is often difficult to see where the boundaries are, the lines are blurred which creates more interest and a curiosity to try and peak through the pages to see what else is there. The mood of a room can be changed quite quickly just by adding a few well chosen accessories. Mr. Cowie likens this to “….having a really well-cut suit along with an assortment of ties and shirts and cuff links”.

As I said earlier, I was never a fan of monochromatic rooms but after seeing how beautifully it can be done I can now understand the appeal. Initially it may take a lot of planning and attention to detail but once done it is actually a simpler way to live.

When I think of these rooms now all I will see are the endless possibilities……..gigantic bowls of green apples on a plexiglas table, vintage glass candlesticks on a brushed nickel table, tall, bright sunflowers on the kitchen island……..

Thank you Mr. Cowie.

For more by Wendy and the Blue Giraffe, go to:

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