Thursday, October 8, 2009

Colorful Backdrops



In the past 18 months, I've managed to build up quite the collection of virtual tear sheets -- rooms and vignettes that have caught my eye as I've embarked in the past year or so on my design self-education. Looking back over my many images (and trying to organize them in some useful way), I've begun to notice themes emerging, perhaps my own elements of style. Colors, patterns, styles and ideas that I've found attractive over and over again. One of the biggest recurring elements is my love of bookshelves and built-ins with colorful interiors (particularly in bold/high contrast colors). Perhaps these are the interior design equivalent of colorful linings in coats and bags, but I love how this simple trick can highlight art or beloved objects and tie together a room.

Getting this look yourself is an easy enough DIY for a weekend when you've got some extra time and some extra paint (and how often can that honestly be said about much of what we see in shelter magazines?!). I know that as soon as I get the funds to have my own built-ins installed I'll be in hot pursuit of the perfect background color to really make them pop. That said though, as many of these images show, there's absolutely no need to limit yourself to built-ins. Bookshelves, curios, china cabinets, entertainment centers (indeed just about all casegoods) can benefit from this easy upgrade.


Here, a chocolate brown serves as a wonderfully rich backdrop for the owners' collection of white pitchers. The rich tone works equally well with the pale blue vases in the bedroom designed by Mary McDonald at the beginning of this post.


In this dining room, designer Mary McDonald uses a bold apple green to highlight the beauty of the historical built-in. This sole shot of color in an otherwise neutral space is a great modern touch in a traditional room.


The blush pink backdrop in these slender bookcases is a nice shot of femininity in this office space and ties in to the pale pink accessories and rug.


Canadian House & Home, October 2009

Four IKEA Billy shelves were given a built-in look with inexpensive moldings painted the same color white. The royal blue backs give them added weight and are a fun contrast to the chartreuse walls.


I actually don't subscribe to Elle Decor but when this living room appeared on the cover earlier this year, I instantly bought the issue off the newsstand. The rest of the house didn't disappoint but the gorgeous gray walls and muted blue in the bookcases is still my favorite moment in the house.


Like chocolate brown, black is a great choice if you have a lot of white or light colored objects or china to show off.

Erin Gates from Elements of Style

The peacock blue (especially with the orange upholstery and curtains) is utterly bananas. I want.


I love the turquoise in these kitchen cabinets. Sure, with the backsplash and countertops, it's all a bit "matchy-matchy", but I'd argue that this is mid century modern at its best and most exuberant. That said, with less colorful countertops and backsplash, this would be a great way to bring a shot of color into a white kitchen.


As far as bold color choices go, I think coral might just be my favorite for the backs of bookcases. It's also a wonderfully warm contrast to cool blues and grays.


If you've got open-backed shelves a similar effect can be achieved by simply painting out the wall behind the units. I also like how Nisbet extended the bold pink to the area behind the sofa, creating a nook of sorts. This would work wonderfully in a loft or large great room where you're trying to delineate smaller, more intimate areas.

19 comments:

Daniela said...

I love bookshelves with painted backs! We have this whole wall of built book shelves in our kitchen that I am dying to paint (it was actually featured in an Ask Dara column in the late Domino Mag!) Alas, the landlord won't have it! Every time I look at it i cringe because I realize its potential!

Things That Inspire said...

Oh....this is an incredible post. I have put it in my list of favorites from 2009...it is rare that I read a post that causes me to look at interiors in a whole new way, and this post has definitely had an impact on me in this way. I may never again look at another colorful interior on a bookshelf or built in without thinking of this post...in my world, the highest of praise!

You commented that you are starting to see trends in what you like. I have found that to be one of the most useful results of blogging - it has really helped me clarify what I like, in spotting trends and themes in my posts.

Jenn said...

I find myself drawn to bookshelves and other built-in shelves as well. In fact, the only perks of my current apartment are some built-in shelves and wood floors! It really does make the room look so much better and interesting. Great pictures!

Sanity Fair said...

Really enjoyed these posts - I'm such a fan of colorful backdrops, and especially Mary McDonald. Her use of color balanced with pattern is so mischievous - and stylish.

Isabella & Max Rooms said...

Oh, built-ins! If I were to build a house the carpenters would love me forever! Love the look of lining them in a color or pattern. Thus far have not taken that step, it was a big enough step to paint mine...I'll be happy with that for now.
Love all the images you have collected, what gorgeous examples...
Janell

Christy said...

I love the corals and the turquoise cabinets too. We have expedit shelves from Ikea in our family room, and I keep meaning to buy a cheap backing for them, and paint it a bright blue of some kind...I think it would add a lot of visual interest to them. One day, when I have the extra time! ha!

Dumbwit Tellher said...

Oh Averill you made my day. I have applauded the appeal of paint/papering/or even fabric to highlight the back wall of a bookcase & a like. I recently did just that with vintage fabric in our kitchen built-in & what an impact it made (for virtually dollars) in the rather bland enviroment. You provided such great examples. I can never get enough of Mary McDonald. Happy weekend..cooler temps ahead!

Kristina with a K said...

I'm trying to talk my dad into coming for a visit so he can build some built-ins in my kitchen. Sounds weird I know, but it'd look great!

Laura@JourneyChic said...

This is a great post! I plan to have built-ins made in our living room. I intended to paint an accent color in our living room bookcases but was so burnt-out from painting the outside that I couldn't bring myself to do it. I expect I'll come back to it next year, though.

annechovie said...

This combo is definitely one of my favorites, too, Averill. Love that look and the contrast. Have a great weekend! xo

Style Redux 2 said...

I adore this look. I've been debating whether to try it in my living room or library. This is a great roundup of inspiration.

Couture Carrie said...

This is SUCH a cool idea! I am amazed at all the gorgeous examples you found, darling ~ thanks for the inspiration!

xoxox,
CC

pk said...

I'm a huge fan of this idea, as you probably already know. I love the inspiration that you've provided in this post! Hope you're having a good weekend...
pk @ room remix

sarah @ realestatestyle said...

I love these pictures!! I am in the process of putting up paper in the backs of an old antique book case. I love these looks!

Sarah Klassen said...

I adore this post, Averill! I have always wanted to do this somewhere and then, I realized, I can! You have given me a great idea and inspired me to take on a new, fun project. It's impossible to select a favorite -- each is so lovely and perfect in its space...

maureen @ The Inglenook Decor said...

These are all amazing Averill. The first two images are my favorites. I actually did this in my old house with chocolate brown backing but at that time I was so clueless with what to put in the shelving that it clashed with the brown (my frames were dark & little accessories were dark). Share us yours when it gets done, I'm sure it's going to look so fabulous!

FROM THE RIGHT BANK said...

Averill, you always do the best roundups! A painted background really adds to all of these bookshelves. I think it's a relatively easy way to add a lot of oomph to a room. P.S. I see the suzani tray on your wish list! I'm liking the dachshund and trellis pillow too.:)

Liz @ It's Great To Be Home said...

Beautiful, just added a few of the images to my inspiration files! I've been thinking for awhile about painting the back of the hutch in my breakfast nook - I may just have to pull the trigger!

Paloma {La Dolce Vita} said...

Excellent post, Averill! I love this feature so much. I think a painted background adds so much visual interest.

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