Coloring my world


The editors from Country Living haven’t called yet, but when they come to do a feature on my interior decorating style, I’ll bet they describe it as “L.L. Carib-Bean.”

The new touches I’ve added to my 20-plus year-old dwelling have not, I don’t think, placed it outside the quaint little cabin category. It’s definitely not one of those places you’d drive by and wonder “Don’t they know they’re in the Maine woods for crying out loud?” But while it may not qualify as froufrou, my decor is by no means a standard fishing and hunting “it gets us out of the rain” type place either.  As the pros would say, I “brought the outside in” with natural earth tones, lots of pine paneling, birch floors and dark cherry cabinets. I added a tile hearth in the same vivid blue that, on a good day, matches my view of Bald Mountain and Saddleback. And, of course, I threw in plenty of prerequisite forest (a.k.a. Rangeley green) accents. Then I kicked it all up a notch with splashes of color not often naturally occurring in the environment, at least not at this latitude. The end result makes a unique statement about my remodeling influences, including:

  • I’m making up for the fact that, in my formative decorating years, I defaulted to brown. Thirty years ago, when I moved into my first and only completely brand new house, I had little decorating experience and even less furniture. I did, however, have a tan Naugahyde couch and chair set and a couple beige lampshades. So I put in brown and rust-toned carpet that would “go with everything” I hoped I would later have, while “not showing any dirt” from the  outdoor dog I had and the kids I eventually would admit I hoped to have. My kitchen and bathrooms featured harvest gold, avocado, copper and all those other stuck in the ’70s shades. Behind closed doors in my bedroom, I even had a bright red carpet. But my living room stayed brown and blah for at least a decade.
  • Tom and I agreed we wouldn’t just go with the typical moose and loon motif when making renovations. We do love moose and loons, of course, and still are left with almost as many inside as we see outside. We just strived to be a bit different. So, instead, we came up with wild flower bathrooms. To contrast the knotty pine paneling throughout the rest of the house, we had the two bathrooms and the kitchen sheet-rocked so they could be painted. Buttercup yellow was my choice downstairs, accessorized with Black-Eyed Susan print curtains and (coming soon) wild flower art. For the upstairs bath, I chose the palest pink to compliment my purple, pink and white lupine shower curtain, my hummingbird and lupine stained glass in the window, and one of my favorite pieces of artwork: A moose standing in a field of lupines! (He’s your typical Maine moose picture, but just a bit different, hanging there in his pink and purple habitat.)
  • My color scheme was dictated primarily by stained glass. As I showed you in Come and Meet Those Dancin’ Feet (Part Two), my favorite keepsake and interior focal point in my previous house was a piece of stained glass – a particularly vivid piece featuring green grass, cobalt lake water and three bright red roses. I’m sure in reality my decision-making timeline spanned several months, but here’s how I remember it: 1) Tom told me I had a window of opportunity to decide on colors for paint, countertops, etc., for the Rangeley reconstruction. 2) I didn’t take him seriously enough quickly enough because: a) I had been living in the same quarters for so long that picking stuff out meant a quick trip to the Home Depot for either damage control or camouflage, and b) having a virtually clean redecorating slate was too good to be true and, in a twisted way, scared me into inactivity. 3) I was sitting in my Rochester kitchen, drinking coffee, gazing at my stained glass in bewilderment, wondering how the heck I was going to not screw up my one big chance to showcase my treasures in a new home, when my “window of opportunity” suddenly solidified right in front of me. I knew I would hang the stained glass in my new Rangeley kitchen. It would be a focal point forevermore, shedding light and color throughout my first floor, contrasting beautifully with my dark woodwork, matching my mountain-blue hearth and my grandmother’s blue Danish plates I’d hang on the beams! And the green glass of the grass would make a perfect paint color!
  • I matched the color of my kitchen walls to green stained glass (see previous bullet) on a really sunny day. With my new focal point in mind, I immediately marched off to Home Depot and made color choices in record time. (A true believer in supporting the Rangeley economy rather than a big box store, I wasn’t going to buy paint, countertops or Congoleum there. My mission was to match up swatches to bring to the Rangeley Building Supply for them to make the order.) What I described as New Leaf for my green kitchen color, the paint manufacturer actually called Swamp Splash. While this lively spring green did match perfectly with my stained glass still hanging in Rochester, it initially alarmed our building contractor with its incandescence. Adding in appliances and dark cabinets toned it down considerably and, to my knowledge, hasn’t scared anybody since. The end result is a Key West sort of ambiance in the western  mountains of Maine. 
  • I have a serious passion for red. Red cars, red-headed men, red carpeting (see first bullet). Fortunately, when devising my scheme of rustic jewel tones, I tempered my passion and incorporated red as an accent color only. I have a bit in my area rug, a few pieces of my mother’s ruby glass displayed here and there. Tastefully toned down, I’d say, and not what people expected I’d come up with given free rein. Those who knew my passion for red and pictured me remastering Belle Watling’s front parlor on the shore of the Big Lake seem relieved.
  • My other favorite place in the whole world is a tropical beach. I hope my readers aren’t dismayed when I admit that, even surrounded by Rangeley’s four-season splendor, I still often dream of turquoise waters and beaches lined with palm trees and hibiscus. In terms of decorating direction, this polarity has left me somewhere near the intersection of Rangeley Plantation and Coconut Grove.

Whatever collection of quirks has influenced my unique style, I’m glad all those decorating decisions are behind me, literally. The color wheel has stopped spinning, the paint palate is dry and I am most pleased with how I made my window of opportunity shine. I am especially glad this time of year, when I look past my hearth and my ruby window ornaments to the reds, greens and golds of fall in Rangeley. Country Living will call it “Kaleidoscopic!” That is, if they hurry up and come out here while the leaves are still on my trees.

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