How to Fearlessly Use Color in Your Color and Home Design Choices – Daily Breeze
In this job I leaf through many home design books. Honestly, most run together. Betsy Wentz’s “Design Happy – Colorful Homes for the Modern Family” (available February 21, Gibbs Smith Publishing) stands out as an exception.
All of the interiors depicted in the book’s 224 photo-filled pages stand out for their bright, uncompromising use of colour.
“You can do that?” I thought.
Yes you can. At least Wentz can.
Wentz, 49, grew up with her mother, an interior designer who ran a design business outside of the family home. Pursuing a career in psychology, Wentz came back after working as a counselor and began working with her mentor mother in 2001. When her mother retired 10 years later, Wentz rebranded and opened her own studio near Pittsburgh.
A consultant-trained designer. That makes perfect sense.
But back to the book. Of all the qualities I admire in designers, creative courage tops my list, and Wentz has that gift in (paint) buckets.
I mean, this woman didn’t stop long before she coated an antique wooden grandfather clock — which, let’s be honest, few people want in their homes anymore — with a bright yellow lemon lacquer paint, which got everyone in the family to look to fall in love with her.
So I called Wentz, who proved equally colorful in conversation:
Q You have a master’s degree in counseling psychology and were a behavioral therapist before starting a design company. How are these two worlds connected?
A At first I didn’t think there was a connection, but in fact I use this grade every day. Designing a home becomes very personal. From the moment you start working with someone, building that relationship is essential because that’s the part of the people that makes a project a success. I think every designer should have this degree.
Q Did the title “Design Happy” come from your therapeutic background?
A Yes, in a sense. I like to think that the common thread when looking at these interiors is that they are happy environments. We wanted a title that conveys that this book is about having fun with colour, design and pattern. Your environment affects your mood and quality of life. I tell my clients, let’s start with colors you’re comfortable with and then add one that you’re a little uncomfortable with.
Q Of all the colors in your interior, intense blue, especially deep turquoise, seems to be the common denominator. Why?
A Let me start by saying there isn’t a color I don’t like. But blue! I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like blue. I try to find a color combination that is unique to each client and in their range. If a customer really wants neutral, I go for high contrast. I have white with eggplant. However, a medium-light palette is my favorite.
Q Because of their colorful interiors, the houses in your book appear as if they are all in bright, sunny locations. But many are near you in Pennsylvania and others in Ohio and Maine. Talk to me about color and geography.
A That a house cannot be colorful in an area not saturated with natural colors is a false stereotype. I live in Pittsburgh. Today it is very gray and monotonous. The trees have no leaves, but my home is full of color. Just because it’s Maine doesn’t mean you have to decorate in dark green. I see a place for color everywhere. Don’t ignore your attitude, but add pops of color.
Q Tell me about your signature.
A For me it’s a twist. It can be an unexpected pattern upon pattern, or the courage to put two patterns or colors together that most people wouldn’t do. I use a lot of colorful vintage rugs. You have to be careful not to cross the line of “too much”, but the longer I do that, the more I allow myself.
Q What makes you cringe when you enter someone’s house?
A Round carpets – I don’t know why. Vertical blinds in general. Poor lighting, especially a fixture that is too small for the room. You can almost never go wrong with a great light. Ceiling fans with built-in lights are never okay. We call them Fandeliers. Just get a basic fan and add recessed lights.
Q If you had one piece of design advice for those of us trying to liven up our homes, what would it be?
A Go for what you like. Most people know what they like but are afraid to risk a great color or pattern because they say, “I’m afraid I’ll get tired of this.” It’s no fun at all. If you love something, own it and do it. This is also a metaphor for life. No fear.
Marni Jameson is the author of six home and lifestyle books. Reach her at www.marnijameson.com.