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Stunning Swatches!

21 May

Testing paint colors is a really fun process!

I feel a top of the stairs project coming on…  (image via ApartmentTherapy)


Well, it is for me at least. I can’t always say that’s the case for my clients, who have called/emailed/texted me at all hours of the day to tell me how stressed out they are about the crazy test patches on their walls. Thankfully I’ve never had a client who didn’t find the perfect color…even if it took four trips to the paint store for $8 sample quarts, and the very-infrequent, sometimes very-necessary do over. 

Part of what I love about the process is the imperfection of all those blobs on a wall. You know: the spot on the wall where you haphazardly paint six colors, hoping that one will jump out at you? Hopefully, you use primer if the existing color is dark or bright (most of my clients do this, or let me do it). And hopefully you use a real paintbrush like a grown up and not a tiny brush from a craft kit or a spongey-stick thing (you know who you are). Because when done right, test patches are really informative and crucial to the process.

Sometimes I have people tint samples if they find the right hue that’s not quite the right value. Sometimes we mix sample colors together to try to achieve the right feel before choosing another round. And sometimes – sometimes! – we get it right on the first try. But that’s not as fun, is it?

Here are some beautiful color swatch images that get me excited about painting. Admittedly, most of them aren’t done correctly for real swatch tests (at least 12” x 12”! on a white base! two coats!), but many are beautiful enough to leave as a permanent wall treatment. Some of them aren’t even house paint, but are watercolors instead. I’d love to have an office like the second image one day, where I can test anything and everything…and leave it there forever.

Enjoy the rainbow!

Watercolor grid – fantastic! (image via


I love this application. Just LOVE it. (image via a source I’ve misplaced…bad blogger!)


Candy-colored paint and spoons! Love it! (image via


An acrylic sketchbook exercise. (image via


I love this image from Flickr user “angrypirate” – it’s an exterior wall, but shows the right scale for test patches! (image via


A watercolor sketchbook exercise. (image via



Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.


Half Painted!

15 Mar

This morning as I checked my regular blogs, I woke up to a lovely image of a whimsical room that has been painted only halfway up the wall. I also woke up to a door being flung in my face, specifically my nose, but that’s just one of those perks that comes with being the parent of a little boy with lots of energy and little consideration for your vanity/pain tolerance (in all fairness, he did bring me a bandaid after the fact).

(image via Apartment Therapy via Deuce Cities Henhouse)

I love the basic white paired with bright aqua; it’s clean yet has a great pop! Normally, we see this technique all the time when there is a chair rail in place, but here, the homeowners just decided to fake the architectural elements as they went along! To see a little bit more about this room, which belongs to a little girl named Elsa, head over to Deuce Cities Henhouse.


Another space that I’ve been loving which applies the same “half painted” technique is this one.  It’s a version of molding, and it’s very modern and super lovely. The image is from Farrow and Ball, makers of fabulous paint and clearly purveyors of good ideas!

(image via Farrow and Ball)


Here’s yet another one, which uses an eggplant jewel tone that makes the room both sophisticated and irreverent. I love how they just painted over the door paneling as if it weren’t a big deal at all.

(image via Remodelista via French by Design)


And finally, for those of you who are truly daring, here’s a fantastic room that is basic white with a touch of color…in the form on a random rectangle that overlaps trim, window detailing, and the wall. Talk about breaking the rules!

(image via newlightredesign)


Do you dare try any of these techniques on your wall? Or do you prefer to just lust (or look quizzically) at them via photographs?


Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

A Few Words About Chalkboard Paint…

22 Feb

Chalkboard paint in a work- and child-friendly space! (image via Elle Decor)

Last night I met with clients who had just moved in to their new home. Literally, they’d moved in hours ago, and I ended up finalizing interior paint selections amidst moving boxes and hungry, excited, adorable children. Lucky for the little ones in this house, their parents were very open to letting the kids play a role in their wall colors. I’ve had many clients who “let” the kids pick a color, but when the child says “I want green!” what they hear is ” We’re going to go with this understated olive from the sophisticated historical palette, ok?” If you can bear it, sometimes it’s ok to let the kids go with what the kids want. After all, it’s my job to make sure we can make that neon yellow work, and work it will. Anyway, last night, we also ended up incorporating chalkboard paint into the kids’ rooms in restrained but still very fun ways – both near desks, and both only on portions of the wall.

I love infusing kid’s spaces with novelty, and chalkboard paint is a great way to do it (you’ve heard me say this before). That said, chalkboard paint can come with some issues, so allow me to lay out some ground rules that will save you headaches should you choose to use it. Pay careful attention!

Chalkboard Paint DOs

– DO choose a small area to apply the paint to. There’s really no need to make every wall a charcoal colored art surface, so choose a small nook by the desk, tape off just a section, paint on the back of a door, or apply it under a chair rail.

Painting a piece of furniture is a good intro to this concept. (image via ModernChicTots)

– DO monitor how your kid uses the wall for a while after you implement it. Start slowly by giving your kid one piece of chalk, or by storing the chalk in another room or a high place. To be super clear: don’t give your four year old a jumbo chalk bucket, lest you actually WANT to end up with six million broken stubs of chalk and marks all over surfaces that are painted with interior flat white. 

Needless to say, a child that can be trusted around white floors and many large and heavy propped up things can probably be trusted not to destroy the walls. Where do you find this breed of child? (image via spicerandbank.blogspot)

– DO place a play mat or cheap rug under the surface if you’re worried about dust. Truth be told though, if there’s chalk dust it will probably land on the molding (which is likely high-gloss, so just wipe it off regularly).

This Ikea bench allows a(n older) kid to climb up and utilize more of the drawing surface, while protecting the floor and maybe even providing a place to store (and put away) chalk and the eraser. (image via OhDeeDoh)

– DO explore other uses for this fun surface. I used it in my own home on a wall behind the kitchen where the fuse box is located: it camouflages the ugly box AND the surface is magnetized, too! If you’re tired of chalk clean up, I recommend giving your child a teeny tiny cup of water and a paint brush to “paint” the wall. Monitor this activity so you don’t end up with a soppy mess.


Chalkboard Paint DON’Ts

– DON’T use those chalk markers. They’re very hard to erase.

Just use chalk. No markers. Lots of chalk. Like this girl! (image via Green is the New Black.)

– DON’T use extra hard chalk: you may think this will prevent dust, and it will, but if you press too hard it can leave indentations in the drywall. (You say you have plaster walls? Lucky you – press away!)

If you're starting to become chalk-phobic, you can also use a magnetic primer to create a magnetized surface, like this fireplace guard! (image via http://pinkgreenandzebra.blogspot)

– DON’T paint above a crib, bed, or near an upholstered piece. Your bed/seat will just be a depository for colored powder. Young, mobile creatures have been known to reach out of the crib, touch the wall, and rub the powder all over themselves and their surroundings. And they eat it, too.

Looks very cool, but NO CHALK ON THE BABY! (image via Stylehandler)

– DON’T incorporate chalkboard into stripes unless they’re very wide (10” or greater). You’re just asking to mistakenly color outside of the lines.

– DON’T freak out about erasing it! Use a lightly damp sponge or paper towels. Also, know that it’s not ever going to look perfectly clean. …and that’s part of the charm.


Do you have any other fun uses for chalkboard paint? If so, share in the comments!


Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

Color Friday is: Red! RED at Arena Stage, that is…

27 Jan

Last night I was treated to a performance of Red, the acclaimed Tony Award winning play that just opened at Arena Stage. The play is about Mark Rothko, the Russian-American, abstract expressionist painter who was active in the mid 1900s. You know: the colored squares guy.

(image via Arena Stage)

I don’t refer casually to him as “the colored squares guy” to be sinister or suggest his work is silly. In fact, I’ve come to really appreciate and enjoy many of the seemingly mundane subjects of abstract expressionism over the years. In the play, Rothko’s character discusses his paintings as being highly vulnerable objects that pulsate, glow, and he even goes so far as to suggest that they have emotions. This hour and forty minute long show has only two cast members, and focuses on the relationship between Rothko and his fictional assistant, Ken, as he works on a commission for the Four Seasons restaurant in Philip Johnson and Mies Van der Rohe’s Seagram Building; three of these paintings are on view at the National Gallery of Art right now. As the title if the play may suggest, the works are largely in red tones.

I chuckled when Rothko’s character mentioned that he rued the day that his paintings would grace living rooms as decoration, or that people would pair his thoughtful, serious color blocks with chips from the Sherwin Williams fan deck. I can’t say I recommend matching art to your throw pillows, but as a designer, I advocate some semblance of purpose or cohesion. I’m guessing he wouldn’t like these much:

(image via Design Crush)

The art history student in me was thrilled to hear the names of so many artists: the characters discuss Caravaggio, de Kooning, Matisee and others throughout, and if you are at all familar with the history of art you’ll be reminded of many favorite images (and appreciate the dialogue on a much deeper level). They talk about what red means to them, what black represents, and what white connotes. There’s back and forth between the men about different shades of red that lasts a few minutes, and the color theorist in me was thoroughly entertained. There’s a gorgeous set, wonderful lighting, and real painting action happens right on stage mid-performance. If you sit in the front row don’t wear anything you like too much (you’ve been warned).

(image via Arena Stage)

The discussion of the point of abstract expressionism — more specifically, Rothko’s work; or to generalize, art on the whole — is a central theme. Rothko, as the artist, obviously has a stake in making his work mean something important. His assistant, on the other hand, suggests that “Sometimes, you just want a f*cking still life.”

Feel free to form your own opinion sometime over the course of the next five weeks: Red is running at Arena Stage, in the Kreeger Theatre, until March 11th 2012. You can purchase tickets here.


Arena Stage provided the tickets to this performance.


Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

Dots Here, Dots There, Colored Dots Everywhere!

5 Jan

I love polka dots. Black and white ones, differently sized ones, and all-over-the-map rainbow colored ones! Turns out I’m not the only one…

This beautifully imperfect color-splashed room is part of an interactive space at Queensland Gallery of Modern Art in their ‘Yayoi Kusama: Look Now, See Forever’ Gallery: it’s called The Obliteration Room. The photo is my Mark Sherwood. Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama did a similar installation in 2002, which was the inspiration for this vibrant experiment. The installation features a room filled with Austrailian-made (local to the Queensland Art Gallery) furniture, painted white, and subsequently decorated with stickers by visitors, particularly the little ones (I sure know my little one loves stickers). 

A few years ago, my husband took me to a Valentine’s Day Dinner at the Kennedy Center, which was then hosting an exhibit by Yayoi Kusama called “Dots Obsession.” It, too featured a room full of polka dots that rendered the fixtures indistinguishable from the walls and floors (and ceilings!), but these were not stuck on, rather they were amidst inflatable protrusions and printed onto the walls, floors, and inflated shapes. You could literally walk through the huge shapes, feeling wonderfully disoriented. The best word I have to describe it is “fun,” and it was even more so because we visited very late at night after dinner. Almost no one was there.

Yayoi Kusama's Dots Obsession, "Day," featured black dots on yellow. "Night" was yellow on black. (image via


I think one of the things that has always attracted me to one of my favorite spaces (featured in Domino Magazine long ago), Jenna Lyons’ NYC  apartment, is the painting above the mantle. It features dots not dissimilar to those from Yayoi Kusama’s Dots Obsession installation. The repetition combined with the variation of the sizes is consistent yet exciting. I just adore these dots.

Jenna Lyons' former townhouse in NYC. (image via - the late - Domino Magazine)


If you’re interested in a similar look, consider perusing Etsy for polka dot decals and try curating your own Dots Obsession. It’ll be some of the most fun you’ve ever had with stickers, I promise!


Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

Beyond the Edges: Five New Ways to Think About Molding!

15 Nov

Decorative molding is the hallmark of a traditional home. It’s clean, bright white, and refined in a way that exudes crispness and civility. Since we’re all used to seeing intricately carved bands of white adorn the space where ceiling meets wall (and top of the wall meets bottom and the wall, and wall meets floor…) here are a few new ways to think about molding and its wide array of uses. Some of these are great applications that you may never have though of, while others are extremely daring. Hope you enjoy each and every one of them!

1.) Molding doesn’t have to be white.

A glossy black paint can bring molding to the forefront of your design in a way that's graphic, bold, and very fresh! (image via DecorPad)

2.) Molding can be painted unconventionally and exuberantly.

Farrow and Ball advertised their new 2011 colors by showing off how they could be used to top off a room in a fabulously unexpected way. What a great paint job! (image via Farrow and Ball)

3.) Ignoring molding can make it stand out in a great way!

This wall design completely ignores the molding's presence, but somehow it amplifies the architectural detail. (image via Carpet The World)

4.) Using molding functionally, in this case as a shoe rack, is a great idea!

Evenly spaced bands of molding provide the perfect place to hang your heels. Genius! (image via Pinterest)

5.) You can use molding as wall decoration…all over the wall!

This is such a simple idea with such a powerful impact. I'm sure it's a dusting nightmare, but it's absolutely lovely! By Christopher Stevens Interiors. (image via Christopher Stevens Interiors)


Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

A Little Free Advice…

12 Oct

In the few years that I’ve spent in and out of homes in the DC area, I’ve encountered a lot of the same issues and concerns from clients. Some are headaches, and others are really easy fixes. Here are a few of the simpler issues that people often deal with when decorating, and how to combat them cheaply and painlessly.

If you’re overwhelmed with colors learn a little bit about them, especially in terms of warm versus cool hues. There’s no rule that you need to match your art to your rug to your draperies, but a red sofa that’s more like red-orange next to a red wall that’s more of a dark magenta isn’t going to look coordinated or good. Pick up a paint fan and flip through it, noticing subtle differences. Or grab some watercolors and mix them yourself; it’s a lot more clear WHY that blue looks out of place when you see what’s it made of…and that it isn’t all just blue pigment.

Don’t use flat paint. Just don’t. Painters like it because it covers easily, cheaply, and with fewer coats. But it shows every single fingerprint, scrape, and oil spot…and unlike eggshell or semigloss paint, you can’t just wipe the flaws away. Unless you’re one of those people who lives alone and is home only two hours a day, I guarantee you won’t be happy with a flat finish.

Lighting is often overlooked but it’s actually a huge factor in how you feel when you’re in a space. If you’re not in the market for installing better lighting or purchasing expensive fixtures the best thing you can do is install dimmers. They’re not expensive and you can usually do it yourself. Not only will it feel cozier and fancier, but dimming your lights will cut your energy bill.

For all of your row house and condo dwellers: dark colors aren’t off limits at all. Your space is what it is, and if it’s small there’s really no reason not to embrace that. Small is comfortable, intimate, and warm. So you want to paint it a deep eggplant but are worried that will close up the walls? Balance with some light colored furniture and a neutral rug and be on your way. Think that you can only fit a sofa and a chair in your living area? Try two smaller sofas facing each other for a great conversation arrangement that maximizes space. You can do it just like those folks in the burbs do, but with smaller pieces.

If you are planning to have children in the future, you actually don’t need to avoid all things glass and white and expensive. It’s entirely possible to make informed choices and take precautionary measures with your beloved pieces, and you’ll end up a lot more satisfied in the long run. Three of my favorite magic materials are acrylic, leather, and microfiber (and microfiber is much more interesting than it used to be…check out Room and Board’s options).

If you’re going to end up consulting a decorator or designer, don’t paint first unless you’re willing to potentially repaint or limit your options. We appreciate the ambition, but it’s not very helpful toward the end goal.

Hopefully these are useful tips to you. If you remember nothing else, just stay away from flat paint!


Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

Chevron Here, Chevrons There, I See Chevrons Everywhere!

18 Jul

Chevrons are everywhere, and they show no signs of going away. This is just fine with me because I really like their bold and graphic impact: pillows, rugs, and even furniture can be punched up with a little zig-zag! I’ve found a few unique interpretations of the chevron that I adore nthat differ from the typical color-on-white graphic we’re used to seeing.  Take a look…

This mirrored chevron entertainment console from the home of Laura Day was featured in a 2010 issue of Lonny. It’s so subtle but makes such a huge impact. 

(image via Lonny)

I love this yellow room with the custom carpet and coordinating art panels:

image via The Tile Shop Design by Kirsty)

 These “Scattered Chevron” drapery panels from Anthropologie are a much less jarring take on the wide bold chevrons we’re used to seeing:

(image via Anthropologie)

For a twist on floor textiles, Flor even offers a carpet tile in what they call the “Sophistikat” pattern. I love it…especially the subtle imperfection of the way the edges meet (or don’t).

(image via Interface Flor)

This watercolor is simple yet so interesting. I’d love it in an all white room, or against a navy wall. 

(image via entrenous)

And finally, these refinished Queen Anne chairs from Etsy seller Nenavon (unfortunately, already sold) are just adorable!

(image via Etsy seller Nenavon)


Have you seen any other chevron-themed decor items you love lately? If so, please share!


Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

Stratton Blue from Benjamin Moore: Three Ways!

31 May

Stratton Blue (HC-142),  a historical color from Benjamin Moore, is a perfect blueish greenish color that is fresh and classic.  Depending on the light, the shadows, and the surroundings, it’s virtually impossible to tell if the color is blue or green; that’s a huge part of its charm.  Over the past year I’ve had THREE! clients use this paint color in their homes, and they all have made it their own via different interpretations and accents I’ve recommended. I’ll be building my online portfolio over the next few months, and you’re sure to see some pictures when all is installed, accessorized, and shot, but for now here is a sneak peek at some mini-boards of the different ways that Stratton Blue can shine.

Let it stand on it’s own!

Stratton Blue is a bold color, so pairing it with crisp white is a great way to showcase it on the walls.  A single pattern or pillow incorporating some vibrancy is enough. This mini-board is for a guest bedroom in a DC row house.

(Clockwise from top right: Thomas Paul's Dahlia fabric in Aegean via Thomas Paul; Cottage Furniture's Lawson Sideboard via Layla Grayce; Oly Studio's Jonathan Tufted Stool via Oly Studio; Crate and Barrel's Lupe Pillow)


Let it set the tone with detailed, textural accents! 

Neutrals of all shades and materials deepen the complexity of a space, and with a sophisticated shot of color the room becomes both refined and relaxed. This mini-board is for a master bedroom in a Capitol Hill home.

(Clockwise from top right: Jangle in Silversage via Calico Corners; Brass Foiled and Wood Round Accent Table via Clayton Gray Home; Vincent Rug by Ballard Designs; Villa Club Chair by Thomas Pheasant via Baker; Celadon Green Gourd Lamp by Arteriors Home)


Let it take the beautiful backseat with contrasting complements! 

Stratton Blue’s ambiguous blue-green hue is the perfect pair for an equally non-committal pinkish-orange. This mini-board is for a powder room in a Northern Virginia home. Full disclosure: this “client” is my mother, and the only commitment she’s made so far is the paint color…anyone want this powder room? If so, let’s DO IT!

(Clockwise from top right: Godzilla Poster by MonsterGallery via Etsy; B&W Wall Hook via Anthropologie; Lobmeyer Crystal Back-lit Mirror via Orange via First Dibs; Zebra Wastebasket and Tissue via Clayton Gray Home; Bus Ticket Tea Towel by 3-P4 via Urban Outfitters )

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

When Even The Paint Fan Doesn’t Have Enough Colors… *

2 May

* The alternative titles to this post are: “More Of My House…” or “Please Excuse My Bad Camera Phone Photos.”

I’ve been waiting to repaint my son’s room until he either identified a color he preferred OR came out on the other side of a throwing-things-at-the-wall phase. Apparently the joke’s on me because he really isn’t that bad about throwing things and he recently identified his color preference: traffic cone orange. No thanks, mini man. I guess it’s time for me to get to it. 

So light yellow-ey green it is! Or “wasabi.” Or “avocado.” Or “light yellow-ey green.” After a weekend of testing, here’s my selection. 

Which one you ask? Well, that’s the thing. I love the deeper shade, Pale Avocado. But it’s too deep. It’s especially too deep because we rent our lovely condo and our landlord is the most fantastic of landlords and not only painted our place for us, but seems to value my professional opinion and enjoy our color selections. As such, we want them to remain non-offensive, neutral, pretty, and widely appealing. So no to the “pale” avocado…which is not pale at all.

My solution was fairly simple, but one that you might not know about. I went to the Benjamin Moore up the street and asked them to do a custom color between Rainforest Dew (2146-50) and Pale Avocado (2146-40). What they do is use the light base color and instead of mixing 100% of the pigment they use for Rainforest Dew, they mix in 150% of that pigment. Because colors on the same card are all the same hue (color) in different values (degrees of lightness and darkness) there is no chance that the undertones will change; the result will be every-so-slightly more dramatic than the baby green that Rainforest Dew is. The result? (and now, you really have to excuse my camera phone photo AND the fact that I’ve hung nothing in the walls yet):

I love it! Not too light, not too green, and equally appropriate for a two year old as it is for a 30-something’s office. Which some day very very far from today, it will likely be.

What do you think? My son’s coming around. I suppose it’s the next best choice after “o-nage!” (which adult humans pronounce as “orange”).

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.