Friday, 22 June 2012

Whatever is dreamed on this night, will come to pass.*

I can’t quite believe the summer solstice was yesterday (it only seems like 177 days since Christmas…**) – given that the weather has been so unpredictable (read ‘shocking’) over the past few months, I do believe that we all need to be super prepared for alfresco dining when we are fortunately enough to enjoy some summer sun (and that will be in the third week of September if the last few years are anything to go by… and only for one day… typically a Tuesday… and it will end with a spectacular thunderstorm at about 7pm, just when everyone leaves work to go and sit in a beer garden…).

So, in a brief departure from interior design, I thought I would pull together some inspirational images of alfresco dining to inspire you, whether it’s for a fully fledged summer garden party or simply for a lazy breakfast, a tasty lunch or a relaxing dinner…

(Image from photographed by Jill Thomas)
(Image from Style Files)
Although both these images are set in lush greenery (and in an outside space that we can only dream of within Zone 2 in London), they comprise of a few simple and consistent elements that make them work very effectively and help to create an enticing place to eat – elements that you can easily and cheaply recreate in your own garden. In both images the stylists have focused on statement tablecloths, complemented with brightly coloured tableware, chairs, lanterns, garlands and vases (with flowers in – yep, even in a garden…) – both schemes also include candles to make the setting more atmospheric as the natural light deteriorates later in the day…

I also love this idea for keeping your wine cool - a trough for ice running down the centre of the table. Super simple and truly brilliant, but maybe only cost effective if you actually own the vineyard… and live in a climate where the ice doesn’t melt every five minutes…

(Image from Dwell)

Anyway, last night I dreamt about a long, hot summer… balmy days with a gentle westerly breeze in the evening to take the edge off the heat… then I woke up and realised it was the dog breathing on my face. Well, even if it doesn’t come to pass and we don’t get the weather we deserve, we should still make preparations for our one day Indian summer at the back end of September…

* William Shakespeare – On the Summer Solstice… A Midsummer Night’s Dream

**By my reckoning, it’s 178 days since Christmas Day…

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Any subject can be made interesting, and therefore any subject can be made boring…*

A palette of neutrals might strike you as irrelevant and boring, but these colours can in fact be the hardest colours to get right.

Before we begin, a quick educational supplement… Neutral colors are colours that lack hue; usually they are very light colors such as gray, beige and taupe (brownish-gray). Neutral colours are usually dusky in nature and may be called “achromatic”.

Defining true neutral shades is tricky because a large number of colours we know as neutrals have undertones of other colours like red, blue or green. However, neutrals are a colour family in their own right and are now extremely popular in interior and fashion design.

Neutrals have become so well loved due to their amazing versatility and flexibility in making spaces look more contemporary or classic, chic or cosy – delete as appropriate. They are easy to live with and provide the perfect canvas for all the things that you love. Neutrals are often used because of their ability to provide a relaxed atmosphere in your home – based on everything I have described above, by default they are undemanding and very easy to live with shades.

Neutrals are often split into two types; warm neutrals, such as brown, tan and beige, and cool neutrals like white, silver and grey.

Decorating entirely in neutral colors can create a space that is soothing, sophisticated and warm, but only if it is done really well. A lot of people are afraid to use bolder colours because they are worried that they will get it wrong so, as a consequence, they end up with all neutral colors by default. But, when I say done well, what I mean is that it takes more than a lack of colour in a space to create a successfully executed neutral palette.

Some people claim that any neutral colors work together, but I don't actually think that's true. Here are a few points to be aware of when you create a neutral color scheme in your home; 

1. Use many different shades of your neutral colour

2. Use multiple textures that contrast well

3. Use high-quality texture

4. Use beautiful and interesting shapes

5. Use a combination of interesting materials and surfaces

6. Incorporate pattern

7. You can mix your neutrals

8. Add black (or almost-black) for punctuation

9. Include elements from nature for interest and warmth

10. Don't be afraid to add a little bit of colour to your neutral palette in small doses

A neutral color combination can look pretty boring and monotone if there is not enough contrast. You might want to use some really crisp, bright accent colours to keep the look fresh. For example, white gloss paint on window frames and baseboard, milk-white walls, or curtains and cushions in a light neutral color, or a crisp light pattern on a darker ground.

I think most people equate neutral with beige, and that’s no surprise. Neutral seems to suggest for most “void of colour”, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Below are a number of a soft, low-key colours that when mixed together could create a neutral palette while actually using expressive colours.

Neutrals go with most colors, but success is made easier if you stick to one colour family. 'All-white' schemes often look great with just a hint of colour, such as a mix of pale grey/blue/green. Colours look their most vibrant against a background of white. Even a little color will have a significant impact.

(Image from Benjamin Moore paint colors)

A neutral colour palette creates a great unifying element in a home. Every room can have its own selection of added colour, but the neutrals anchor the overall look. And if you believe Belloc, anything can be made to look interesting, even neutrals…

*Hilaire Belloc (Anglo-French writer. Dead at time of writing.)
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