Choose among wall colors with care

Design Line

October 28, 2007|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Tribune Media Services

Relative to other room-enhancing products, paint is so inexpensive that it commands little attention. Just choose a nice color and brush it on the wall, right?

Wrong. Not all paints are created equally.

For starters, the composition of interior paint has undergone major changes down through the decades, from the introduction of latex paint to the elimination of lead and solvents that were unfriendly to the environment and harmful to public health. However, the removal of lead caused colors to lose much of their vibrancy.

New types of paint have come onto the market as well. One recent example is Benjamin Moore's Aura line of paints, which took the company three years to develop and which it describes as the world's most advanced interior finish.

Such a bold claim did persuade me to alert readers to Aura, especially because I get more questions about color than any other element in an interior.

Paging through design magazines, I've noticed that the color brown shows up in many high-style interiors. Is this just a fad? I don't like being a victim of fashion. But I do like to wear brown clothing, so do you think I'd find it equally pleasing in my home?

I prefer the term "trend" rather than "fad" because I, too, don't want to be considered a groupie. And, yes, the increasing use of brown on room surfaces does seem to constitute a trend. Brown only recently acquired this cachet; it's a difficult color to use properly, and it's hardly a universal favorite.

But brown long has been identified with a few of the world's most acclaimed interior designers. Billy Baldwin (1903-1983) may be the foremost example. He applied rich chocolate brown to all the walls of his Manhattan apartment, contrasting it with an abundance of white upholstery, carpeting in a leopard-skin pattern and brass bookcases. The combination still looks stunning 70 years later.

To see a more contemporary use of chocolate brown, check out the accompanying photo. Benjamin Moore's "Aura" paint in the color "French Press" has been lavished on this setting, which, like Baldwin's famous apartment, also features plenty of white. It's up to you to decide whether this sort of look -- or something like it -- would work well in your home. I can say, however, that brown generally has much more appeal when kept in the background and used in sync with sunnier colors. You definitely won't be pleased with a room that's just plain brown.

I'm shopping for a comfortable chair to put on a terrace that has a roof but is otherwise open to the elements. Its style has to be compatible with the rustic look of the house, but I'm not a fan of wicker or metal furniture. Any suggestions?

Check out the designs available from Reed Bros. of Sebastopol, Calif. ( Much of this small firm's furniture appeals to those who like rustic design.

Reed Bros.' new Washoe Collection of wooden outdoor furniture, made up of hand-hewn pieces, incorporates many characteristics of the American Arts and Crafts style. This design movement flourished during the first decades of the 20th century and is still widely admired.

Rita St. Clair is a Baltimore-based interior designer. Readers with general interior design questions can e-mail her at

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.