Limiting Your Medium

I started the draft for this post a while ago and never got around to posting it. Before I got sick we pumped out a lot of yard projects (photos to come!), and I had this post in the back of my mind when I made some of the plant choices. Here's the old post...

Someone commented here to remind me about Julianne Moore's lovely new landscaping of her West Village brownstone. And then I was chatting with the lovely Joslyn (who was on the SF trip last weekend) about how awesome her yard is. Simple. Artsy. Pretty easy-care. This might be the right approach for us busy ladies.




So I pulled up the article from Arch Digest on my flight home Saturday night. The photos really are cool (Her whole house has a great vibe - I've included photos from other shoots here, too).

 

I was super fascinated with this part of the article where Julianne mentions that she only wears and decorates with a handful of colors. She won't buy it or bring it into her home unless it's white, black, gray, green or purple. At first I was like...huh. But the idea has stayed with me all weekend.


Wasn't it was Matisse who talked about how the beauty of art comes from the struggle of an artist and his limited medium? I think the idea works in designing a home.



As a decorator who usually uses a lot of color, I think I'm making my life harder by not limited my color palette a little. When there are infinite choices, it's easier to make a misstep.



Although, let the record show, I am not usually in favor of matchy-matchy rooms and I think what we're talking about is a very different approach. The key here is to vary the shades and tones of similar colors.  Use peach and tangerine colors rather than the same bright orange on every accessory. Try mixing sky blue with cobalt. I doubt Julianne's house is filled with the exact same shade of plum over and over again. It looks like she mixes plum with dusky gray lavender and deep burgundy, which feels lovely and warm.

What are your thoughts about limiting the color palette in your home? Do you love for things to match in your home?

80 comments:

sanctuaryhome said...

I know there is a certain intensity/saturation of color that I tend to work in. I like the idea of limiting the palette for a project, that way a client really focuses in on the way their house is going to feel and the decisions are somewhat limited.

La Dolfina said...

What a good question!
I for one definitely subscribe to a limited color palette... It really has worked for me as I have gotten older and refined my tastes. It makes for a cohesive look that is easy to live with. Don't get me wrong, our home has a lot going on but it flows nicely from space to space.
Best,
Terri

Blake and Catie said...

I lived in a studio for the past two years, so limiting was a necessity! We went with a warm brown and sage green color scheme (nice and neutral to satisfy both of us. I wanted all purple haha but that's just because I love it so much), and it's everywhere. It made it easy to buy things. I've had fun mixing patterns! on our pillows and rugs, etc.

Melissa@Julias Bookbag said...

I really, really like this idea! (and I love the outfit Julianne has on!!)

Kate Stewart said...

My wardrobe and my home were pretty limited in color (black, grey, brown, red, purple) until I moved into a new apartment with my honey--and boy does he love color. His favorite painting is a complicated, rainbow-hued modern piece, while mine is a fairy-tale illustration in the muted colors above. So the bedroom is decorated according to my color palette, and since orange is his favorite color I've used it to anchor the rest of the multi-colored house. It helps that it is so popular this year--I've even added a bunch of orange items to my wardrobe. And reading this blog has helped me come out of my color shell too! It's been a joy learning to embrace more color.

Hope you have a speedy recovery!!

Anna (A Newfound Treasure) said...

I love this... I'm not a fan of matchy, but I think that limiting a color palette in a room can be a total success. Makes me want to add more plum/lavender/etc. to my home.

Karena said...

I love color as an artist yes, yes. I have found though at times I need softer calming shades for serenity at home, even if my art is colorful.

xoxo
Karena
2012 Artists Series

Janna McCalley said...

First of all, I can hardly see you making a misstep when it comes to design-everything you touch turns out awesome! I feel like this approach would help me as our house is in ongoing renovation mode. It makes it easier to make long term choices when there seems to be so many to make! Love this article-helpful reminder to someone who loves a lot of colors!

smidge girl said...

I'm not a fan of matchy-matchy, but I do tend to limit color palettes somewhat. I can't imagine limiting my wardrobe so severely, though.

I'm working hard on adding more color in my closet. I have to force myself to put back the grey and black every time i go shopping. It might be chic, but boy does it get depressing!

Claire - Matching Pegs said...

I have a palette that I tend to use for my clothes, and it rolls over to the soft furnishing that I use in my home.

The interesting thing about Julianne Moore's choice of colours is that they all contrast really well with her spectacular hair. Those colours would be the perfect backdrop, making her the star in any room she should choose to visit!

Cote de Texas said...

i am so GLAD you are back and feeling better. I have been so worried and scared for you. Thank God you are ok!!!!!! I couldn't quit thinking about you and what you must have been going through.

I hope you are feeling better and are healing up!!!!!!

Joni
cote de texas

leFiligree said...

i agree on having a limited palette simply because there are colors I don't like to look at (anything hot or contrasty). but I don't like matching anything, either. green, blue, purple, grey, wood, metal and i am good to go!

Anonymous said...

Glad you posted - hope this means you are on the mend!

Anna Emilia said...

What a beautiful garden and photos of it.

Autumn coloured warm greetings from Finland!

Paulo Trindade said...

This is so much more than i needed!!! but will all come in use thanks!!
Bathroom Remodeling Arlington VA

Fran said...

I love this post. Having moved into a new and larger home, I am finding that my old design won't work well for this house. I wish I would've stuck to a more neutral and limited palette. It would save us a lot of money. The hard part is deciding what that palette should be and sticking to it.

Cheryl Thornton said...

I don't know about dressing in limited colours but as for decorating its been something I've been trying to do in my home for awhile now...brown, green, blue, white and black - I find that things can be moved around more from room to room - for me its beachy colours that calm and soothe me...so while it seems a limited palette there are shades of each and different textures that keep things from becoming stagnant

Quatorze said...

I guess by default, we all tend to limit the palette, especially in cities, where the limited space does not allow for a cacophony of colors to run riot, at least not with ease or comfort. I have always thought of my personal selections in terms of 18th century French architecture and the effects of "light". Old white walls as a base and then the reflective qualities of metals, mirror, porcelain, crystal, polished wood and fabrics in tones of gold (generally antiqued), silver (generally "Butler's finish") and bronze (ranging from gilt to dark), darks (woods and a deep taupe damask sofa as well as a wing chair in "Charleston Green" mohair velvet)) and lights (yellow and ivory damask pillows and a pale cream club chair, with hints of green here and there (which also references some of the bronzes). Note that the fabrics are chosen for the way light will play across them as much as for the color, thus keeping with the overarching theme. The varied colors in paintings seem to settle down visually within their silvered or gilded frames. The net effect is visually not unlike pictures of certain old French rooms; though there is a great variety and range of interest and color, if asked to categorize the room, a casual observer might say it is "white and gold". Additional big splashes of color never jar the effect, as it is always done through naturals, i.e. flowers- often in one color and type of flower, always contained within crystal or bronze vases. As others have noted about their own spaces, a lot is going on, but there is a clear sense of a guiding hand to it all, which settles everything and puts the room, and its occupants, at ease.

{darlene} @ fieldstonehill said...

Oh, I definitely think that "limiting the color palette in your home" is quite different from having "things match in your home," just like you were saying. A huge difference between harmony and flow based on limited palettes and having matching colors. I totally love the idea of limiting your palatte, but then getting creative with analogous shades, and then throwing in a fun surprise of color. It is super wise to limit your palatte, in my opinion!
Great post!

VivaCindy said...

I would have a hard time limiting my house pallets ...and clothing? Forget it. I don't like too matchy, but I like things to flow. my walls are neutral (gray) but from there i have mixed in a lot of color. Luckily there are so many colors that look good together that I don't have to limit too much.

VivaCindy said...

I would have a hard time limiting my house pallets ...and clothing? Forget it. I don't like too matchy, but I like things to flow. my walls are neutral (gray) but from there i have mixed in a lot of color. Luckily there are so many colors that look good together that I don't have to limit too much.

Elizabeth @ The Little Black Door said...

What a great post. I've never thought about it but I guess I do that to a point - unintentionally. I find I repeatedly pick the same colors for rooms because those are the colors I love. So I guess I do have a few core colors that I stick with.

Hannah J said...

hmmm....interesting concept for sure! i have a color conceot for sure- white, brown, black, gray blue and yellow and for the most part I love it- but sometimes I do find myself craving a hot pink pillow or wall that I see:)

Jill said...

I think her house is very blah. The bedroom looks undecorated and not warm at all...same with her bathroom. It's definitely not charming and I prefer charming and cozy. Good thing there are different strokes for different folks-- but hers doesn't work for me and sticking to a color palette for both home and wear is boring. I love your use of colors. They generate brightness and life!

An Urban Cottage said...

Undecorated is the new decorated. And I love it. Her place feels comfortable and collected over time. It appears effortless but I don't think it's easy to do.

Courtney McG said...

Jenny, have you read Celerie Kemble's latest book, "Black, White and a bit in between?" it's the same idea -- expanding your creativity by working with a limited palette. And she's known for bold color, too, but it was a great exercise for her. --Courtney

{Hi Sugarplum!} said...

So grateful you're home and feeling better! I don't know that I could limit my colors, but the idea of it sure makes life simpler! Now i'm going to be watching Julianne and noticing her colors!

Georgine said...

Jenny, this is a cool idea. It's defintely a big change for you, but when you are decorating a whole house (not that you haven't before) it makes it really easy- like color by numbers ;)
I remember deciding when we moved into our lovely home about a year ago- that I would use neutrals (wood, brown, black, silver, bronze, white/cream) and my color pallete would be blue or red. It really worked out- navy walls, pops of turquoise, rust upholstery, light blue pillows, and bright red lamps. It provides a lot of texture without confusion.

Thanks for expalining this concept so eloquently!

Sandy said...

I'd be curious to know where she over-winters all those staghorn ferns and the Australian fern. They'd be gone with the first drop below 35.

Rebecca said...

I have a small bungalow and the rooms all kind of open in to each other. I picked a pale warm color for the walls and used it throughout the house but in various shades. I also did the same with my trim color, using the same creamy white but in different strengthens and finishes. All of my rooms have a similar color palate but each room picks up one of the base colors as a feature color. It makes the house have put together look without being to matchy-matchy.

Bailey@peppermintbliss said...

OHay! Glad you are back.
And I was JUST thinking about this.
My business partner, Isabel, and I were just in SC supervising the first printing of the fabrics for Biscuit and we came to the same-ish conclusion. When we were initially designing the prints we would pick whatever pink, green, yellow etc. we wanted. At the factory it was overwhelming when a color came back not quite right having to go to the pantone infinite playbook and start over, so we decided to create a sort of color guideline for the brand.
It's slightly different for us because we are creating products for the marketplace as a whole so we can't limit ourselves to just green and purple, but deciding on a few greens that work, a few purples, etc. and trying to stick with those throughout the applications was AMAZING! So many prints where we had planned to use a more obvious green, we went with the chartreuse that will be one of our signatures, and it made everything so much more interesting.
That was really long. But I do agree that imposing some limitations on yourself can, at times, cure a little decorators block.

Jennifer said...

I noticed recently that I have unintentionally done this with my wardrobe - pretty much everything I own is in shades of blue, green, black, white, or khaki/beige, though I do have a couple hits (one skirt, one top, and one dress) in a tomato red. I'm drawn to those colors continually, and it's super easy to mix and match. Maybe I should come up with a more limited palette for my house ...

Jennifer said...

PS glad you are feeling better!

Bromeliad said...

I definitely limit at home. Too much pattern and color tires me out. For clothes - all over the color wheel right now.

Red Clover said...

I think the principle creates a beautiful space, yet I know that I feed off the vibe that a colorful, and unexpected, living space gives me. So, red, orange, yellow, green, blue...and not purple. Although, I usually limit a room to two or three particular tones or shades and the other colors are interesting accents. But now that I think about it, I rely on gold and glass pieces to give the room a unified feeling amongst all the color. It works.

Stephanie said...

This is such an interesting idea. It never really occured to me to limit my color palette in decorating and fashion. I adore the color green and sort of have to fight myself not to paint every room in my house green, but maybe I shouldn't push against this idea so much. Something to think about. Thanks for this great post, Jenny!

Celeste said...

Absolutely I do! I am not an expert color-mixer anyway, so when I try to add too much color, it usually comes out looking not-so-great.

I let art bring color into my house, since it doesn't have to match, and then use texture to keep it interesting.

Works for me, and then I don't have to keep up with the "it" colors for the year, which I love. I'll buy every color of the year in lipsticks, which are much less expensive and permanent than upholstering a chair in a color that will look dated next year.

Christy@SweetandSavoring said...

This is such a neat concept, and one I think I should employ in my own apartment. I've been so busy trying to figure out how all of our art & furniture goes together- and it would be so much simpler if I drew from a limited color palette! Thanks for this idea!

Taylor Morgan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Taylor Morgan said...

I have a similar rule to Julianne Moore, I only bring white, black, grey, green and blue in usually. And use different shades of those colors. I use orange for subtle pops here and there. It makes things flow nicer. I always say less is more. But pops of color are great, I use fresh flowers in my apartment to bring pops of color in the most.

I am open to all colors for wardrobe, that should never be limited, otherwise your wardrobe is boring. You can be more adventurous with clothes cause you only wear your outfit for the day, your home you live in day in and day out so it needs to be something you won't get sick of.

love your blog!

-Taylor
Taylor Morgan Design Blog

Anonymous said...

I wonder how Julianne Moore would explain her dress from the Emmys the other night. I bet someone talked her into it. It was definitely NOT in her palette.

Alison Hodgson said...

Jenny, I love your use of color.

Savannah said...

I love this post. I've never commented before, but this is something I've been thinking about a lot lately! Tim Ferris recently wrote about ego-depletion and how we start each day able to make only a limited amount of decisions. http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2012/08/12/understanding-the-dangers-of-ego-depletion/
It led me to think that if I only buy clothes, furnishings, etc - in a few colors... that frees up more decisions for the rest of my day - maybe like going to the gym or eating a healthy dinner. It's a very interesting concept!

kstyle said...

Hi jenny,

I love thinking about these types of design questions. And I agree. I'm not a fan of matchy matchy. But and this is a big but I am a fan of what "works" with my aesthetic and what doesn't. To that extent I think using a limited pallette or medium makes the process of choosing items easier. Less mistakes are made. But I do feel there is a downside here. Risk is involved in exceptional decorating. Sometimes things "work" and sometimes they don't. Mistakes are necessary from time to time to really create an exceptional space. So while safe is well, safe I would vote for a little more "out of the box" strategy when it comes to decorating my home.
k







Debra Lynn Mejia said...

I think limiting the palette in your home gives a sense of cohesion. The colors I choose to wear for clothing all depend on my mood.

Kathleen said...

I work with a limited palette. For my wardrobe its black, pinks, purples, blues and greens. For my home its blues (turquoise, aqua and cobalt), pea/leaf green with black and white. The home felt kind of one dimensional. Yesterday I brought in some fuchsia pillows and accessories and it brought the space alive. I also live in about 750 sq. ft. so limiting my colors is almost a necessity.

e.horn said...

I have found over the years that I need to limit my color palette, considering I change things so often. It's easier if I don't have to repaint/buy a bunch of new stuff. My colors are green, blue and orange mixed with lots of neutrals. It's pretty consistent through out my house, so I can move things around easily.

Sarah Barksdale Design said...

I think that it is very smart when decorating your home to limit your color pallet. It provides unity to the house, but that doesnt mean that you can add pops of other colors. I agree with you on using varying shades of the colors you choose AND using varying textures is important too.

Anonymous said...

I tend to limit my color choices, but because I have limited decorating talents. I had always thought this was a hallmark of genius decorators. That they could pick out the final elements that harmonize with the room in texture, style and color without competing with any of the elements within it. I like the idea of rooms transitioning well from room to room, but the above images, and the space I'm in seems a bit flat and cold.

Clayton Gray Home said...

Julianne Moore's such a classic beauty and what timeless beautiful and comfortable home.

Anonymous said...

It's funny, but the colors Ms. Moore likes are also flattering to her coloring. Thanks for the post and making me think because the more I get exposed to lovely things with the discovery of blogs (yours is truly the first I go too) the more I think my house is getting slightly off balance. But I wouldn't trade it for the days of just the pottery barn catalog for inspiration.

How2home said...

Love the idea! Her outfit looks awesome :)

Kelli said...

Thanks for posting! I think the limited color scheme is actually really helpful in decorating a home. There are so many ideas and colors and emotions one can convey with decor, it can be too much to try and fit it all into one home. I have found I tend towards various shades of blues, greys, and metallics in my home. It helps the whole house feel cohesive without being matchy-matchy. The landscaping in the post is really helpful- thanks again for posting!

Martha said...

and then she wore BRIGHT yellow to the emmys. HUH.

i love this topic. i've never really thought about it.

but i have realized that i feel so much more at peace when my home is on the simpler side when it comes to color. i love black and white and grey and i know i need to limit that. i really like the idea of using varying shades of colors... definitely going to mull this over. thanks as always!

pve design said...

Right now, I am doing just that in our home....and it seems to be all about white, gray, linen and black.
pve

Ann said...

I think it was me! I have loved her yard, it is clean but timeless and so welcoming. I do find I am a limited palette person, only because I like what I like. I have been in beautiful houses of beige. But far from bland the nuances, tonalities and textures make the design so rich. On another note, glad to see you are feeling well enough to think desgin again - that speaks volumes! Hope you are back to fighting form soon! :)

Pamela in Portland, OR said...

First let me say how happy I am that you made a full and rapid recovery. Glad you're back. Second, I find I naturally do that because like Julianne, I'm really drawn to only a handful of colors and they tend to be the same colors that look good on me. Mine are green, orange, blue, creamy white and black. Occasionally another random bright color will creep in but it's usually just for a punch here and there. I've also found I can move all my art, pillows and accessories around from room to room due to this fact. It's really handy!

Anonymous said...

It reminds me of that "do your colors" trend from the 80s that pick the most flattering colors based on your skin/hair tone. You were either a spring, summer, autumn, winter. Julianne would definitely be a autumn.

caitlin moran said...

oh, thank you so much for reminding me of this beautiful feature in AD. you are so inspiring, LGN! i can hardly believe how much you get done with your own two hands. its truly remarkable.

Laurie Jones said...

I'm a huge fan of all things Julianne Moore, she is one talented lady, great actress, great clothes and always a beautiful home! I love the use (or lack) of colors she used in designing her place! (I hope you're feeling better Jenny!!)

alipsa said...

Limiting one's options certainly does simplify life. I discovered this when my kids started wearing uniforms to school (it is AWESOME not to fight about clothes every morning). And, as a vegetarian, I am usually the first one ready to order since eliminating the meat entrees narrows my choices quite a bit. Why not try this with home decor? Thanks for the inspiration, Jenny!

Anonymous said...

Please don't ever change your unique color style. You have inspired me SO much. I am of the buy-everything-white-beige-and-grey conviction, but when I found your blog, I started getting ideas on how to spice up my rooms. I started with the TV room/office, and it is absolutely my favorite place in the apt. I always want to be in there. Plenty of people are doing the neutrals or monochrome thing. Your amazing color combos are so cool. Please don't stop. My apt. needs your creative ideas!

Michelle Gates said...

I used to take oil painting lessons from some professional artists. One of them gave me the following advice:

Anytime you find you're having trouble getting a painting to 'work' (harmonize), reduce your color pallet.

Reducing your pallet allows your house, wardrobe, or a specific piece of art to harmonize more easily. Some people pick colors and stick with them. My family has always taken the following approach:

1) Find a piece of good art that you really like. This could be a rug, painting, or quilt.

2) Pull colors from the art to use in that room of your house.

I know a lot of interior designers do it the other way around by picking art to go with the couch and other colors of the room. However, it works just as well by finding the art first.

ADI said...

Awesome living room. The kitchen looks great also. I really liked it.

Tara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tara said...

Julienne Moore's home is stunning, but I would have such a hard time limiting the palette of my entire home so dramatically. I think it's important to limit the palette in each room to keep balance, but think allowing each room to have a unique palette and feel leaves room for experimentation in your home! I want her garden though.. Love all those boxwoods!!


www.taraandris.com

emily@boxwoodclippings.com said...

I LOVE this idea. My biggest priority in decorating is creating a peaceful and calming environment. It is hard for me to feel this way with lots and lots of color!

Rudelle Jade said...

I just found this post via 'A cup of Jo' blog. Thanks, I am open to all suggestions about choosing colour for our home, after all, we have to live with it! Having chose a colour for my last lounge (which I didn't end up liking) and also having actually limited my colour palette for my wardrobe,(and I was pleased with the results) I might try this with decor too!

Anonymous said...

I feel that her style is very "vaginal"... and that rug really pulls the room together. =)

Quatorze said...

"Vaginal" ?! I have absolutely no idea what that is supposed to me; you have lost me there, especially since I can see anyone, male or female, comfortably ensconced in that home.

Quatorze said...

"Vaginal" ?! I have absolutely no idea what that is supposed to me; you have lost me there, especially since I can see anyone, male or female, comfortably ensconced in that home.

housegirlhaley said...

I think I already limit my color palette too much. I just moved into my new house and am basically starting from scratch with the decorating. I'm just drawn to the same colors over and over again and I have to make a conscious effort to not be matchy matchy. I'm working on it!

Emily McKenna said...

I read this post when it was posted and it keeps popping into my head followed by a knot in my stomach. Your use of color excites and inspires me and I would be so disappointed if you made such a drastic change into a style similar to those pictures. They are beautiful, yes, but you are so talented at balancing color (color!! not color... If that makes sense) in unexpected ways . I'm all for a challenge and growth but...please don't change!....too much.

Anonymous said...

to Quatorze: the Big Lebowski

Quatorze said...

To "Anonymous":

Not sure what your reference, directed specifically to me, is meant to mean, but then, as others have noted in the past, what is the opinion of an anonymity worth...?

Enjoy your day.

Jenny at LGN said...

@quartzite: I was confused by the comment for a second too, but got the reference to The Big Lebowski (a really great film - recommend!) that Julianne Moore played a part in.

@anon: The dude abides!

Quatorze said...

I liked the film too, but couldn't remember enough to decipher the comment. I wonder if A is the same A who posts all the extraneous spam-like stuff?

Come out of the closet Anonymous, so we can all get a handle on you.

Quatorze said...

Another country heard from...

Quatorze said...

I HAVE BEEN IGNORING ALL THE ANONYMOUS POSTS, BUT JUST HAVE TO SAY, WHAT A SAD CASE, SPENDING ALL DAY DOING THIS FOOLISH STUFF JUST TO GET NOTICED.

Becca - {extra}ordinary wonders said...

Wow! I love her home. I am often drawn to rooms with very limited color palettes but would have such a hard time sticking to this!

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