Magazine article Sunset

The No-Fear Guide to Color: A Pasadena Couple Reveals How to Live with a Daring Palette

Magazine article Sunset

The No-Fear Guide to Color: A Pasadena Couple Reveals How to Live with a Daring Palette

Article excerpt

One look at the electric blue and gray hexagonal tile in Jon Leaver and Tyke O'Brien's kitchen, and you wouldn't think they went with the safe choice. But in the couple's 1940s Pasadena bungalow, "safe" is a relative term. "For us, it's a bigger risk to do something boring," says O'Brien.

The whole house reflects that spirit of brio. Inspired by photos of rooms with dark walls, the couple--both teachers who moonlight as interior designers--painted the kitchen cabinets and walls charcoal gray and covered the floor in the colorful geometric tile. Their living room palette? Teal and hot yellow. Even the front door didn't escape without a graphic motif.

To make room for all this color and pattern, the couple left most walls pale gray or white. "Light dove gray is the best canvas to set artwork against," O'Brien says. "We love how color pops against it." When a space has one big gesture, such as the wallpapered accent wall in the master bedroom, they left the other elements neutral for balance.

Their best advice, however, comes from blowing through lots of color experiments that didn't work: Accept that you'll make mistakes, then paint over them. INFO obrienleaverdesign.com.

RELATED ARTICLE: DECODING THE PALETTE

TIE THE LIVING ROOM

The art-history professor (him) and English teacher (her), both decorators, have natural visual instincts. But what about the rest of us? A breakdown of their home's color scheme offers help.

1. THE BACKDROP A cool gray paint on the wall--this one has a touch of blue--looks crisp in most lights. Stone RLUL221; ralphlaurenhome.com.

2. THE MIXER A multicolor piece--a rug is great for this--can tie elements together and add new hues. Luribaft Gabbeh rug, $311; wayfair.com.

3. THE COORDINATING PAIR Hot yellow and dark teal are complementary colors, so work well together. Varese Alchemilla and Varese Turquoise fabric, $156/yd.; designersguild.com.

4. THE GLITZ Metallics make almost any palette more dynamic. Gold leaf, from $10/18 sheets; michaels.com.

THE KITCHEN

1. THE BACKDROP Deep charcoal acts as a neutral. Both warm and cool tones pair well with it. Smoked Glass RLUL225; ralphlaurenhome.com.

2. THE SHOW-STOPPER Two shades of gray relate the tile to the wall color. The blues add shock value. Hexagon 8 tiles in Original Blue, from about $20/sq. …

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