If you're the kind of person who responds to spring's colorful palette -- either because it makes you look good and your closet is filled with it, or because it makes you feel good -- consider bringing those colors inside all year long.
"The first rule is, 'That color makes me happy,' " says Bethesda, Md., designer Whitney Stewart. "A room comes to life when you throw in all those Easter-egg colors like the baby blues, the baby greens and the baby pinks." Surrounded with colors like these, she says, "you feel gusto and youth."
Stewart says lively pastels work wonders for everything from chandeliers to dated reproduction furniture. "Even Louis XV-style dining-room chairs look exciting," she says, "when you revive them by painting them different colors."
She recently turned a family room into a pastel rainbow. The walls are painted a delicate robin's egg blue (No. DKC-46 from the Donald Kaufman Paint Collection, which is sold by mail order from New Jersey; 201-568-2226). A window seat has a bright raspberry cushion banked with throw pillows in jelly bean shades of pink, green, lavender and blue. Wood tables and chairs have been painted and upholstered the same colors.
"It's so easy," Stewart says. "The secret is to have as many spring colors as possible in one room."
Pat Ross, a prolific design and garden writer who recently relocated from New York to Old Town Alexandria, Va., chooses a spring palette by looking out her windows. The colors of her walls are straight from the garden and orchard, and they stay that way year-round: The bedroom is pale lavender, the sunroom a soft rose and the kitchen a crisp apple green. The living room is a daffodil shade she says was a favorite of famed New York decorator Mark Hampton -- Benjamin Moore No. 311.
"I need the mood of spring colors," she says, "especially in the depth of winter."
Ross, owner of a high-profile Upper East Side country boutique, Sweet Nellie, in the 1980s, is the author of more than 30 books including "Formal Country," recently reissued by Friedman/Fairfax Publishers. She also hosts a free online design course through Barnes and Noble University called Home Decorating Basics (www.barnesandnoble.com) and offers additional decorating, antiquing and entertaining tips through her own Web site (www.patross.com).
With the first signs of spring, she says, "I get the urge to lighten up the overall decor with a quick change." Her annual "rites of spring decorating" begin with off-white cotton slipcovers and "bright, richly colored throw pillows that pop dramatically against the pale background." Think red tulips.
Sometime around April, as weather really begins to warm, she starts hunting for "palm-tree bargains for that Key West accent," to play up the change of season. This year she got lucky with $7 finds at the Home Depot and really "loaded up," she says.
While Ross looks outside for inspiration, others look inside their own closets.
In 1980 a book by Carole Jackson, "Color Me Beautiful," assigned people a season on the basis of the color of their hair, eyes and skin tone. Even minimally fashion conscious men and women started asking "What's your season?" (a welcome variation on "What's your sign?") and picking their shirts and sweaters accordingly: "Winters" had dark hair and fair skin and gravitated to jewel colors. "Autumns" with hazel eyes and golden brown hair were steered toward colors like pumpkin, camel and olive.
Some devotees of the concept have extended that aesthetic from wardrobe to walls. Color Me Beautiful Inc., a color-consulting and cosmetics company built on the success of the book, sends out certified "environmental" experts to advise on room colors.
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