Bold Strokes : Begone, Beige! Hot Colors, Touches of Black Make Themselves at Home


When it comes to picking out interior paint, most people are afraid of bright colors. Not Michele and Bret Jackson. Their living and dining room walls are a verdant green, their fireplace mantle is eggplant, and the inside of their white, glass-fronted kitchen cabinets is a striking lavender.

Gold, orange and hot pink fabrics add even more color to the rooms. Touches of black--in the background of a bright wallpaper border in the kitchen, in the marble hearth, in the bedroom molding--tie it all together. Glossy white wood moldings frame each room.

Move over, Navajo white and all those shades of beige. The Jacksons and their bright, bold color scheme are the wave of the future, said Larry Allen, a member and past vice president of the Color Marketing Group. The international group of designers and consultants forecasts color trends.

“People are going back to darker, brighter colors rather than off- white and beige,” said Allen, who chooses the colors for Sinclair’s paint and wallpaper lines. He predicts a return to the hunter greens and other dark, strong colors that were popular in Southern California in the late 1940s.


Paint trends begin with women’s fashions, Allen said. Two to three years after something is fashionable in clothing, it shows up in residential paint, he said, adding that bright colors have been popular in women’s fashions for a few years. Bright hued paints might not show up as whole walls of color, however, but rather in accents and accessories.

And it may take a few more years before the trend toward bold interior color schemes really blossoms. “New directions in color follow economic lines,” Allen said. “People with money do it first. They can afford to redo it if they don’t like it. If you don’t have the money, you are more cautious and you wait to see several versions first because it’s harder for you to redo it.”

The Jacksons, with their black, green and purple color scheme, are simply ahead of their time, said Allen,

whose own home features dark burnt orange walls with high-gloss white moldings. Good lighting and using white as an accent is the key to making dark walls dramatic, he said.


The Jacksons’ home in Old Towne Orange is a Mediterranean Revival built in 1923. The color scheme drew gasps of surprise and delight from visitors who saw it when the home was featured on a tour of historic houses. But most of those admirers said flatly that they wouldn’t be able to put such colors together themselves.

Lynn Lonzo, a Mission Viejo interior designer who has written about color, says a consultation with a designer can help homeowners avoid mistakes and provide practical information about color, light and space so they can work out their own color scheme. She offers some suggested treatments using bold colors:

* Several rooms with deep mustard yellow walls, fabric with bold stripes of red, avocado green and mustard yellow or Mexican blankets or rugs. A totally different look with mustard yellow walls could feature Renaissance style fabrics.

* A black and white treatment with lemon yellow for a dramatic, contemporary look. The walls could be yellow, the floors and furniture black and white, decorative pots and accents yellow.


* Primary colors using striped wallpaper in red, yellow and blue, and upholstered pieces in a mix of solids. The stripes need to be wide, she said, because the eye blends narrow stripes.

To get started, Lonzo said, “Take a color cue from a rug, a piece of art or a uniquely decorated flower pot and go from there.”

The Jacksons got started in several stages.

Michele, a floral designer, bought her house in 1986 and decorated it in what she calls “the total girl” look that included yards of muslin at the windows and Laura Ashley fabrics and wallpaper in the bedroom.


Four years later, she married Bret, a neighbor and painting contractor, and the pair decided to make her house their home. The “total girl” look had to go, she said.

“I love color. You can always change it. And that’s what we did. These are my same wicker chairs that were white; we sprayed them black,” she said. “We bought a basic black sofa. My pictures are the same. I changed the frames or painted them.”

Michele choose green for the living and dining room walls because she wanted a change from the white and blue of her old color scheme and she liked the crisp, clean look of green.

A friend used wood molding on top of wood molding to build out the original small fireplace mantle, and the Jacksons removed the fake bricks that surrounded the firebox and replaced it with black marble.


Then Michele brought out her eggplant paint samples.

“I did get, ‘Are you sure you want it purple?’ from Bret,” when it came time to paint the mantle, she said.

Michele likes to change things, and her basic black living room furniture lets her do that easily. Now in her “summer theme,” the living room sports bright pink print cushions on the wicker chairs, a gold tropical fish on a furniture throw and green, lavender and blue glass candlesticks on the mantle.

There’s a black and white checked rug on the hardwood floor that sometimes gets rolled up and put away just for a change. In fall and winter, Michele switches to marble candlesticks, a green and purple throw for the sofa and dark purple and dark green cushions for the chairs.


The starting point for the kitchen color scheme was the fruit wallpaper border at the top of the walls. The black background and intense colors made it hard to find a suitable background wallpaper--at the time nearly everything was in pastels. Michele ended up pairing the traditional border with a contemporary geometric print that had a touch of lavender, said Valorie Berry, a friend and Anaheim Hills-based interior designer who helped pick out the paper.

Fabric valances in black with tiny print bouquets in lavender, orange and pink hang like indoor awnings over the kitchen windows.

Michele, who used to work with stained glass, cut out the wood inserts on the lower cabinet doors and installed glass that shows off her dishes as well as the lavender shelves.

Bright color travels to a small second bedroom in the 1,100-square-foot house, where the walls sport Bret’s lavender and green sponge-painted finish.


But the color stops at the master bedroom and a simple black, white and gray treatment takes over. “I had an awful lot of color going on here with all this green, so I didn’t want any color in the bedroom,” Michele said.

What makes it all work in the Jacksons’ house, said Berry, is the style of the house and the use of black to tie the colors together.

“It’s a fun, interesting house,” said the designer, noting that Michele’s wardrobe is in the same bright colors as her house and that she often uses a touch of black to tie things together in her clothes.

The key to the Jacksons’ interior color treatment is the “wonderful wide moldings and definite rooms,” she said. “The walls end in specific places” and the Jacksons used white moldings to frame the bright colors within each room.


It is a look that works especially well in this style home. “If you tried this treatment in a tract house with a big entryway and staircase, it would look like a candy shop,” Berry said.