WRITTEN BY CAROLYN M. RUNYON
PHOTOGRAPHY BY BLACKSTONE EDGE
Once known as the Industrial Triangle, because of the railroad yards and turn-of-the-century warehouses, today the Pearl District of Portland, Oregon is an award-winning, recognized leader in urban renewal. Known for its art galleries, fine restaurants, upscale shops, and high-end residences, the Pearl has become a most desirable neighborhood for those looking for culture and a smart, eclectic lifestyle.
The owners of this 1,569-square-foot penthouse with picturesque views of the Fremont Bridge and Willamette River, moved from a very large home in Boston, Massachusetts. The couple enlisted the talents of Garrison Hullinger, owner and principal designer of Portland-based Garrison Hullinger Interior Design, to help with their downsizing challenges. “The owners were collectors of both fine art and lovely furnishings for many years,” says Alison Van Delden, senior designer at Garrison Hullinger Interior Design. “They had a difficult time deciding what to keep and what to get rid of in order to be comfortable in their new smaller home. We studied photos of their collections in detail and created room designs using what we knew would work in the new space,” Van Delden explains.
The newly finished penthouse had a neutral background when they purchased it. “The walls were a creamy white. Neutrals tend to be timeless, so we decided to reinforce the subtle palette by keeping many of the larger furniture components of the space also in cream tones,” says Van Delden. “We added pops of color, using some of the bolder furnishings and varied art pieces that the owners brought with them.”
The designers utilized the open floor plan as it was constructed, but repurposed certain spaces. They created a vignette room with an art gallery, an intimate sitting area for reading, and a small desk for paperwork. “The art speaks for itself,” says Van Delden. “In fact, the art pieces were the leading force in the design and color of this home.” The chair, in a busy pattern of oranges, browns, and burgundies works successfully against an intricate Oriental rug because each unit has colors that are analogous and blend with each other, according to Van Delden. The art pieces are a mix of oil and paint mediums and sculptured or three-dimensional items. Some have colors similar to the chair and rug, but others tend toward complementary tones on the color wheel like blues and greens. Although the art is diversified, all the items work well together because of the way the designers organized the colors.
The dining room also maintains the neutral foundation with the walls and larger items including the dining set and a zebra patterned rug that, although commanding, features neutral colors. The shelving is open and discreet, allowing the art pieces to be the prominent details. Dominant colors vary from cool medium blues to bright turquoise. But, again, the designers added several hues from the opposite side of the color wheel in yellows, oranges, and reds for an extra punch. The art presents a mix of mediums: antique statues, pottery, glass pieces, and a charming chandelier draped with turquoise that adds sparkle and picks up the blue-greens in some of the larger items. The shapes and subject matter may be unrelated, but the color placement gives the space cohesiveness.
The living room has the most intense use of color. “Again, we established a basis of neutral creams before adding any tonality. The walls and the primary sofa and footstool are soft and light to the eye,” explains Van Delden. “But the brilliant blue-green of the Chinese lions (Shi in Chinese or Foo Dogs in Western cultures) that flank the gas fireplace ties in with the similarly colored swivel chairs in front of the windows.” Van Delden and Hullinger used the complementary red-orange in the larger upholstered chair and in throw pillows. Then, they added a red-burgundy overdyed patchwork rug, resourced by Kush Rugs in Portland, which created a statement against the blue-green lions.
“At Garrison Hullinger Interior Design, we tend to value the timelessness of a neutral base,” says Van Delden. “These owners had such a culturally eclectic collection of art and furniture; it was exhilarating to pull the exciting, intense jewel tones into the project. Yet, we kept things balanced and not overwhelming by retaining a soft vanilla canvas. The result is a useful, comfortable environment surrounded by the dramatic beauty of their art.”
When dealing with color, Van Delden says it’s best to get back to the basics.
Use the color wheel. Finding colors that are monochromatic (very closely toned like blue and blue-green), analogous (on the same side of the color wheel, like red, orange, and yellow) or complementary (on opposite sides of the color wheel, like purple and yellow) makes mixing colors in a room so much easier and predictable. You can get this handy tool at an art store, a paint store, or online.
Start with a neutral canvas. Include major pieces of furniture in neutral tones. These have timelessness and may not need replacing for years. Add pop and interest with color in items that you can easily change such as throw pillows and accessories. Even artwork can be moved to another location or exchanged within a home to create a different look or feel.
Article featured in Home By Design.