What does a “Color of the Year” really mean for the design industry? Does it reflect and shape the direction of color trends, or is it merely a marketing ploy? In the inaugural episode of the Chairish Podcast, seasoned design commentator and podcast host Michael Boodro gets to the heart of color trends with three industry professionals known for their unmatched color expertise: Nick Olsen, Nicole Fuller, and Martin Kesselman. “We can make fun of this Color of the Year thing,” Michael says, “but yet there are colors that speak to certain eras.” Find out how color influences our current moment in this first episode of the Chairish Podcast.

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Michael Boodro 0:01
I’ll be taking you for an inside look behind the glamorous facade of the interior design industry. At a time when every aspect of the business from sourcing to trends to marketing to dealing with clients is undergoing rapid change. I guess this week are designers, Nicole Fuller and Nick Olsen, and color expert Martin Kesselman. And we’ll be talking about color trends, which ones have meaning and which are mere marketing hype. Today, we’re talking about the colors of the year because of course, there’s not just one. It seems every paint company has its own color, which we’ll get into. And Pantone always declares a color of the year, which they say influences everything from fashion to toys to kitchens to interior design. So we’re going to talk about that I have three very distinguished guests today. We have Nicole Fuller, who is a very glamorous and beautiful interior designer who has offices in New York and LA. And she’s known for doing incredibly high end luxury interiors that embody the same kind of glamour that she does, not surprisingly. She uses color in a very fresh way. She uses lots of neutrals, and then contrasts them with pinks, but then also with bold colors like teaks and orange and lots of pattern. And she has also has a line of tile she’s created for Ann Sacks. She’s done wallpaper for Fromental and designs for The Rug Company. So welcome Nicole.

Nicole Fuller 1:35
Oh, thank you so much, Michael. So happy to be here. Thank you for the wonderful intro. I’m bringing you everywhere.

Michael Boodro 1:42
Thank you. We also have Nick Olsen, who after getting an architecture degree at Columbia, became entranced with interior design and particularly with Miles Redd, who became something of his protege. So after working with Miles, he went out on his own in 2010. And, as you might expect of a protege of Miles Redd, he loves color. He just like lots of bright reds and blues, tropical greens. He loves bold patterns, stripes on the walls, pattern painted, pattern floors. But whereas Miles—at least this is how I take it—Miles sort of goes for glamour and aristocratic elegance. Nick is incredibly charming and has great humor to his rooms. He appeared on one of his earliest projects his own studio apartments on the cover of Domino Magazine. And in 2013, he had a project on the cover of World of Interiors. So welcome, Nick.

Nick Olsen 2:32
Thank you so much. I don’t know if I could live up to that. But I’ll try.

Michael Boodro 2:35
Yes, you can. And, I need to add that I have one of his chairs in my country house, which I love. Which leads me to Martin Kesselman. Because Martin also had a great deal to do with my country house because he helped me pick all the paint colors. Martin is not only an entrepreneur in the fact that he has his own paint shop called In Color, or I suppose now we have to call “In Colour,” because he does represent Farrow and Ball. But he represents a Benjamin Moore, Fine Paints of Europe, and Don Kaufman Color. But beyond that Martin is himself an interior designer. And he’s a color consultant. And he has worked with many of these paint companies, most recently with Farrow & Ball for whom he created the new, perfect modern white. And he’s had the great honor that that color which was originally called Alea White after his daughter has now had his name changed to Martin Kesselman White by Farrow & Ball. Of course, considering that some of the other Farrow & Ball names are Downspout and Elephant’s Breath, it might be a bit of a mixed blessing, but it’s a real honor nonetheless.

Martin Kesselman 3:45
Thank you, Michael. Glad to be here.

Michael Boodro 3:47
Thank you. Thank you, Martin. So I wanted to talk about, not so much color, which is hard to discuss on the radio with only words, but really color trends and how they come about, because it’s fascinating. This idea came to me because Pantone has just released its 2020 Color of the Year, which is a classic blue not as dark as navy but a classic blue. Benjamin Moore’s Color of the Year is called First Light, which is a very pale, rosy pink with some gray. Behr paint has their Back to Nature. It’s the sage color. And Sherwin Williams Color of the Year is Naval, which is kind of a great name. So you know all of these different colors’ Color of the Year what does it mean? Is it just a marketing ploy by paint companies? Is it something that we need to take seriously? What do you think? Let’s start with with you Nick, because you have a very particular take on color.

Nick Olsen 4:39
I do have a particular take on color. My kind of party line is that that I like all colors and that there are no really ugly colors because it’s all in the execution and how they’re used and how they’re used together. I was on a panel a year and a half ago in Charleston with a former kind of bigwig at Benjamin More. And I jokingly suggested as a moderator that maybe there should be a Color Combo of the Year. And she clapped back and said, that would never work.

Michael Boodro 5:08
But they do release a palette!

Nick Olsen 5:10
They do! They do come with a palette. And I feel, I think it’s an important marketing ploy. Because it gets people kind of aware and excited and talking about different colors, and maybe thinking about what they’ve seen in the past year, or what they expect to see in a way that, you know. But to me, they always come out of left field, like I didn’t see the kind of merlot red that Benjamin Moore did a couple of years ago. Like, to me, that’s not my favorite color, like at all. I really respond to the pure blue that Pantone is doing this year, because I happen to love that color and using it. But it’s kind of in my work. If a client says that I love merlot red or wine red, it’s like, well, how do I make that chic and interesting to me and to them by using it in an unexpected way. And that becomes the challenge. Do you know, a year later, year and a half later, do I start to see Marsala wine red or pure blue more in the kind of the design world? Sometimes, but sometimes not. And sometimes it’s just the sound of one hand clapping.

Michael Boodro 6:13
Right. Nicole, how do you feel about all this Color of the Year, kind of publicity and marketing?

Nicole Fuller 6:19
I think you know, color is a lot of fun. But generally people tend to be a bit afraid of it. So I think the marketing behind it—it’s definitely marketing on some level. But I also think it’s a way for people to feel secure and excited about sort of delving into a new realm that they might not have in the past. I think it shows colors, like you know, you’re saying the gray, the navy. I mean, that’s such a soft, sophisticated color. But it might not be something that one is thinking about on the top of their head. And then it kind of it excites them and introduces something into their mind, which then could be a jumping off point to something else. Or, you know, they’ll say, “Oh, gosh, I have this great painting that has that color in it. I didn’t even know I could pull that color out of my painting and design a room around it.” You know, so I love color. I’m somewhat known for it, I guess. But I find it exciting and fresh. It’s like cheetah is back, you know, you can wear cheetah boots, I’m like, “Listen, I’ve been wearing cheetah boots for years.” Cheetah has never been out. Color has never been out! Pale pinks in the right situation, or, like you’re saying, like the merlot in the right situation and it depends what you mix it with. It all works. It all goes together, depending on how you execute it. But I do think it’s exciting. And I do think it’s something for people to talk about. And I don’t necessarily go by it myself, because I, you know, I like to always push the boundaries. I call them non-color colors, I come up with colors that are maybe not your usual. Right now I’m really into military green, and I’m using military green in certain places with burnt oranges. And, so it’s the opposite of what they’re talking about. But it all works, and it all can work. And it just depends on how, how you’re designing and what you’re designing with. And then a lot of times, we take a paint color, like Benjamin Moore’s Color, the pale pink, maybe I take that color and I color milmatch it to my millworker and I do high gloss pink panels in the powder room with a mirror. It doesn’t always have to be paint on a wall. It could be color infused in another object. So I think it’s exciting. And I think it’s interesting for all of us to question it and be having this conversation and talk about it, because I think that inspires creativity. And we all inspire each other. And I think it’s a great moment.

Michael Boodro 8:49
You raised an interesting point, which I want to ask Martin about because Martin has a dual view. He’s not only working with the color companies, the paint companies, but he’s also selling to the consumer directly and I think, you know, you guys are experts with color. I think people are terrified of color.

Martin Kesselman 9:07
That’s been the evolution of my job Michael over the years. I’m from a color expert background, transitioned now to color therapist and color coach, life coach, because there’s so much anxiety in these choices. They look to us as you know, expert influencers someone who has really strong knowledge in this particular field and they trust our opinions and our judgment. So now we were talking about someone in their home, an intimate place, and somewhere they’re spending a lot of time, a lot of money on a lot of these projects. And, they want to get right so they look to us for that.

Nick Olsen 9:43
So there’s a fear of making a mistake, especially when it comes to color like I’ve made those mistakes.

Michael Boodro 9:48
I mean, even the professionals have so you’re not alone.

Martin Kesselman 9:51
Yeah, but certainly at the end of the day, like I like to say, it’s just paint so I have clients that are very art inspired and they change things very often. They redecorate, like some people are into cars, some people are into clothing, some people into traveling. I have a set of clients that are really into decorating. And then that’s what they do. And they change as these color trends come up and things like that. And they pay attention to that. And, to your point earlier, it is exciting for someone like myself, a designer that specializes in color. Because what it does is it brings attention to the category, which often gets left to the end in some of these design builds and things. The color bit is left to the last second and the contractors running to the store. And they’re trying to figure it out and piece it all together. But I think people are realizing how important it is and it’s one of the bigger design elements in the space, something that you’re really going to live with. So let’s integrate that in the beginning of the design and see it through, make it part of the story.

Michael Boodro 10:50
But it’s interesting to me, I did a little research, you know, obviously to talk about this with you experts. And I looked at all the colors that Pantone had picked in the last decade. You’d think there’s a range of colors, but the vast majority of them were either a shade of blue or a shade of red. It was so interesting. One year they did, ’09 a yellow called Mimosa. In 2013, they had an emerald. And it’s like, yes, we think there’s a lot of excitement about color and whatever. But the range is not that great when you look at it, which I think is very smart. Because you know, we can make fun of this kind of Color of the Earth thing and, believe me, I do. But yet there are colors that speak to certain eras. I mean, when I grew up, I’m older than all of you guys. But you know, everything in the kitchen, in the house was either you know, harvest gold or avocado and the 80s there was that kind of pukey, pink kind of color, coral.

Martin Kesselman 11:50
Which is the color the year last year actually, the Living Coral.

Michael Boodro 11:53
Exactly, which they brought back. Everybody then did talk about millennial pink. So there are colors that come to the fore and are indicative of certain eras. But I don’t know if you guys have any projections here about what you think. Is it going to be this classic blue? Is it navy? Is it sage? What colors do you think are going to be useful? And things that you’re going to be looking at that you expect your clients to be turning to? Nick, why don’t you go first?

Nick Olsen 12:25
As a child of the 80s myself, it’s like every brand was kind of primary color. The colors of postmodernism, like bringing back the De Stijl movement but that L’Oreal matrix logo. You know there’s a store in Soho right now that I Instagram storied, and I’m like the L’Oreal matrix logo is back, like pure blue, pure primary red, primary yellow. And it actually looks fresh to me now. I have it in my own home. I really do like pure primary colors and I think that new Pantone color, the pure blue, or whatever it’s called. Yeah, classic blue is part of that. Will all my clients want primary color everything in their home? No, absolutely not. But is there a way to introduce it on a throw pillow, on a chair, on a sofa, to kind of bring the room into focus and then everything else is not as strong or not as primary? Absolutely. Millennial pink has been how many years ago now.

Michael Boodro 13:18
Four or five years ago. But that pink is still lingering on!

Nick Olsen 13:22
Oh my god! And pink and green. It’s like Miami in 1984 is back, like those matcha stores. I want to coin this because I’ve been wanting to put it on Instagram too but I want to coin this here so it’s recorded. My term for all those like pink and green with the ferns and the fake indoor plants, I’m calling that Pinterest Regency because that with the postmodern arches, the pale pink, the jade green, like it is a look. Even my barbershop in Lower East Side is like Pinterest Regency and I’m kind of into it because it looks fresh to me. But if I see it for a year and a half longer then I’m done.

Michael Boodro 14:00
Like mid-century modern. It’s hard to look at…

Nick Olsen 14:03
… when it’s beaten to death! Color is very big part of that because you didn’t see that jade, that hunter green for a long time. And now it’s back.

Michael Boodro 14:14
Right, right. Nicole, what colors are interesting you at the moment? Military green, you mentioned.

Nicole Fuller 14:22
Like I was saying, yeah, I love the military green. I’m actually designing a paint collection with Farrow & Ball at the moment.

Michael Boodro 14:28
Yeah, you told me that! I forgot to mention that. Tell us about your new palette. Farrow & Ball is heavily represented here with its “colours.”

Nicole Fuller 14:37
Yeah, “colour,” “colour.” Yeah, that was amazing. So I’m designing the collection with my client, Steven Klein. He’s a fashion photographer.

Michael Boodro 14:45
Right. Yeah, a very prominent one.

Nicole Fuller 14:47
Very prominent but he’s a brilliant colorist. And if you look at his photographs, a lot of his imagery is very saturated and it’s color on color. It’s royal blues with purples and reds and flesh tones and science and, you know, sort of like the color of fire essentially. So we’re doing a palette together that are colors that people, we feel, that you see a lot, that you don’t really talk about or know how to put into words. So the whole collaboration is we’ve gone into all of his archives, and we’ve studied all of his photos and went through what is the thread of color from the beginning till now, and the paint collection will exist from that. So we’ve gone into, let’s say, a print, and there might be 68 different shades of blue that come out in this photograph. But we’ve gone in with a microscope and pinpointed. We want that exact cyan blue. We want that exact military green. We want the color of the flesh in this nude. People like to call it nude, pale pink, but we’re introducing a new color, that’s almost a combination of a terracotta and a flesh. I always coin it as like a non-color color. You think about the color of the most beautiful flesh tone. It’s a combination of warm and cool. It’s got this like, really rich sort of like warm undertone, but it’s not anything you can particularly put your finger on. So our collection, to just give you some highlights, is some of those colors that we just talked about. And also, one of my favorite, favorite colors that I always go to in interiors, and art and fashion is a proper, true oxblood. I think it’s forever timeless, it’s forever chic, it’s perfect, classic. And I think there’s a lot of different ways that you can infuse it into an interior. And it works so brilliantly, and so beautifully. So oxblood is, like a proper oxblood, is one of our main colors as well. And it’s kind of interesting, because when you look at his photographs, and what I do, we’re very parallel in our creativity in that way. So it’s been really exciting to see all the tones and shades that I tend to go after are in his photos. So we’re going in with a microscope and pulling out these colors that don’t exist, and it’s really exciting. So for me, I feel like, that’s the way of the future—this year, this new decade, 2020. You know, I think what makes Farrow & Ball and Fine Paints of Europe so brilliant is because their colors aren’t an exact primary color of a blue or a red or an orange or pink, you know. It’s just slightly off. And I think that’s the rich history behind it. And the layers that go into it is what makes it feel like velvet on the wall. So I think when it’s done right, you know, these colors will really be exciting for the new year.

Michael Boodro 17:57
It’s interesting you mentioned terracotta, because that is a color that I’ve started to see a lot more in the last few months. So, you know, like I said, it’s like, you can proclaim a trend and see whether that happens or not. But things do bubble up like terracotta, like you were saying. That’s so interesting about Steven Klein. I didn’t know that. I always think of his work as being sort of dangerously glamorous. And I think about you the same way. Martin, I want to ask you. Because of your shop, which I have to say you’re incredibly reassuring to a customer such as me, coming into your store, what do you see people gravitating towards at the moment? What color range? Besides the neutrals, which are, of course the backbone.

Martin Kesselman 18:42
Right, and like you said, sometimes it could be just a throw pillar or an accent—not necessarily the whole wall. So if it is the walls, I like to do the whole space. And I like the envelope the space and do a trim and everything. But for me, it’s not these trends. Well, it could be a trend if the clients are paying attention to these things and following them, and they do on Instagram and social media. They read about colors and show me images and things like that.

Michael Boodro 19:10
So, the marketing money sort of pays off.

Martin Kesselman 19:10
It does pay off, but you’re inspiring people, right? So that’s the whole idea. And like I said before, it’s just bringing attention to the category, which I think is important. For me, like Nicole mentioned, the art is inspiration for me, the client themselves is inspiration for me, the architecture. So when I get to work with three good bones like that, it makes my job a lot easier. So, I let the client dictate things more than the trends. As Nick said, if people are into merlot, we got to work with it. And, that’s okay because what I try to do is, ultimately, to make people happy in a space that they want to be in and spend time in and celebrate. So if it’s got to be red, we’re gonna make it work, we’re gonna make it happen, and do something fun with it.

Nick Olsen 19:17
And it’s fascinating to see that no one sees color the same exact way. In a meeting with client, they’ll sift through the inspiration books or show me something on Pinterest and say like, “Well, I really liked that strong yellow.” And to me, it’s the most faded, like English country, right? Just like, “Oh, that’s a strong yellow to you. Okay. Well, noted.” And, that’s where we’re starting from.

Michael Boodro 20:25
Well, the other thing you can never predict is the light and the space. And that makes a huge difference as I can personally attest to having had certain rooms repainted. Ah, yeah, you know, and I mean, I think it’s so great now that the paint companies have those sample pots that you can do more than just, you know, brushstroke or two.

Martin Kesselman 20:40
Well, that being said. When I do a sizable project for a client, I paint an entire small wall, because like you say, every one perceives color differently. And just, the bigger the scale in contact…

Michael Boodro 20:53
Day to night. Artificial light, natural.

Martin Kesselman 20:56
You know, when you try a color, and you put a little bit in the middle of a primed or a white wall, 99 out of 100, the reactions is it’s too dark. Even if it’s like a subtle cream. It’s too dark because of the contrast.

Michael Boodro 21:09
I just had a friend who painted a room for a client, like barely beige, right? She like freaked out. It’s too strong a color.

Martin Kesselman 21:20
Yeah, it’s how you perceive the space, how it was, what it is, what it’s going to be. But even like, whether it’s even a dark color, if it is this navy, when you start painting it out, there’s less contrast point. Maybe you’ll do the skirting in a complementary color, or white or something. But, you know, now it’s flipped. So it just starts disappearing when you start painting more of it. So, yeah, the bigger, the better. That’s how you get the idea things. But, it’s more about, for me, it’s really more about creating a mood, these darker colors, these navies and things. You’re creating a more romantic or classic look opposed to open and airy, but the architecture, the space, the lighting, it is what it is. I mean, yeah, sure, you could add lighting, auxilary lighting and things. But it’s about creating those moments.

Michael Boodro 22:08
Right. And I do think Farrow & Ball has been hugely influential with that. The kind of the darker, grayed out colors. Because that was not popular in the United States until about maybe about 15 years ago. World of interiors, I think has been really influential in promoting that kind of look. But, do you think that look is going to continue? Or do you think it’s going to shift a little?

Martin Kesselman 22:30
Primarily, my work here is in New York and I have work all over. But it’s the layout that’s different, that dictates too. It’s the open floor plan that we have to check. That’s the challenge. So you know, sometimes it’s behind closed doors, or unexpected moments that you can add color. So it’s often a challenge. You know, it’s a lot of windows and little wall space.

Nick Olsen 22:51
It is hard with contemporary architecture. I’ve worked in these projects that truly have no molding whatsoever. And so it’s like, well, where does the color begin and end. It has to be the same color, same wallpaper, throughout the staircase, through the kitchen, through the living, because it’s all one space. And it would have taken months or years to kind of go back and isolate those spaces. But it’s like, we’re going to use this really pinky, warm off-white for this. And then the color will be in the upholstery or in the artwork.

Martin Kesselman 23:17
There’s little to no natural breaks.

Michael Boodro 23:19
Yeah, especially in those modern towers with the open kitchens and all of that. You’re right. It’s one big room. So how do you demarcate it? I mean, I know some designers will paint one wall different color but you don’t like that, Mark. And that’s not something you approve of. But it is a hard thing to do, to demarcate a room because rooms are out of fashion, right?

Martin Kesselman 23:36
And, that’s what we’re doing things on the ceiling. Now, we’re painting floors, which is always popular overseas in Europe and things. But now we’re doing more painted floors, staircases.

Michael Boodro 23:46
Always done painted floors. Love floors.

Nicole Fuller 23:48
I love the painted floor. Yeah, I think you’re right. I think what also helps is painting the full wall for the client. I’m always asked if Pinterest or Instagram is a help or hindrance with clients. And I actually think it’s a great help because they come to you, a lot of times, with their own thoughts and ideas and mood boards. And I think what Farrow & Ball, and now Benjamin Moore, a lot of the paint companies are doing so well is they’re really stepping up their game with their in situ shots of how the paint looks and live and breathes in an interior space. And not just in a rinky dink interior space, but something that’s really grand and really beautiful. If you’re not sure how a paint is gonna look, they have beautiful imagery of the paint in situ. And I think it’s great either paint a full wall or show a client how it looks in situ, because you’re right, when they’re looking at a little swatch, and they’re excited about a color and then it goes up, feelings could shift. And it does really depend on light and architecture and what you’re doing there.

Martin Kesselman 24:52
It’s a simple thing to do. I tell clients, I say just Google a particular color. You’ll see hundreds of images of thhat eah, it’ll look a little different. It’s laziness!

Michael Boodro 25:07
It’s using high technology, that’s what it is!

Martin Kesselman 25:09
But it gives you an idea. Like, Oh, that’s what’s gonna look like in a space. It might look greener in this photo. It might look blue or it might look beige. You can see the range, but you get the idea of what it’s going to look like in a finished space, which is important because that’s what they’re really uncertain of.

Michael Boodro 25:26
Right. And they need reassurance. Do you find that as as well, Nicole? Are your clients more daring? I mean, they’ve come to you so they know they’re not gonna get, you know, the English country look, shall we say? But do you find they’re welcoming of color?

Nicole Fuller 25:42
I do. I think, you know, sometimes you have to push a little, but you know, you want to push. I’m very inspired by my clients, as well. And there’s certain things that happen in getting to know someone. You may notice that they are always wearing a particular color, always going to a particular color, not necessarily an interior. I think once you get to know your client a little bit, you’re inspired by them. And you’ll know if you can push a little or how much you need to pull back. But, I definitely think they come to me a lot of the times because they love the color and the work we do and they’re either 100% on board or totally terrified, but trust me, and I will say, knock on wood, but it always turns out in the end. It’s really exciting. I know how to balance color. I always try to balance it. So it’s not overpowering. It’s just exciting and fresh and, and calming at the same time. But I also think white is such an important color. And I think we overlooked white.

Michael Boodro 26:44
I was just going to say Nicole, so thank you. Because white is a color. There’s probably more shades in it than in any other color there is and Martin just developed a new one. We didn’t have enough whites. Thank you, Martin.

Martin Kesselman 26:56
You’re welcome.

Nicole Fuller 26:58
Yeah! And what I think is so important, and Nick to your point. We’re` doing a couple of projects in Malibu and one in Mexico and on a beach. And so, I’m not putting dark colors in a beach house, you know. But I am using 17 different shades of white, you know, I’m using different shades, studying how the light hits certain walls at certain times a day, different shades on the ceilings and different shades in closets. So, white is such an exciting color as well. And I think people tend to think, Oh, just slap some white paint on it. No, no, no. If you’ve chosen a navy blue, the white that you may pop on the ceiling has to be the exact right tone of white to go with the navy blue. So I think white is so dynamic in and of itself. And one thing I love doing, which you’ll see more as we get project finished and photographed is in a lot of these beach homes doing multiple shades of white. I don’t think I ever use less than five shades of white on any given project—no matter what it is. So I think layering different shades of white creates shadows and depth and create this really wonderful dynamic interior. But it’s very calming, and there’s no specific blue, or red or pink or yellow or terracotta. But it’s white on white, but it’s the shades and the tones that make it feel very rich and very lux. And I think white is such an important part of our color palette.

Michael Boodro 28:23
Absolutely. And I would actually like to ask Martin what prompted him to come up with this new white because you mentioned to me there was some issues you were addressing, and I’d love you to discuss.

Martin Kesselman 28:34
Like I said earlier, I’m known as you know, a color expert color guy and I do a lot of that kind of work. I envelope in the space in bright bolds and things. And, those moments are very Instagrammable and publishable and things like that. They look great photographed, but the bulk of the business, like the majority of all of our work, is probably in the neutrals, especially in the paint world. It’s probably could be up to 90% of the business. So for me with the white, although I got a lot of like you know the color guy coming out with his own white, it was very ironic, but—

Michael Boodro 29:09
Well, I remember years ago Benjamin Moore was unveiling their color. You and all the editors were there and there was a big party and the color they unveilved was white, and we were all like that’s it? You know, we tend to downplay white, and I thought this big party just for a shade of white? But you know, I think that was our shortsightedness.

Martin Kesselman 29:34
These things have stories beyond the idea. The thing with this particular white is that it comes from my days as a fine artist and I used to do a lot of gallery work. I used to do custom colors for art galleries for installs and exhibitions and things. And the premise with the white and I’m a native New Yorker and I was entrenched in this whole Chelsea gallery thing. But um, I was just fascinated with the development of all these big new projects, these big buildings popping up all over the place, all these glass towers. These awe-inspiring spaces in what used to be a humble New York City skyline, for the most part. I mean, you had your Midtowns and your Downtowns. But all these big residential projects popping up, and then all these clients and people and art collectors that I came to know that were buying all this big contemporary art and now buying them and installing them in their glam, New York City apartments. I found the whole thing kind of fascinating and bizarre at the same time. But the idea for the white came from the white box. The gallery was kind of an interesting place for me because when I traveled I always thought that art should be shown in color—when I went to museums, etc. But the white box was a thing that lived here now in New York. And for me, that particular white didn’t translate. It didn’t resonate for me in the home. It was too stark, too sterile, too institutional. So if we try to recreate and do this thing, it had to have a better balance. So the idea with this particular white, it was to be warm and to be nuanced, without being cream or red, still read like architectural, like a true white. So it’s been really well received. It’s been on a lot of prominent projects, and everyone seems to love it.

Nick Olsen 31:21
And most important, where can we buy it? Because now I’m sold.

Martin Kesselman 31:27
So this was a collaboration that Farrow & Ball and I did.

Michael Boodro 31:33
Can you get it at other Farrow & Ball outlets? No? Well, it’s worth a trip downtown to the store. The store is very chic, and he is incredibly helpful. I will attest.

Nick Olsen 31:42
Done. I’ll be there tonight.

Michael Boodro 31:43
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Michael Boodro 32:36
And now we’re back. Here’s a question for all three of you. Have any of you ever used the color that I’ve painted my first apartment, because I thought it was by definition going to be chic, Decorator’s White?

Nick Olsen 32:48
It’s a great trim and ceiling color, has a little bit more gray in it. Simply White, which you just referenced, is a fabulous white. Benjamin Moore White Dove and Farrow & Ball All White are two of my go-tos because they’re warm. But, I love Decorator’s White! It’s called Decorator’s White.

Michael Boodro 33:04
I know! Your decorators really use it.

Nicole Fuller 33:09
You know what’s even funnier about Decorator’s White is, I feel like if my client comes to me and has any ideas about paints, they say, oh, you know Decorator’s White, right? That’s the color everyone uses? I’m like, Oh, really? Yeah, I guess that sounds great. We just take them for that and your inspiration board. And we’ll work with that because like it’s become such a popular paint. Going back to what you were talking about Michael and Martin about white. Decorator’s White became like the Meryl Streep of whites. It’s like it became an Oscar winner, very famous and it still has legs. It’s important. So yeah, Decorator’s White comes up a lot.

Martin Kesselman 33:56
There used to be, like you say, the Decorator’s White and the White Dove. There used to be like four or five colors and then we got away from that right and then we had endless colors. Benjamin Moore has thousands of colors and Fine Paints, for example, they do beyond the regular colors. They do the Pantone and the NCS and the RAL so there became endless choices. Now we’re getting back a little bit to the curated thing, which is interesting.

Michael Boodro 34:20
They say if you have too much choice you become stymied. I’m the same at the grocery store and certainly at the paint store. People get freaked out.

Nick Olsen 34:25
I don’t like endless choices. I mean, there’s a place for custom. I love doing custom paint colors with my decorative painters. We will obsess over them and paint multiple samples but there’s something to be said for go-tos and things that you know will work even with the changes in light, even with the different environments. It’s like, I know that this is a good solid shade of white or good pale blue for a ceiling. I just have to have, not four, but maybe like 10 to 15 in the arsenal that are really kind of solid.

Nick Olsen 34:26
Yeah, exactly. I agree. You have your go-tos. I mean, like All White to pop a ceiling Sometimes Cornforth White when you want a slight hint of gray or Skimming Stone when you want a little bit of that Hermes grays under the white. There’s a lot of go-tos that just become like part of your arsenal, like you said.

Martin Kesselman 35:13
And then you have those other things when you need them, when you need something different. But, you kind of stick to your style, I suppose.

Michael Boodro 35:21
Well, here’s the next door neighbor to white, which God knows, we saw a lot of. What about gray? I think it really goes back to Axel Vervoordt and Belgian linen and Resto Hardware that mass marketed that and made a huge driving business out of it. And I remember going to Saloni five years ago and everything was either gray or orange or together. I mean, I can’t even look at it anymore. What do you guys think about gray?

Nick Olsen 35:52
The primary source material, Axel Vervoordt, nothing better than that. When you’ve seen it diffused and diluted for so many years, like decades now. I want to see something different. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t attractive, and they sell the fantasy. I get that it’s just merchandised so well, and it looks good in that environment. But it’s just not going to be my go to. When I first worked for Miles and I saw his townhouse in W many years ago. His entry hall is actually like a Dior gray with a gray and white painted floor and a black banister and white treads and sisal carpet. And I was like, what is it? He’s like, it’s Benjamin Moore Going Gray. And I was like, wow. I mean, to me, for Mr. Color, that’s pretty brave. Like, that’s the first room in your house.

Michael Boodro 36:43
Gray is a great color!

Nick Olsen 36:44
It’s beautiful! It’s stunning. And it has a little bit of blue in it, and I could go on.

Michael Boodro 36:49
I was surprised that in 2019 Benjamin Moore picked a gray. They called it Metropolitan. And I thought, well, hasn’t that run its course but maybe not. Maybe people still rely on gray.

Martin Kesselman 36:59
Gray, ultimately Michael, is a neutral, right, as well as black. So whether it’s the white itself, the true white, or the off white in the linen, or like the French grays or something like that. These are all considered to be neutral. So yeah, I mean, I think it’s gonna always live in our spaces, but maybe not predominantly, hopefully.

Nicole Fuller 37:19
I agree. And I think what happens with quote unquote trends is people tend to overdose on them. It’s like one thing becomes popular, and then it’s just becomes so commercial and so redundant, that that’s the opposite thing that anyone wants in their home. It was first gray walls, and it was gray wash floors, and then it was painting your house on the outside gray. So, I just feel like everyone’s overdosed on it for so long that people are looking to something fresh, but I do agree. A classic gray will always live in our lives. It’s a beautiful neutral. It’s a great way to accent something. And, you know, I mean, we just painted our bedroom upstate, Michael, in Purbeck Stone from F&B and I love it. There’s something about it that is so calming. And so just quiet and beautiful. And it’s timeless, you know, but it’s gray. And I think it’ll live on but I just think it’s just been done to death.

Martin Kesselman 38:20
I think there’s something to say about gray though. It does show art really well. So I think that’s a bit to it. It depends on if it’s a minimal space or minimal art or someone has a big collection and things.

Michael Boodro 38:33
Maybe what we need to banish is the Belgian linen and not the grey.

Nick Olsen 38:38
Because that can fit 20 people.

Michael Boodro 38:41
And Nicole, do you find the same thing? That some people want too many colors, and some people don’t want enough?

Nicole Fuller 38:50
Yeah, I think they come to me because they have 14 colors they love and the key is balance, you know. I am not afraid to dive into color. I mean, I dive into color like I dive into the Mediterranean with the biggest smile on my face. It’s exciting, and it’s very instinctual and intuitive for me to work with color. And if there is a challenge ahead, I love the challenge because it pushes me in a way I might not have thought of. But I think color and the multitude of color as a floral arrangement. If you look at a really dramatic, gorgeous floral arrangement. There’s probably 30 odd colors there. But they all have this really beautiful—it’s like a symphony. They all are lyrically playing the most beautiful music together. So I think it’s about balance. For me, I feel confident I can use many many colors in a room. And as long as it’s balanced, they’ll all jump off each other. You have your star. You have your supporting actors. There just needs to be balance. You can’t have too many stars in the room or they fight each other.

Michael Boodro 40:04
And if it’s too monochromatic, you fall asleep.

Nicole Fuller 40:06
Right, right, exactly! I will say, one thing I do love, and I think always, always will, is monochromatic. Whether you’re painting the trim and the walls and the ceiling Skimming Stone, or you’re painting them Hague Blue or whatever it is, I love a monochrome moment. A monochrome moment can almost feel like a neutral in a way because nothing is fighting each other, and nothing is playing off each other. So, it’s one sea of color. I love both and too many colors don’t really scare me, becauseone color could come in on a trim and a pillow. One color could be a book. If there’s a way to bring it all together, and I’m inspired a lot by fashion and florals and just life and the sky and nature and everything around us. And if you look around us, there are so many colors. Look at all the colors in the sunset. There’s like fire and purple and blue and yellow. You’d never put all those really together, but you could and you do and they work. So I just think it’s about balance. I love multiple colors in the space. I think clients generally are afraid of it. But I think once we infuse it into their life, I’ve never seen happier clients. They love it, because they wouldn’t know how to do it. They know how to paint their place gray or paint it white.

Michael Boodro 41:41
But I think that’s why they come to designers like you guys because they really want it but they’re afraid. Believe me I know it’s very scary.

Nick Olsen 41:49
Going out on a limb—

Michael Boodro 41:50
Please do. I won’t saw it off.

Nick Olsen 41:53
In my work and where I’m just kind of gravitating towards is a periwinkle blue. Kind of straddling the line between sky blue and lavender, meeting somewhere in the middle. For my Design on a Dime booth this past year, it just kind of all came together. I was donated the cutest little sofa, which set the tone. I randomly found these like ready made periwinkle lampshades at some cheapo store. There’s a beautiful chintz that has the Color of the Year Pantone blue, periwinkle lavender, a little bit of terracotta and white and black, which is now like my favorite chintz right now that I would use everywhere. But it’s just happy but it’s not baby boy blue. It’s not sky blue. And I just haven’t seen it that much. We did a bedroom for a young woman, like college aged woman. And it’s happy enough. It’s not cutesy, but it’s sophisticated.

Martin Kesselman 42:56
I like those colors too. We describe like colors that walk that fine line, right? Because you could really go one way or the other really quick. I like nondescript colors. So is it blue? Is it green? Is it gray? Having that kind of complex color is nice. I kind of like that. I predicted this year was going to be a green and speak to climate change. And that’s where I saw Pantone kind of do that with the Living Coral before. But I like things that interesting in a very subtle, but sophisticated way. And then with some breaks and things mixed in. That’s how I’m doing things now. A lot of color on the ceiling, adding texture beyond paint, using wall coverings.

Michael Boodro 43:47
Well, I can’t thank you guys enough, my distinguished guests, Nicole Fuller, Martin Kesselman, and Nick Olsen. Thank you so much for this very fascinating and informative discussion of color. All right, and whatever you do, make sure the color you pick is one you love and it’s your color of the year.

Lead image: Design by Nick Olsen / Photo by Reid Rolls

January 20, 2020

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