Taking time for literary effort in the midst of a bathroom remodel, I put down design thoughts, in preparation for selecting just the right paint for a bathroom’s walls. The bathroom is an upstairs, five- by five-foot personal space. The tile is laid down on floor and shower walls, and it strikes me as statement tile, as in a statement piece of jewelry, now that I see the many tiles together. “Statement” in jewelry means that the piece attracts other people’s eyes to the wearer, or has power to evoke emotions, i.e., it is not an everyday ornament. My tiles make a statement because they have “movement.” The thirteen- by thirteen-inch porcelain tiles, not shiny but more like very fine-grit sandpaper, are cream colored and sport tan and grey veins running through on the diagonal. My tile-layer man headed the veins, some effused, more cloudlike than threadlike, all in the same direction. Imagine how busy my small room could have stated itself had he done otherwise!
Tile having been laid, it is time to decide on wall paint color. This is a big decision. I believe the pleasure found in a living space is a result of the harmony of colors and structures amalgamated. To help me find where to start, I scan through a several-years-old Architectural Digest. One can count on design inspiration from that magazine.
A quote from the late Baroness Marie-Hélène de Rothschild, the “Queen of Paris” as the press of decades past was fond of calling her, appeals to my design preferences for layers of texture, subtle contrasts of many related colors, and the inclusion of some lustrous metal and solid black: She said, “I love mixing things together—they always end up in harmony.”
Of course the amount of living space available at her supreme level, wherein the entire globe was her shopping mall, she was probably thinking of ancient materials in 17th-century paired or grouped statues, giant Grecian urns, or tapestries sold from the Massif Centrál of her beloved France, the Netherlands of her birth, or exotic foreign places. Her station in life gave access to opulent, rare, or exquisitely handcrafted objects and furniture, textiles fringed or tasseled, Indonesian batiks, and more. Her eponymous style of décor, le style Marie-Hélène de Rothschild, is unvaryingly associated with wealth and richness. I encourage my furtherance in color insight with the following quote for the day, also copying it to my talented cousin in design, Robbie Hansen, who has helped our family live with good design: The Baroness said of a newly built chalet, “When I saw it, I said to myself, Now you’ve got to do it up.” She called in François Catroux, never far from her in such ventures, states the magazine article, and said of him, “I think a designer, no matter how gifted he is, can’t do a thing unless he has a strong personality to deal with.”
The Architectural Digest: The International Magazine of Interior Design, Collector’s Edition, May 2004, where I found the above quotes, has helped me understand what I am looking for in my five-by-five personal bathroom—a comingling of visual excitement presented by my tiles, together with a cream-colored showpiece that is my Ronbow vanity with black-granite top. Add the unexpected solid-black recessed mirrored medicine chest (yes, these once common then disappeared cabinets are back), and the cozy comfort of a pale straw-colored, thickly painted wall. But, wait a minute, there’s a world of change out there, and I could take a risk . . . perhaps I’ll finish with a mid-tone deep grey purple, inspired by my cousin’s dining-room walls. Admittedly hers are much taller walls, loaded with gold sconces, Egyptian or Roman vases, and an exorbitant chandelier. Or maybe I’ll search out an Indonesian batik shower curtain for the end splash. However the outcome, the big decision of what color to paint the walls has put me deeply involved in the world of color. I am learning, and it reminds me of being in young love—you feel the vitality of being alive and able to select and finally commit.