The other day, we had a comment on this post from Amy wanting to know about the advisability of a warm color scheme. Here’s what she said:
I was reading your “10 common Interior design mistakes” and saw the picture with the dated furniture and toothpaste walls and I had some questions. Obviously the toothpaste wall color and brown furniture are a weird combo, but if you liked more rusty colors are you necessary dated? It seems like the trend is more towards blues, grays and whites but what if you like more rusty fall colors, is your taste dated or are you staying true to yourself? I was wondering what your take was on interiors using beige and rusty reds. Thanks ~ Amy
The second I read this comment, I knew that we had the makings of a relevant blog post.
After-all, for most of us, isn’t that one of our biggest decorating fears?
I’m going to spend thousands of dollars for something I think is pretty terrific now. But in ten years when we go to sell the house and every realtor we speak to cringes, I am going to kick myself for thinking it was a good idea to do a warm color scheme when EVERYONE else is doing gray and blue.
That’s a valid fear, but the basis is on a narrow perception of what is:
- and what is traditional
When someone mentions a warm color scheme in decorating with beige and rust, the first thing that I think of is that horrid so-called “Tuscan” Style so prevalent in the 90s.
Believe me folks. It is not in any way “Tuscan.”
Raise your hands. How many of you did a whole number, including the curly-cue wrought iron light fixtures and tumbled marble? You can see a couple of kitchens here to see some of what I’m talking about.
And along with that, gobs and gobs of richly saturated cherry wood, heavy chenille upholstery and heavy velvet drapes with sheers.
Okay, I’m putting my head on the chopping block, but it’s because I feel that strongly about this one.
I’m really not into this look. (understatement) However, you might be and the reason I say that is they still make this stuff and somebody’s buying it. And that is fine if you well and truly like it.
But for the rest of us, I need to discuss the problem with this furniture.
First of all, please know that the first images that I’m going to share are not from anyone’s home.
Nosireee… I learned a painful lesson one day nearly two years ago when I posted a pic belonging to a colleague. ugh. Yeah I was mortified, to say the least, when I found out and took the image down immediately.
These first few images are from furniture companies.
No names, except for the first one, because the image is watermarked on it.
Like anyone else would try to take credit for it? :/
Yes, I know. Very nasty. But I feel visually assaulted when I see this stuff.
True. I don’t have to look at it. But if we don’t face the beast, then how are we to learn?
And please do not pin any of the first images, unless it’s a secret board. Thank you. Everything else is fine to pin.
Sorry Mr. Amini. I know that you must be very proud of your work as you should be if you plaster your name all over your images. And I don’t know any way to say this that doesn’t sound mean. But when I look at this, I am wondering if we were both propagated on the same planet?
This furniture is found under the classification of “traditional.”
It is NOT traditional. It is NOT contemporary.
But here we do have a warm color scheme.
And dated is not the word I would use.
The word I would use is wrong.
EVERYTHING is wrong!
And what kills me is that these vignettes seem to follow a formula.
The area rug is always the size of a postage stamp; waaaaay too small.
And then there’s the eccentricity of only one table lamp. There is always only one lamp.
But ya know… That isn’t so bad, because the darker these rooms are, the better.
Want to see more? It warmed up to 50 degrees today and I’m feeling a little frisky!
Apparently, there’s a performance of the ballet coming. haha! And geeezzz, even in a straight on shot. There’s only ONE lamp.
Clever. At least they gave these monstrosities some feet for a quick get-a-way.
Very funny Laurel. But don’t you have something more contemporary with a warm color scheme?
Sure I do.
Really bad. All matched and the color of… But there ARE two lamps. I will give back one point for that. :]
Now, this one is the one that was commonly done about 20 or so years ago that folks now refer to as “dated.”
It was dated the day it came out because it is also just plain wrong. And we’re back to one lamp.
It is also not traditional.
Calling this room traditional is like saying that Cool Whip is whipped cream. Cool Whip is aerated plastic with some high fructose corn syrup thrown in. And that is how I feel about this room, as well.
Okay, Laurel. Thanks. You convinced us… No warm color schemes ever again!
Please. My point is what to avoid:
- big puffy bloated furniture
- furniture with weird shapes and curlie cues
- matched sets
- too much wood
- one-note color schemes
- horrendous proportions/scale
- fake, phony, ersatz
And dear Amy, please stop listening to the garbage on TV and listen instead to your heart.
Because there is nothing in any way wrong with a warm color scheme. As a matter of fact, many of our top interior designers and architects, embrace with great passion warm shades of cream, rust, gold, beige terracotta and orange.
And… it’s beyond fabulous.
In fact, remember when we talked about THE most classic color?
Yeah— orange. Here are 20 wonderful shades of orange from super pale to a deep rust
In fact, one of my favorite architects, Gil Schafer who frequently collabs with the wonderful Miles Redd embraces these wonderful warm tones and his rooms are perfection.
Let’s take a look-see.
Incredibly wonderful Federal Brownstone in Greenwich Village
Another view of the same room.
I’ll forgive the sisal. Please click the link to find out what that’s all about.
Oh, that mantel!
It is difficult to find proper credits sometimes. I think that this is also Gil’s architectural work, but the interior design is usually credited to Horton Design Services. I could not find a website for them.
But isn’t this spectacular? Oh! And do I spy an enfilade? (yes, I do!)
The wallpaper I believe is from De Gournay.
Above and below, to shots from a fabulous home which is another collab between Gil and Miles. The color on the wall is an archived color from Farrow and Ball – Orangerie. You can find the Benjamin Moore equivalent here.
This is from a few years ago and I didn’t realize it until today, was a new house! Miles did the decorating again. Glorious! There are more pics of this amazing place here.
Here, the wall color is lightened to a soft marigold. Another good point is that like blue and white crave warmth, warm color schemes crave cool.
A fabulous cinnabar red on red dining room. He must’ve gotten a special on that sisal carpet. ;]
After Jim left a great comment these colors and my comment, I decided to put this photo in about 12 hours after publishing. What is the beautiful shade of white? Well, if Benjamin Moore, it could be White Dove, Ivory White or even Linen White.
like a warm hug. And OH, that floor!!!
Too pretty for words
Oh, while I was combing through every image in Gil Shafer’s portfolio, I came across this image which I’ve had on here before but never knew its origin. Well, now I do!
Gil wrote this book published last September if interested. Photos are by Eric Piasecki
I have a few more images from other designers who’ve used warm color schemes beautifully
Via Southern Living – photo Laurey Glenn
Fabulous country kitchen by Suzanne Kasler
From the book Rooms To Inspire By the Sea by Annie Kelly – photo: Tim Street-Porter
I came across this image and it took me a while to find its source. I think that it’s quite handsome and what makes it, is the mirror. That difference in style is what makes for an interesting composition. Plus this vignette is beautifully layered. The flowers in the fuchsia also give an interesting note.
But this sectional is from a line designed by Ken Fulk for Pottery Barn! And then I went over to PB and guess what? They don’t have this in their line any longer.
However, PB has some other handsome leather pieces in they just happen to be in warm color schemes, so let’s take a look at a couple for some ideas.
There’s also a track arm version. Oh, and it’s on sale right now!
This is quite a long sofa but it comes in three sizes and there are numerous choices for the leather. It would be fabulous in a large great room. But see how it’s softened with the light pillows and throws?
This is another handsome vignette. Love the bookshelves. Actually, I like most of the leather pieces at Pottery Barn. Their upholstery has improved a lot in recent years and it’s most likely because it’s made in the USA now.
Another way to use a warm color palette is primarily with whites and creams and then the warm terracotta accents and some blue and green. This one from Williams-Sonoma Home looks perfect for home in the south or a vacation home, perhaps.
For more images of warm colors, please check out these posts
The Death Of the Boring Beige Living Room
How To Get The Mark D Sikes Look On A Budget
Interior Design Lessons We Can Learn From The Masters
Of course, there’s more than that.
And I made a widget for you of furnishings that I might use in a room with a warm color scheme.
And please don’t forget to check out this week’s hot sales! Everything is up-to-date.
by Laurel Bern
Thank you for all the laughs!
As much as I love a good grey, all of the painting rich, historic homes that are begging for warmth in the (unfortunately, bad) greys has been making me sad lately. Keep preaching 🙂 Timelessness transcends color, for sure.
Forgive me if I missed the reference to this in the post, but I was just looking back through older posts and saw Alexa Hampton’s positing that warmer color schemes are typically more mature and cooler tones are for a younger crowd. I found that really interesting, and often fairly accurate!
Too funny, because I was pulling schemes today and gravitated toward blues and greens for the kids and rust tones with soft blues for the adults. Had never noticed the correlation, and I’m guilty of preferring cooler tones for my home- guess we know what that says now!
Yes, it’s all quite interesting!
I love this post. A designer who does warm colors schemes to perfection is Suzanne Tucker. Her work is absolutely sublime. I’d love to see her work featured here sometime in the future.
Thanks so much Marilynn!
Maybe I like the best of both worlds–my very favorite colors are shades of warm blue. Thank you for this post. I think so many people are intimidated by the notion of “warm”, but like several other people mentioned, the truly cool toned rooms aren’t always the ones you’d actually want to live in. Unless they are at the beach!
Thanks for commenting Nicole!
Thank you for this beautiful post. I loved everything! It was our turn for a blizzard yesterday so I was stuck inside and realized that from my couch I see many different kinds of wood tables. I see dark and light and medium and a few painted pieces. Have you ever done a post about combining wood tones? I recently downsized and these pieces were previously distributed throughout a much larger space and I had fun collecting them over the years. But now I feel like something is “off”. Anyway, I thought it might be an idea for a post. Thanks!
That’s a very interesting idea. I will try to do that soon.
Laurel, this is so perfect. I sent it to my hubby. You explain this stuff better than anyone.
That’s so sweet of you to say Amy!
The second image looks like the decorator had a few parts left over. Ha Ha.
Oh, I know Carolyn. I have no idea why they just stuck those things on the floor! It’s all so weird. But there were a lot of people involved who spent a lot of time and money making it look like that.
Great post! I love a [good] warm room, though since I crave sunshine I like the ones with pale walls and deep/warm accents best. That cover on Gil’s book is pretty much my ideal blend of fresh and traditional. My home is painted off white with a base of cool and warm neutrals and the same few colors repeated: terracotta, mid to dark blues, and yellow-based greens. I just got a living room rug in orange, cream, and navy and I LOVE the warmth it adds.
Saw in a magazine recently that the penthouse at Trump Tower was described as decorated in various shades of gold with King Tut Revival furniture. Got a good laugh out of that one!! I’m a cool color person (blues and greens) but warm rooms (yellows, oranges, reds) can be done nicely. I like gray as a neutral, not crazy about brown. Brown was the favorite color of my ex-mother-in-law, EVERYTHING had to be brown!!
Yeah, most of us have some bad associations with certain colors or styles. If one is using brown, there needs to be a healthy amount of white. John Jacob does brown perfectly.
Another timely post 🙂 I’ve been debating whether to take down an Osoborne and Little wallpaper I put up over 14 years ago since it’s making the room feel a little too tuscan. You helped me make my decision to switch up the entire room to a grasscloth. Thank you Laurel!
So glad that this was helpful for you!
P.S. Got the new Gil Schafer book for Christmas and it is really good.
I haven’t seen it but since I love everything that he does, I’m sure that it’s terrific.
Hi, I’m a new subscriber to the blog. I was thrilled with this post, because I know we need to paint and I have been wrestling with whether to go in a new color direction or not. When we moved into our house, we painted our paneled den white, just a straightforward white that was just too harsh for me and all the art that I thought would look great just didn’t. So, eventually we repainted a color that I “borrowed” from a friend’s house… Benjamin Moore’s Barely Beige. It looks great with all kinds of artwork, and all kinds of colors, and it’s a very calm color. But it’s Beige! I was glad to see your post on warm colors with lots of rooms with a beigey creamy background. Works for me, and thanks to you, I think it will keep on working for me! (May get a little more adventurous upstairs, so will keep exploring your blog!)
That sounds wonderful GG and a warm (no pun intended lol) welcome to the blog!
Love love love! Your wonderful sense of humor and calling out awful trends. You’re truly making traditional fun!
Thank you so much Kristin!
Excellent post, Laurel and spot on. That heavy furniture makes my stomach turn! For colors, I gravitate toward light, cool-ish colors but at the same time am afraid to go too gray. Right now I’m in the process of choosing a color to replace the Sherwin Williams “Basket Beige” in our home. After looking at your blog articles about paint color nearly hundreds of times, I saw that you recommended BM “Elephant Tusk”….as an alternative to beige. For someone who doesn’t want a beige look but doesn’t want to go icy gray, is this a good color? I can’t figure out if it reads beige, cream or greige. I would so appreciate just a quick response about this color before I proceed. Love your blog, as always.
My sister’s designer chose Elephant Tusk with white trim for her large light-filled family room where it looks more yellow than beige. Looks gorgeous. Of course, the only way to know if it’s right for you is to paint a large sample and try it in your room.
Thanks Mary. Yes, it is more of a light gold. But it’s one of those colors that’s just there looking pretty without calling too much attention to itself.
It depends on the light in your room. Best rec is to get a test sample and make your sample board(s) move it or them around the room and look at different times of the day and night.
I clicked on the Sarreid side chair and it is coming up $599 on OKL, not the $479 you have in your widget. Pretty pillow picks; those can be a bit harder to find in the warmer tones.
Apologies about that. It’s a little difficult to explain how it works. But that must’ve been an image I had in a sale widget a while back The text that appears in the box was what I put in the last time the chair was on sale. I didn’t catch it, but I just went in and fixed it. It’s easy to do.
Loved this post, Laurel! I think any color can look great or awful depending on the execution. Well-done rooms will look good for a long time, even when certain items are “dated.” (Geez I hate that word!)
Poorly planned (or not planned at all) rooms done with poor quality furnishings, rooms that lack proportion, badly executed trim, haphazard fenestration, will not look good even when new.
I love all the rooms you’ve featured–all of them will look good in 50 years!!!
I agree with all Diana!
I can’t think of better comment than “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for another wonderful, highly enjoyable post”.
Thank you Laurel:)
Oh that is so sweet Jenny! I really appreciate that! xoxo
Well I love you more now that I learned you are from Evansville! But that’s another story. I did some design work there many years ago. After fifty years in e’ville (I am a senior senior) I have moved to the capital city and am soon to live in a condo. Everything needs to be painted. I seem to love all colors and am crazy about your style , but have now discovered your “ no fail colors”. Do you think they are still current?
Yes, I was in Evansville from 1958 when I was a baby to mid 1971. I left after freshman year at Harrison.
There are many, many no-fail colors. A few people have written me that they used the colors and love them! But it’s still important to test.
Another great post. I agree. It is not the color scheme the was wrong about Tuscan, but the details (or, if I may, level of taste). I bought a leather sofa in about 2006/2007 for a small apartment family room. My main decorating desire was a sofa that could stand up to spilled sparkling water, leaky diapers and goldfish crackers. I bought a tight back rolled arm sofa from Room and Board with rust colored chairs to match. Although Room and Board is mostly known for modern, this was clearly an item to appeal to more “traditional” buyers. In truth, I never really loved it in that living room but since both the sofa and the chairs were really durable, and it looked “good” to most people who came to my house, I was cool with it. Fast forward a few years and we moved into a rental house. Since I wasn’t going to buy new furniture for it, I set it up in the living room that has amazing, amazing light and windows. This time I added Gil Shafer’s sisal rug from above (takes a beating too) and navy blue. Now I love it and I get compliments on the room often and I’m sort of pinching myself that I have 10+ year old furniture bought in the Tuscan trend and it actually looks fresh today.
We have since bought that house and I’m just tweaking that room. As I work on the rest of the house, I am also finding that grays are insanely hard to work with because of what they do in the light. For ex., Marilyn’s Dress (BM) was perfect for my marble bath but for 30% of the day it goes a lavender that I find annoying. Shoji White (SW) is also going pink/lavender on me and my Cotton Balls (BM) bookcase is going green. All this is to say that I think there is NOTHING wrong with “autumn colors” and, for most people who may not have great/proper lighting throughout, I suspect that the autumnal colors might be easier to work with. White Shoji White and Marilyn’s Dress are two great colors,(griege white and blue gray), for parts of the day the hall/bathroom combo looks way too precious pastel for me. I’ll fix it but its a lot of work. xoxo
Damn that light for changing our colors! It’s true and especially with some colors that look great in day-light but not-so-great at night and vice versa.
Laurel, thank you for this post! As a diehard warm color lover this is incredibly helpful. Two questions, if I may, please.
You say warm color schemes can benefit from a shot of cool color, and you also say primarily white and cream color schemes should always have black in them. Perhaps you could show us more examples of that?
Also, as a fan of the color red in any form, I’d love to see examples of red and white chinoiserie in rooms. More brown and white would be cool too.
Thanks for shining a warm light among all the grays in the world! 😉
With over 500 posts now, it’s getting more and more difficult to remember where things are. But off the top of my head, the master of whites and neutrals is Darryl Carter, so here’s a link to all of his posts.
Here’s a link to every time I mention “black.” Of course, it’s a lot of posts!
Love my search box! I’d be dead without it and thank you so much for the post ideas. I’m making a note of them.
I am starting to see a lot of pink and orange rugs lately, even in more modern spaces. It does seem to me that trends are moving in the direction of warm. Although I think blue is always classic. I am selling some furniture on Craigslist this weekend and the warmer toned pieces are the ones that more people are interested in. My navy club chairs are still waiting for a home. Go figure.
It would be a beautiful world if we didn’t feel pressured to do one thing or another. I believe that the furniture companies are primarily to blame and HGTV. The latter has their pat formulas that we MUST adhere to or else. And the former naturally wants to sell more furniture.
My favorite rooms usually have both warm and cool tones. But of course, there are exceptions.
Great post! I love warm and hate when I see it maligned online. I personally feel that most looks become dated and think it will be sooner than later that we see all the grey and think it’s dated.
A short PSA: for all decorators that are reading this, if you still have Tuscan inspired rooms on your portfolio page please take them off if that is not a good example of your current work! I am trying to hire a decorator here in Pittsburgh but so many of them have the worst examples of Tuscan on their website that I wouldn’t dare hire them. Like it or not in 2018 customers go online to find a decorator and the website is the only thing we have to go on.
Oh man! You are so right about the designers having old work on their portfolio that looks dated. But you know what? I wasn’t fond of that look 20 years ago! I mean was Bunny Williams doing ersatz Tuscan 20 years ago? No way! Some of it is regional too. And sometimes a designer’s tastes will evolve and grow further into their career. But if so, they should remove what is no longer indicative of their work. And also bad photos. But that’s another story! I think it’s just a matter of not looking at our own websites and making changes that should be made. I’ve been guilty of the same thing.
Benjamin Moore Audubon Russet
My favorite paint color
I looked it up and it reminds me a lot of Spiced Pumpkin, a lovely browny-red-orange that I’ve done a couple of times. BTW, not to be confused with Pumpkin Spice. But a reader did mix them up which is understandable and she painted her living room the latter. It’s a more gold color and have to say that it was gorgeous!
I loved this post Laurel. Currently, one of my full renovation clients are all about warm colours and not one thing is gray or blue. Their new paint for their home, along with some furniture they are keeping, all fall into the category of warm. My client calls the colour of her furniture “peanut butter”. While my clients were a little worried to have an entire new home with such warmth (they were worried it was going to be a ‘dated reno’), we are in the finishing stretch with this 3200 sq ft project and it does not look dated at all.
I’ll be sharing your blog with them as I know the ‘Mrs’ will love this!
So nice to “see” you! (For others reading, Sheri is one of the delightful, talented colleagues on the Designhounds Blog Tour at KBIS that I’ve written about.)
That sounds great. I’d love to see the finished home!
Hello Laurel, I’ve sometimes had a sneaking suspicion that those icy-perfect rooms we often see might be more enjoyable to visit than to live in. I do prefer white walls, although the examples you provide show that warmly-colored walls have their charms. In the end, though, I would expect to have to repaint some of these in order to sell, and would build longevity estimates into any decorating plans.
I’m not sure about the selling issue. First of all, I can’t tell you how many new clients homes I’ve been in where they just bought a home with the most hideous colors. I’ll never forget one particularly horrid dining room was painted a shiny, but in a plastic way, DARK, DEAD green and the trim was bright white and FLAT. Who the hell paints the walls shiny and the trim flat?
I feel that a beautifully decorated, beautifully put together room will trump the so-called sale colors. Not that there’s anything wrong with them. It’s just that I don’t adhere to the IT MUST BE THIS COLOR OR ELSE! But sure. Generally, if the room is saturated like the warm red dining room, the surrounding areas will be quiet. And indeed, there’s another shot which I considered including of the hall looking into the dining room a little, which is equally stunning and the walls are a lovely soft white with columns and all. So, the dining room is like a lovely jewel amongst a sea of pearls! And that warm red is used in other areas of the home. Oh never mind. I just added it in because it makes a great point.
What is that white shade of paint? Me thinks it could be White Dove but it could also be Ivory or even Linen White. Saturated colors will by contrast make a cream paint look whiter. But it’s impossible to tell from a photo.
18 months ago when we toured homes to buy we bought the only one that wasn’t gray throughout — walls, tiles, floors. The warmth of the house we chose really stood out from the others that appeared so similar in their designed to sell gray/white colors. The warmth of our purchased home came with Tuscan features, but we’re working around those in fresh current ways one step at a time.
Sounds great Molly!
Have you written about sisal rugs before? You don’t care for them? What about other natural fiber rugs, like seagrass?
You have convinced me that any color scheme can look amazing using the right designer. I never thought I would like a warm scheme but as I look out my windows & see cold & cloudy, a warm scheme seems pretty inviting.
Yes! I’ve written about sisal rugs numerous times. I love the way they look. However, spill anything on sisal, including plain old water and it’s going to stain like crazy. In fact, I read somewhere, that somebody spilled water on her sisal, so to correct the stain, she soaked the entire thing! Ummmmm… don’t recommend doing that!
I put ‘sisal’ in the sidebar search box and came up with every post that mentions sisal in it. https://laurelberninteriors.com/?s=sisal
You’ll see one post in their twice. Why? A crazy malfunction on a Sunday morning, my busiest time. The images weren’t showing up, which as you can imagine was pretty awful, but I found a work-around until my theme folks could help me with a permanent solution.
So, why do you see it so often? Beats me. Maybe they replace it frequently?
Seagrass is sublime. I’ve used it dozens of times and it’s great in dining rooms. It’s THE most bullet-proof floor covering out there, except maybe for outdoor carpeting. But you can’t beat the beauty and style of a natural fiber rug!
One of the posts has a ton of comments either here and/or facebook, no way can I keep track! lol But, I heard from numerous interior designers who concurred the deal with sisal.
Thank you for my early Sunday morning laugh, Laurel! And a big thank you for providing beautiful examples of using “non-trendy” colours that will stand the test of time. It is always wonderful to see posts that are not exhibiting the trendy neutral of the moment but are actually giving us “permission” to use the colours we love and how. Great, educational post!
Thanks so much Penny! I very much enjoyed putting this one together because I’m continuously irked by trends which I believe quite strongly are not going to stand the test of time. And I’ve made it my mission to call them out. With the trend towards smaller homes, I’m waiting for the day when the furniture manufacturers wake up and begin to down-size some of that waaaaay over-scale furniture.
I wonder about the staying power of the dark gray and black kitchens & baths flooding Pinterest and Instagram. I’d love more down scaled furniture now that we are soon downsizing.
For most homes, I don’t feel that they will fare well at all. Of course, there are exceptions. Like a very light gray is beautiful, but the dark gray and black, I believe will look dated in time.
Another great post. I’ve long admired Gil Schafer’s work. And when you have him working with Miles Redd… well, that’s just going to have a lovely result. The use of beautiful antique wood pieces seems to be an important part of the success of the rooms you’ve featured. I think a lot of people are intimidated by the idea of finding and purchasing pieces that will recreate these looks. I’m wondering if you could do a post on that topic at some point.
There are lots of posts with antiques but I know that they aren’t always easy to find. And there are usually some antique or well-done vintage reproductions in my hot sales page. But I will certainly consider another post about this. In the meantime, I put antiques in my search box and came up with some posts.