Friday, March 6, 2009

"Vanilla" Isn't The Same As "Milk Toast"


Vanilla . . . It either conjures up thoughts of being one of the more rare and rich of flavorings, as it is one of the second most expensive spices, after Saffron – or - one typically references it to something plain and ordinary, such as being one of the most common flavors of ice cream. It is also can be used in the same context as "milk toast". I know I have been guilty of commenting about design, color palettes, and the like, with the latter in mind. If I had taken more time to think of the more exotic version, the beautiful orchid, and the tedious process of cultivating and producing the finished product, I would have taken more care in connecting this label to anything in interior design. Come to think of it, “Vanilla”, while it can stand well on its own, is also a wonderful compliment to many other flavors.

Thanks to the wonderful examples on the House Beautiful and the Veranda websites, (Click on image to enlarge), I have created a collage of rooms. What these rooms all have in common, are the beautiful, creamy – or vanilla, neutral backgrounds – and – how different they all are! Some rooms may be quieter in their overall palette, while others just burst from the page with color. Can you imagine; however, the starting point of each space? If these rooms were visited, before all of the layers of color, pattern, texture and design elements were placed, they would be almost certain to receive a “ho-hum” response. To coin a phrase from an old commercial, something akin to, “Where’s the beef?” could be heard.

If you love the idea of color, but you: 1. Are a little commitment phobic, 2. Change your mind at the drop of a hat, 3. Move around a lot, or, 4. Simply can’t make up your mind, then Vanilla – aka - Neutrals may be the perfect solution for you. Think of the many other ways you can pop color into the room. Rugs, art, pillows, lamps and collections, all offer instant gratification as well as flexibility. You can adapt to the seasons, with deeper tones in the fall and winter, and with lighter versions in the spring and summer. Even furniture pieces can be painted to add strength and character to the room.

The only downside of the use of neutrals would be if you are not able to bring in some of the items, mentioned above, to pull together a finished look. If you have limited resources, then it might be less expensive to pick one pop of color on the walls, and let the room(s) be built over time. If you have the understanding and patience to allow for layers to be accumulated, and you want the flexibility to pick and chose, then neutrals can be a wonderful design solution.

Mmmmm – Vanilla and coffee – or – chocolate – or orange – or strawberry – or mint – or . . . . ?

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