Keys Homes
Sunday, March 10, 2013
A little zing, a lot of color

By Leslie Linsley Citizen Columnist

I love this community. People are not only friendly, but generous in spirit. I have been writing this column for about three years and I am always flattered when I am at a party, gallery opening or just shopping at Publix and someone approaches me, as Caroline Cash did at Lucky Street Gallery, and tells me they read the column. It appears that my life is an open book, as I will often start a sentence only to be cut right off with, "I know. I read your column." The lovely Beth who works in Dr. Harrell's office said she was sure she'd meet me in one of the stores I write about, since they're her favorites as well. This is the best compliment.

Another flattering thing that happens to me here is that I am often asked my opinion about a decorating problem, even just a suggestion about the color of fabric. It is most gratifying and so I'll relay one such incident, which may help any or you who might be in the same situation.

I have known Suzie for several years, briefly. We have been seeing each other, more or less, for one hour three times a week at Mike Mulligan's exercise class at The Coffee Mill. One afternoon, after our class, Suzie asked if I would come with her to The Seam Shoppe to look at fabric for new cushion covers for her outdoor furniture. This is where I live, literally, the Seam Shoppe and in the world of color and fabric choices.

This winter I've been designing fabrics for a company in Nantucket and am more than a little familiar with Sunbrella. Up north I rarely get a chance to break out into bright citrus, sky blue and celadon being the colors of choice. So, when faced with the sample book it took about a half second to advise Suzie to use a bright persimmony shade of orange, a color that was prominent at the N.Y. Gift Market. "I want to play it safe on my larger chairs and chaise lounges," she told me as she pulled out the existing soft green cushions. "What about an ivory fabric for the back cushions," I suggested as we went through the sample book. Suzie explained that her house is furnished in neutral colors, designed to let a collection of artwork be the dominant factor.

My favorite Key West designer, Michael Pelkey originally did the house, so I knew it had to be interesting. Michael never does anything that isn't unique. He's one of those rare interior designers who infuses each project with imagination, unlike many decorators who impose their signature on every house they do. Suzie said, "I don't want colors that are jarring when you go from the indoors to out so everything flows seamlessly. And for practical reasons, I'm keeping the main seat cushions because they're in good condition. At the same time Suzie wanted a little bit of zing in the mix so everything wouldn't be totally monochromatic. Nick at the Seam Shoppe (who has a really good eye), suggested using the green color of the seat cushions as piping around the new, ivory colored back cushions. The two smaller occasional chairs would still have the persimmon cushions, and to tie it all together, two, small, accent pillows covered with the same, bright, colored fabric on each chaise lounge. The whole look would be tastefully quiet with some red hot pepper for spice.

Now, if at this point you are totally confused, here's what happened next. I arrived at class on Friday. "Don't make fun of me," Suzie said. "I decided to get rid of the green covers all together since I don't like that color any more." The original idea was to save these cushions and work around them since there was nothing wrong with the fabric. Upon reflection, she realized she was making everything new except the seat cushions just because the fabric hadn't faded. Sunbrella is like that. It really is indestructible. "I'm spending so much money already," she said. "I might as well spend a little more and have exactly what I want." Sometimes trying to work around what you have is like getting away with a spritz of perfume when you aren't in the mood to take a shower. The effect is OK but you know underneath it isn't perfectly right. And, worst of all you have to live with these decisions. Everything to do with furnishing a house is like that. We can't always make the right decisions, but it's a whole lot better when we change our minds beforehand rather than after the job is finished. Moral of this story is, sleep on any idea before making a final commitment.

"So, now we have two colors not three, is that right?" I asked. "Yes, everything is now the vellum (in my world it's ivory) with the same shot of persimmon." Perfect. Now I can't wait to see the finished project, unless there's another change next week. To be continued.

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