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Color Inspiration: The Palette Project

Martha Stewart Living, May 2010

How to figure out which hue is right for you? Look around. Pay attention to what excites your eye. Finding colors can be as easy as opening a drawer or tapping into a happy memory. Here, Martha and four of our editors translate the shades they love into a spectrum of beautiful home, food, flower, and craft projects. Take their lead, and discover your own perfect palette. Inspiration is hiding in plain sight.

Everyday Objects Inspire a Cheerful Home Office

Ayesha Patel, Deputy Creative Director

Ayesha's Palette: lagoon, sea glass, hibiscus, mimosa, bamboo

"I rarely throw stuff away. It's as hard for me to part with a rubber band as it is a special crystal. The colors of this particular assortment made me smile, so I decided to decorate with them."

Ayesha's Process
As an avid collector, Ayesha regularly sifts through what she gathers, tacking up on her bulletin board the items she likes best. While looking at her finds recently, she hit upon a color scheme that would work for a home office: Blue-green walls and a neutral desk provide a calming backdrop for desk accessories in warm pinks and yellows.

Follow Ayesha's Lead

Notice the colors of ordinary things. Make a habit of keeping the ones you are drawn to, even if this means stashing odd bits and bobs. As your collection grows, a palette will begin to emerge. Use it confidently for a whole room -- you've been attracted to the colors all along.

Nature Inspires an Elegant Table Setting

Martha Stewart, Founder

Martha's Palette: moss, silver sage, earth, drabware, fennel, oak

"Nature has always been the primary color source for me. It's very kind to itself: It doesn't produce colors that clash, particularly if you consult heirloom varieties."

Martha's Process
As a keen observer of nature and a horticulturist, Martha sees a dozen shades of green where most of us see one or two. "It takes a lot of practice, but once you develop an eye for subtle variations, the range of colors is astonishing," she says. Martha's collections of botanical tableware reflect her preferred place to be: outdoors. Here, her textured linens, leaf-patterned dishes, pearl-handled cutlery, and new and old Wedgwood drabware add up to a rich tableau. Breadsticks shaped like fiddlehead ferns add whimsy, while a fuchsia Laeliocattleya 'Martha Stewart' provides a counterpoint to the many greens.

Follow Martha's Lead

The change in seasons recasts the natural world in different palettes. Notice the shift in your garden or at the farmers' market, where plants and vegetables provide color guidance for setting a stunning table.

Vintage Collectibles Inspire a Modern Craft

Marcie McGoldrick, Holiday & Crafts Editorial Director

Marcie's Palette: aqua, carnelian, amber, turquoise, gold

"Going through my vintage finds is a part of my creative process. Of the items I've collected, this card from the late 1920s has the most surprising colors. I was excited to see how modern such an old card's palette could be."

Marcie's Process
"I never would have thought to put these colors together," Marcie says. By playing with their proportions in a set of clip-art Mother's Day cards, she brought a fresh appeal to the palette. Using watercolors to paint the flowers and leaves, and gold thread to stitch the stems and tendrils (the tiniest blossoms are made with French knots), Marcie gave the cards a layered effect, further enriching the original palette.

Follow Marcie's Lead

Take your cues from a favorite collection and experiment with the colors. Maybe you love the bold hues of Fiesta ware, the metallic tints of old coins, or the timeworn tones of antique textiles. Let one or two colors be the stars of your project, and then use the other shades as accents.

A Sentimental Gift Inspires a Brunch Menu

Lucinda Scala Quinn, Food Executive Editorial Director

Lucinda's Palette: koi, seashell, papaya, blossom

"I never wore hot colors until a stylist suggested I try reds and oranges. These shades came together unexpectedly in a birthday present -- a gorgeous kimono -- from my husband. The fabric moved me to translate its vibrant palette by way of texture and flavor, my culinary touchstones."

Lucinda's Process
A true sensualist, Lucinda saw the soft folds of her kimono and thought of paper-thin slices of gravlax. The pale-pink tone of the lining suggested delicate flavors, such as fennel and cucumber, while the orange collar and sash became the inspiration for a tangy Bloody Mary made with orange juice.

Recipes
Gravlax with Sweet Mustard Sauce
Bloody (Orange) Marys

Follow Lucinda's Lead

Refer to the objects you treasure most -- an heirloom quilt, Grandmother's vintage scarf, your family china -- and interpret the colors as a cook might. Think of each shade as hot, cool, soft, or bold, and then devise dishes and drinks that convey a strong expression of these qualities.

A Sweet Obsession Inspires a Floral Arrangement

Kevin Sharkey, Decorating Executive Editorial Director

Kevin's Palette: citron, vanilla, sherbet, pink, grapefruit, cerise

"Hard candies -- especially lemon drops, Peach Blossoms, and cherry rock crystals -- are my weakness. So it was natural for me to apply their enticing colors to one of my other favorite things: flowers."

Kevin's Process
When bright Icelandic poppies and tulips are in season, Kevin's sweet tooth guides his arranging. "Candy-colored blossoms resonate unlike any other for me," he says. "I can almost taste the blooms." He began building this array with tulips, filled it out with ebullient poppies, and then softened the mass with frothy mimosa.

Follow Kevin's Lead

Consider things that never fail to make you happy -- a box of pastel crayons, macaroons from Paris, a beloved artist's paintings -- and make note of their colors. Then bring the palette to life by plucking it from nature: Arrange flowers, leaves, branches, fruits, or vegetables in the shades of your passions.

Comments (4)

  • The kid 8 Aug, 2013

    What colour should I paint my ceiling and crown moldings as well as baseboards doors and casings . Should it be a lighter tone of my wall colours . Would u use eggshell for ceiling and semi gloss for trims and doors and baseboards .

  • MarkBreaker 6 Dec, 2012

    Well color combination is very important for interior design painting think these tips which your provide very helpful for me thanks dude
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  • frncsrhwks 29 Aug, 2012

    Your tips match up the latest trend in home decoration and is perfect for people looking for new Ideas.

    window replacement Florida

  • Valeria Smith 10 Jun, 2012

    I like the "subdued peach" wall color, but can't find it in Martha's paint, what is the name of it? Where can I find it?