The first time I chose paint for a room was in my early 20’s.  I shared a 3-bedroom apartment in Queens with two other actors and a costume designer, and spending $25 on a gallon of paint was quite an investment for this then-starving artist; coming up with another twenty-five bucks if I hated the color would have meant a good week or so on cornflakes, so you’d think I would have chosen conservatively.  Ha!

I weighed options for weeks, studying magazine pages and then, one day, I found the color.  It was called Dylan’s Beach, a muted-but-intense sea-colored blue-green that made my bedroom look like it was suspended ten feet under the surface of the Atlantic Ocean in late summer.  The huge weed-like tree outside my window swayed its palms, creating a play of light and shadow on the walls that mimicked sun through seaweed.  A few months later I left to spend the summer working on a show in Connecticut; my roommates later told me that they would come in and lay on my bed in the afternoons, just to feel the peaceful ambience that Dylan’s Beach created.

The color no longer exists in the Martha Stewart palette where I found it, but Dylan’s Beach remains one of my favorite color experiences and it gave me courage to make bold choices with interior color through the years.  I’ve painted rooms the color of robin’s eggs, pumpkins, cafe latte, eggplant, and dusk.  Here are the colors in the house the Eric, Harper and I share now:

At first, we painted our whole living room in this pumpkin color (the camera couldn’t quite capture it correctly here), and there were times of day when I liked it pretty well – other times of the day it was a bit overwhelming.  Eventually we decided to repaint 3 of the 4 walls this soft wheaty yellow:

The yellow and orange play off each other quite nicely. They also complement the sage-y green in the foyer – my favorite color in the house, most reminiscent of my beloved Dylan’s Beach and a color that constantly changes with the light so that I never quite know what I’m going to see, but I always love it.

In late afternoon backlight (framing a lovely Kelly Rae Roberts print)…

…or brightening our otherwise dark center hallway…

…or softly glowing in the late morning overcast.  Isn’t it lovely?  And the three colors play surprisingly well off each other; this corner of the house where they intersect is one of my favorites.

Then there’s my office, which went eggplant for a warm feel.

(The color is actually quite creamy and rich, but I can never seem to photograph it correctly.)

As you can see, I’m not afraid of bold colors in small spaces; I think they add intimacy and coziness to the many distinct spaces of our 1940’s bungalow.  The colors glow through paned windows at night, speaking warmth and comfort inside.

This spring and summer we are remodeling our house to make it a bit bigger and more open, to support the future of our family and the way we like to live.  The now-distinct rooms will be opened up into more of an open common space for living, cooking and dining; natural sunlight will be maximized and the distinction between indoor and outdoor space will be more blurred.  (I’m excited!)

The more I think about our new space, the more I want to go for a lighter, more subtle palette that will visually recede, bounce light around, and play more of a supporting than starring role in the house.  I’m inspired by the colorboard over at The Nesting Place, as well as this color that now graces our bedroom:

Subtle, isn’t it?  A different kind of risk entirely.  The color actually intimidated me at first, and I nearly painted over it; somehow these more delicate colors feel more difficult for me to do well, but I’m so glad we kept this color.  This zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint color is called Tranquil Pond, and the faint hue might read blue or gray or not-quite-there, depending on the time of day.  It’s lovely and eco-friendly, and serves as the starting point for me in terms of where to take the house after the remodel.  The new house design will affect every room in the house, so it’s a great chance to start over and make something new.

What’s your favorite color experience?  Was it a risk that paid off?  Or a favorite childhood memory come to life on your walls?