The wrong color actually has made me ill! A pale, classical blue left an east-facing sunroom murky as a dirty aquarium; the association was vaguely nauseating. One July, I painted my bedroom an inky cobalt; by winter, amplifying the cold light over the Atlantic, the walls were giving me headaches. In my first married apartment, we used a “neutral” that dried to 1950s-vintage Crayola ‘Flesh’, reminding me so much of the smell of pancake makeup that I cried.
When I was four or five, someone presented me with a fancy boxed tray of crayons, at least a hundred, arranged by color spectrum. I loved it and didn’t want to use the crayons, to preserve the pristine lineup. Nevertheless, I removed the one labeled ‘Periwinkle’, just as I threw away all the light-purple jellybeans at Easter. I viscerally hated that peculiar, insipid, shadowy color, neither blue nor pink nor violet. Why? I don’t know, and eventually I got over it.
On the other hand, the right colors and combinations have made me happy. My family was skeptical about a custom-mixed sunflower yellow, but I was confident, having stolen it from the Swedish artist Carl Larsson. I must have a penchant for a red–green complement, which resurfaces in various tertiary or tonal variants around the house. Polychromy, however, even in this house with nary a white wall, is confined to wallpapers, a hand-decorated Moroccan sideboard, and ceramic bowls from Poland.
From the design feature that dives in deep, to the dreamscape Gothic Revival apartment, this issue is a feast of polychromy . . . risqué coverage in the land of Linen White. A colleague commented that “the issue feels mysterious.” Polychromy is that, indeed; it makes sense, given the emotional impact of color and its deep historical allusions. Polychromy can be joyful, too, or playful, or sensual. Some day I'll be brave enough to add a polychrome pattern to the Tudor-Gothic interior doors I designed for my dining room. They’re painted in two earthy colors, but I always considered that a ground coat!
~ Patricia Poore, Editorial Director of Old House Journal
Look below to see stories from this issue.