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The Layered Look
At Home in Arkansas: With one designing woman in a house full of men—your husband, Jay, and your two sons—what role did color play in creating a comfortable family home?
Designer Andrea Brooks: Just as I would with clients, I considered how we would live in the home and tried to have elements that please all of us. Color flow throughout a house is extremely important—it sets a mood and a tone for a space. I’m pretty fearless when it comes to color and love to incorporate it into my designs. Recently, I attended a course by Maria Killam, an internationally known color expert and blogger. The knowledge I gained helped me hone my skills and understand the importance of undertones. Here, I used grays with variations of blue undertones, from a dark slate color in the family room that brings in some masculine energy to a blue/gray in the kitchen that’s light and happy. And then there’s the pink living room…
What inspired that color scheme? And what do the men in your home think of it?
That room is the largest living area in the house, and I wanted to draw people in with the color and furnishings. I layered different hues of pink in the wall color, ottoman, chair fabric and pillows to add interest. As you mentioned, I’m in a house with two sons and a husband, so I needed some feminine energy. But just because I am obsessed with color does not mean I always get it right. My first attempt at a pink living room was a darker raspberry shade. Although it was fun and definitely caught your attention, it didn’t play well with my existing furnishings and art. After a year, I changed it to this lighter shade. It was an inexpensive mistake to correct, and what a dramatic improvement—I love it now. As to Jay, he loves color too and has always entrusted me with complete creative control for our interiors. Having this freedom has taken my design abilities and confidence working with color to a new level.
What was your house like before you began transforming it?
When we purchased the home two years ago, the kitchen was small and dated. We gutted it and started over. In the rest of the house, we focused on cosmetic changes—repainting and stripping wallpaper primarily. We turned the original dining room into our family room, and converted a sunroom into our dining space.
As a residential interior designer, is it challenging to design your own home?
It can be unbelievably hard to design your own space. As a professed junkie of design blogs, books and magazines, I’m drawn to a variety of styles. But at my core, I most appreciate a collected, layered look that’s not too cluttered. I enjoy being surrounded by things, old or new, that have a story behind them. I knew what I wanted my kitchen to look like as far as finishes, but I called in an interior designer and friend, Melinda Dodson, to design the functional layout.
You’ve included eye-catching light fixtures that play up color as well.
Light fixtures are definitely an important layer of function and form in the design of a room. They are a great way to add personality and uniqueness, and that’s often overlooked. I fell in love with the sheer blue/green glass of the dining room fixtures, a modern take on a classic design. They inspired the layers of teal and turquoise in the window treatments and wingback host chair fabric. I love how these layers of color blend so well with the outdoors. The contemporary light fixture in the family room adds a modern yet cozy feel with the warm gray shade and soft silver finish.
The most drastic makeover was the kitchen. How did you select the color palette?
The Carrara marble countertops were the color inspiration for the blue-gray walls. The palette reads as a neutral, and the layers of gray and blue are echoed in a pair of drawings by Amanda Talley, a New Orleans-based artist. The layers of color in interiors, as in nature, are what make it successful. And the undertones of these colors ensure they work together nicely.
Your home features original artwork throughout. What do you keep in mind when buying art?
I am a huge proponent of original art. In my opinion, it’s the best way to set your home apart from your neighbor’s. I am usually first drawn to color and then composition. I am not an art expert by any means, but it does bring me great joy and I never tire of the pieces. We have a fantastic local arts resource, Backwoods Art & Frame, where I have purchased the majority of my collection. My biggest push with clients is bringing in original art into the design. As with everything, I try to mix my collections with framed and canvas pieces, watercolor, oils and photography.
Interior Design Andrea Brooks Interiors, El Dorado, (870) 314-1334
Contractor Glen Owens, Owens Construction, El Dorado, (870) 312-4094
Kitchen design consultation Melinda Dodson, MD Design, El Dorado, (870) 814-2128
Appliances Metro Appliances & More, Jonesboro, (870) 933-7800; North Little Rock, (501) 758-1988; Springdale, (479) 750-2200; metroappliancesandmore.com
Art, framing Backwoods Art & Frame, El Dorado, (870) 863-5254
Birdcage Paul Michael Company, Lake Village, (800) 732-3722, blog.paulmichaelhome.com
Countertops Midway Marble & Granite, El Dorado, (870) 881-9513, midwaygranite.com
Furnishings Cleo’s Furniture, Little Rock, (501) 569-9444, cleosfurniture.com; Mertinsdyke Home, Little Rock, (501) 280-3200; Murphy Long Design, El Dorado, (870) 863-6625
Paint Sherwin-Williams, locations statewide, sherwin-williams.com
Plumbing Falk Plumbing Supply, North Little Rock, (501) 664-3911, falksupply.com
Rugs Hadidi Oriental Rug Company, Inc., Little Rock, (501) 225-8999
Shutters Blind Mart, Inc., Little Rock, (501) 228-7230
Tile Storey’s Floor & Carpet, El Dorado, (870) 862-9446, storeysfloor.com
Upholstery Luther’s Upholstery, Camden, (870) 231-6535
Window treatments Sue Maness, Classic Windows, Junction City, (870) 863-9279; Paula Kinnaird and Denise Pagan, El Dorado, (870) 866-639
Designer Andrea Brooks’ top color tips
1) In kitchens and bathrooms, select all large fixed elements, such as flooring and countertops, before the paint color. It's much easier to select a paint color to coordinate with those elements than vice-versa.
2) Paint undertones make all the difference. Even when selecting a neutral color, you must consider the undertones in your carpets, tile and fabrics to make the right choice. Comparing colors to one another will help you see undertones more clearly, for instance, a blue/gray compared to a green/gray or a yellow/beige compared to a green/beige.
3) Don't sample paint color directly on the wall. You will only be comparing the new color to the old color and won't get an accurate read. Paint your sample on the top half of a sheet of white poster board. Look at the sample in morning and afternoon light to see how it changes.
4) Don't select a color solely based on loving it in your friend or neighbor's house. There are several factors that go into a room's overall success besides paint color.
5) Layer different hues of a color in a room to bring depth and interest.
6) When you commit to a bolder choice of wall color in a living area, bring that color into neighboring rooms through accessories, art, fabrics or rugs to create flow.
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At Home in Arkansas offers your first look inside the state's most inspiring homes in a range of styles. The magazine features monthly advice from the experts to help you plan your next remodel or redesign, entertain at home or find Arkansas' best kept secrets. It is your definitive guide to the state's finest homes and gardens, design professionals, fashion and entertaining essentials, and premier shops and showrooms.