Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cool, Calm and Collected

Cool, calm and collected is not really me, at least not all in the same sentence. I know one person though, who is always like that, cool (but not cold), calm (but never boring), collected (and very interesting). She was always relaxed and that's what draws me to her. We can all aspire to be that way I guess, or for the mean time have it in our homes. The hallmarks of a relaxing home atmosphere--the colors, the sense of space, the sounds-- speak to us on such a psychological level that achieving it can easily be a science. Nevertheless it is true that we grow into the spaces we live in, and we are all calmed and agitated in different ways. For example, I think zen-like uber-minimalist homes are fabulous, and it relaxes me if it's in a spa, but if I have that ambiance in my home, the bareness of it makes me more restless because my mind gets so bored. 

A true cool, calm and collected home, may yet inspire us to be like so.

Cool is like a perfect autumn day. Quiet yet not silent--life scurries, preparing to retire, but is still about, unlike in winter. Interesting yet not animated--with colors that are rich yet multi-tonal, unlike spring. The air is brisk yet not exhausting--neither cold nor very warm, unlike summer.

Cool is the color green. It is like a forest standing still, deep but not boundless like the sky, mysterious yet not  unfathomable like the sea.
Green is cool yet friendly and inviting. Unlike blue, greens with yellow undertones visually cool while maintaining a sense of warmth. Being in a green space slows our heart rate. Undemanding of attention, it creates a quiet mood.

The greens used on the walls complement the reddish notes of the wood floors. Temper the harsh natural lighting of a home facing west, and cool down rooms that tend to get a lot of sunlight. Create a tranquil mood in a space that's meant for relaxing.

Calm is a palette of whites. It is a landscape blanketed in snow, peaceful and quiet. Soft and undulating, only slightly changing in tone, getting brighter or darker in the sun and in the shadows.

Achieve a sense of calm in a room by dressing it up in multi-tonal creams and whites. No need to use the boring refrigerator or contractor whites, there are literally hundreds of whites out there with a wide range of undertones. This means that there are blue-whites, yellow-whites, green-whites and so on. Having white walls need not be boring. Start with two or three whites in varying degrees of intensities, use two for different walls adjacent to each other, and one for the ceiling. Pick a more standard, crisper white for the trim to pop everything out. The key is using different whites with the same undertones--this makes the colors flow together and make the room seamless without getting boring. A typical paint color card from the hardware store will have varying degrees of one color; it shows the color (say, yellow), decrease in intensity and finally turn to white or a white enough neutral at the top or bottom of the trip. Or, a card could just show you a white that has an undertone in that color. For a more seamless transition, pick two or three of these from the same color family (all blues, or all yellows), and pick out three of the whites. If you're craving a little more color, pick out the last two or three lightest tints from the same strip.
Collected is the way nature randomly arranges itself; how everything that seems to be just thrown together with so little effort can look so outrageously beautiful. Achieve a sense of collected-ness in your home with these simple tips:                                                                               
  • Resist the urge to buy too much from one look displayed in one store. Pick just a few items that really speak to you and personalize it by mixing it up with what you already have.     
  • Take your time. There's nothing wrong with allowing your home to fill up slowly with the things you find over time.
  • Pick up something when you go on a trip. It's these little items that are the most meaningful.
  • Don't go matchy-matchy. Mixing up a leather couch with a fabric or woven chair keeps things more interesting and solves the problem of the "showroom" look.